Recorded crime in industrial societies has increased every year since the mid-1950s, for complex reasons not wholly understood, and now the rate of increase exceeds any in previous history. While studies show that in most countries urban areas have higher crime rates than the surrounding rural areas (due to unemployment, poverty, hopelessness of self-improvement, anonymity and overcrowding being more prevalent in cities), the corresponding economic strain has forced many countries to curtail their rehabilitative crime prevention programmes in favour of less effective short-term repressive policies. The overall general decline of family structure has led both to a mistrust of and intolerance of the older and more established methods of prevention and control, and to impatience with the value systems upon which they have been based. As education spreads, higher expectations, if unfulfilled, appear to increase the vulnerability of young people to the temptation of illegal short cuts to wealth, power, and status. In any case, crime is predominantly an activity of young male members of society.
About one in four American households was hit in 1989 by a violent or property crime including rape, robbery, assault, personal theft, burglary and motor vehicle theft. In the same year the UK suffered 11,500 crimes a day, of which 94% were crimes against property. All crime in the UK increased by 3.8% in 1993 over 1992, which included a 14% increase in robberies. Burglaries, which accounted for one quarter of all crime, increased by 9%, and house burglaries by 12%. Vehicle crime rose by 5%, largely due to a 7% rise in the thefts of cars. The 1992 British Crime Survey reported that recorded crime nearly doubled between 1981 and 1991, reaching 5.5 million reported incidents. Most crimes are not reported, however, and the estimate of total crimes in England and Wales in 1991 was 15 million. A similar, though less pronounced, increase showed in the Netherlands in the ten years between 1980 and 1990, with an increase in robberies from 291,543 to 381,324 (over 30%); assaults from 13,409 to 21,786 (62%); and attempted murders from 1,501 to 2,178 (45%).
2. Poverty, income inequality and destabilized communities are fertile sources of crime. On just one housing estate in London where half the households had been victims of crime, unemployment stood at 44% and 45% of households had less than £3,000 per year on which to live. We now have an underclass with little to lose by committing crimes, partly because this is the way its members have been told to regard themselves. There is also a sharper sense of "relative deprivation", symbolized by the visibility of unattainable, expensive items such as high-performance cars. (Car theft in the UK has risen the fastest rate of all crimes, at 24% annually in 1991). In addition, and mirroring the fallout of the new recession, recorded crime has risen most in the areas suffering collapse of service and high-tech industries.