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Amid slowdown over past 5 yrs,rise in petty crime

The crimes factored in are cognizable offences under different heads compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

Written by Anil Sasi | New Delhi | Published: October 3, 2013 12:43 am

Over the past five years,petty crime in India has seen a discernible upward surge — a sharp break from the almost flat trend in the early and mid-2000s. This period also coincides with the years since the 2008 global financial meltdown,when GDP growth in India,except for a brief reprieve in 2010-11,has been moving down.

The crimes factored in are cognizable offences under different heads compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). If the growth charts are juxtaposed with the crime graph — factoring in two major property crimes (burglary and theft),two economic crimes (criminal breach of trust and cheating),and one category of crimes against women (molestation) — the sharp rise in the number of overall crimes since 2009 broadly coincides with the period of economic slowdown.

Property-related cases top the crime charts,rising since 2009 but for a slight dip in 2012. Cases of economic crime included in the study — cheating and criminal breach of trust — show almost no rise but for a slight upward trend in recent years. Molestation,according to the NCRB data,has been sharply sliding up.

If data since 1995 were to be studied,both the growth and petty crime charts can be divided broadly into three phases. In the case of the growth chart (collated from the Central Statistics Office data from 1995-96 to 2012-13),a period of stable growth of around 4-5 per cent is seen till 2003-04,then a phase of high growth for about four years till 2007-08 and a third phase that shows growth tapering down,except for a minor blip in fiscal 2010-11. In the crime charts that use the NCRB data,for calendar years 1994 to 2012,the cumulative numbers are seen declining a bit till 2003-04,staying largely stable for the next about four years,and then showing a perceptible rise.

According to P R K Naidu,NCRB Joint Director,there is an “interplay of a lot of factors” in the emergence of crime in society. “While socio-economic reasons are predominant,it also has to do with population growth,unemployment,poverty rate,urbanisation and other factors.”

Traditional economic models also broadly predict an inverse relationship between criminal activity and economic opportunity. One implicit assumption that prevails in theoretical and empirical work on crime is that the impact of economic conditions on crime is symmetric. More specifically,it is assumed that if a given deterioration in economic conditions increases criminal activity by a certain amount,an equivalent improvement in economic conditions would generate a decrease in crime by the same absolute value.

Analysts say that growth,with the spillover effect on employment rates and income levels,has a strong bearing on the rate of crime,especially petty crime in urban centres. Gunjan Sharma,Assistant Professor at the University of Missouri,who conducted an April 2011 study on ‘Crime and Inequality in India’ that examined the relationship between crime and inequality in Indian districts in 1988 and 2004,found that inequality increases most types of property and violent crime and that inequality within religious and caste groups drives this relationship.

In the last four years,when the economy has reeled under a downturn,the spike in crimes is accounted for by not just individuals but companies as well. The number of cases of embezzlement by companies,based on complaints received during the period April 1,2009,to June 30,2013,by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs,shows a rise from six in each of the first two years to 13 in 2011-12,45 in 2012-13 and 55 in just the three months of the current fiscal,according to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs data.

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