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erty were committed under the pressure of absolute economic necessity.
W. A. Bonger in his book, Criminality and Economic Conditions, presents a number of correlation tables to prove the relation between the number and variety of crimes committed during a given period and such characteristic phenomena of our present economic system as crises, seasonal wage fluctuations, rising and falling prices, and the occupational distribution of the criminals. It is to be noted that his evidence is mainly drawn from continental European countries where careful criminal statistics have been kept for a number of years. Unfortunately, as pointed out above, no such wide-spread statistics exist for the United States and the only thing that we can do is to make certain suggestive comparisons on the basis of such estimates as exist. First, in order to understand the type of evidence of which I am speaking, it may be of value to examine one of Bonger's charts. (See Chart I.) Here we can detect a direct correlation between the variations of the price of wheat in France and the variations in the number of convictions for theft for the same periods. In other words there is a very obvious tendency for crimes against property to increase as the price of cereals rise. Of course the economic factor is not the only factor which enters into the etiology of these crimes but such coordination of trends, as is here indicated, seems to denote that the price of food stuffs (of which bread is, of course, the principal item) affects in a marked manner the number of crimes that may be committed in a given period.
What do such figures as are available reveal with regard to the action of these forces in the United States? Can we exhibit in the United States a correlation, for example, between the cost of living and the volume of crime in this country? This I think can be done. In the first place let us examine certain summary estimates with regard to the recent “crime wave.” Again referring to the article by Mr. Carter we find the following figures of interest: In the year ended August 31, 1921, there were 136 hold-ups and
396 burglaries of banks. ... The aggregate loss was $1,224,489, as compared with 122 hold-ups and 393 burglaries, with an aggregate loss of $1,002,493 in 1920 (i.e., year ending August 31), and 80 hold-ups and 115 burglaries, with a loss of $301,192 in 1917. In the twenty-three years ending with 1917 the aggregate loss amounted to $2,609,754, an annual average of $113,467. An increase from an annual average loss by robbery of $113,467 to $301,792 in the last year of the period, and to $1,224,489 four years later, may justly be characterized as startling. Such figures as are possessed by the Automobile Chamber of Commerce show that in the principal twenty-eight cities 30,046 cars were stolen in 1920, as compared with 27,445 in 1918. . . . Losses aggregating $1,630,009 were reported to the police of Boston in 1920, as compared with an annual average of $816,341 for the five years ending with 1920, or an increase of over 100 per cent for that year over the five-year average. Thefts reported to the Washington police aggregated $1,008,875 in 1920 as compared with $336,067 in 1916. Baltimore reported $1,347,402 stolen in 1919 as compared with $410,486 in 1912.6 However these figures may startle Mr. Carter, it may be possible to demonstrate that they follow just as "naturally" as results of the operation of the economic forces which make for crime as any effect follows its cause in any other science. Still more evidence may be found in an article in the Dallas News of recent date. “Figures of the National Surety Company compiled through secret records of the company in its business of 'underwriting honesty' show that five times the number of embezzlements and ten times the number of burglaries recorded in 1910 occurred in 1920."'10 In an earlier issue we have more complete figures from the same company.
9C. F. Carter, op. cit., p. 154.
Losses Paid by Thirty Insurance Companies11
Embezzlement Burglary 1910.
_$1,396,081 $ 886,045 1913--
- 4,663,604 5,660,305 1920.
--- 5,623,819 10,189,853 Now what do we find on the other side of the equation? The economic conditions which existed during this period for which Mr. Carter and Mr. Joyce (the President of the National Surety Company) cite their startling increase in crime may be briefly summarized as follows: A gradually ascending scale of the cost of living reaching its peak in 1920 (see Chart II); relatively high wages which continually lagged behind the cost of living; the greatest volume of unemployment that the United States has ever experienced (reaching a peak of almost 6,000,000 in the early part of 1921) with a marked lack of adjustment between demand and supply and a general disorganization of the labor market; general industrial unrest, many strikes, unstable commercial and financial operations with a panic and industrial depression pending if not actually already existent. In other words, despite apparent high wages, there was a general impression of hard times and industrial maladjustment. No doubt, the war and the aftermath of the war with the disorganized condition of Europe was very largely responsible for the existence of these conditions. Be this as it may, the important point in this connection is that such a state of affairs did exist and that it existed at the same time that we had an enormous increase in the volume of crime in this country. To make the now apparent connection between these sets of phenomena a little more clear I have included here a chart in which I have superimposed upon a graph illustrating the trend in the cost of living used by W. M. Persons in an article on crises12 the graph
11Dallas News, February 5, 1922, p. 1. (Figures of the National Surety Company.)
12W. M. Persons, The Crisis of 1920 in the United States, The Am. Ec. Rv. Vol. XII, No. 1, p. 7.