Wealth, poverty and crime

Though it is often said that crime is caused by poverty, there is little to no evidence to actually back up this claim. On the contrary it seems the more affluent people are more likely to commit property crimes. The Guardian has a nice article about this strange phenomenon:

Rich robbers: why do wealthy people shoplift?

Also YouTuber Simon Whistler has ten examples of rich people stealing things they can easily afford.

According the crime-opportunity theory people commit crimes, not because of they are poor but because they have an opportunity to commit a crime. We could easily understand that rich people have simply more opportunity to steal stuff (e.g. living among other well-to-do folks, having more spare time).

A study published by Civitas UK the majority of poor people are law abiding citizens and they are more likely to be the victims of crime rather than the perpetrators of it. Since poor people already have less, the loss of their belonging affect them more than their more affluent fellows.

So why are most criminals poor? Well, there are simply more poor people than rich ones. Though a random criminal is most likely to be poor, stating that the poor are more likely to commit crimes is a classic example of confusing of the inverse.

Let’s say that in a city of a hundred thousand residents, five thousand are rich and twenty thousand are poor. Also assume that  five percent of wealthy people commit crimes and only two percent of poor people. This gives us 250 wealthy criminals and 400 poor ones. Of the 650 criminals about 61.5 percent is poor and “only” 38.5 percent is wealthy – despite rich folks are 1.67 times more likely to commit crimes.

Even though poverty might not be the main cause of crime, this does not imply that we as a society should not fight poverty. Only not because we are afraid of poor criminals, which would be a rather cynical reason for poverty reduction, but because poverty is an affront to human dignity.

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