Desperate Times, Desperate Crimes

Over the weekend I spoke to my sister, whose brother-in-law ran into some trouble in Atlanta. While leaving Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, he stopped to check on what appeared to be a group of people stuck on the side of the road. Before he could get out of his car to see if they needed any help, he saw guns drawn and proceeded to speed off as fast as he could. The not-so-stranded group of men shot at his car anyway – leaving what has since been described as bullet holes the size of golf balls in his back window.

Although deservedly shaken up, my sister’s brother-in-law is fortunate to still be alive. Other area residents – particularly those who have been victims of the increasing area trend of violent home invasionshave not been as fortunate.

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Despite some area officials stressing that crime rates overall are not up, many Atlanta citizens have formed groups in response to recent criminal activity. Some groups have been created for the sole purpose of showing that they are not afraid. Others have joined together because they fear that unless they do away with certain traits, their neighborhoods will decline and attract crime.

With Atlanta’s unemployment rate doubling in a year to 9.3 percent – which is higher than the nation’s current jobless figure – those who harbor fear over a potential surge in crime may have reason to.

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For some time now, experts have debated over whether or not America’s major cities will become more dangerous in the midst of the recession.

The debate has only heightened as many cities with severe budget restraints struggle to deal with more people turning to crime out of desperation.

Such is the case for the city of Baltimore, where city officials have curtailed overtime and may also have to limit raises or eliminate them altogether. The same budget restraints plague Los Angeles County, where officials have announced that as many as 4,000 inmates may be released early due to budget cuts. And the L.A. county sheriff's office will be forced to decrease the size of its staff. More ex-cons on the streets, less officers to regulate them.  

And major cities may be not the only places to worry about crime. Police in Idaho are reporting increases in what they have labeled “Recession Crimes.”

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And it’s not just violent crime that law enforcement officials have to worry over. The FBI recently revealed that they suspect more people may be tempted to engage in white-collar crime – i.e. stealing from their local businesses and governments – as a result of economic instability.

Are you more fearful of being a victim of criminal activity? I've already had a gun in my face. I think I’ve reached my life quota in that regard. I can do without a home invasion and identify theft in my lifetime, too.

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Continue to e-mail me your stories at therecessiondiaries@gmail.com.

Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.

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