When most people refer to the relationship between poverty and crime in California, they mean violent crime. After all, many of the white-collar crime stories that make the news involve people making six-figure salaries and who often hold otherwise respectable positions in their communities. Violent crime, in contrast, paints a different picture in people’s minds about the offender. 

According to the U.S. Office of Policy Development and Research, violent crime is actually decreasing in America. In fact, this trend has been in effect for the past 20 years or so. Still, the U.S. does not compare favorably with other first-world countries when it comes to violent crime rates. There are also some areas where violent crimes continue at high rates. The office believes that “disadvantaged neighborhoods” tend to have higher crime rates. 

It also found that when neighborhoods experience high levels of violent crime, their perception of crime changes. Property crime did not have a strong defining effect in these neighborhoods. However, aggravated assault and robbery did. The office also reported racial and ethnic disparities between violent and non-violent neighborhoods. 

For instance, neighborhoods with an African American population of 70% or more often had violent crime rates that were five times that of predominantly white neighborhoods. The main reason identified for this was structural disparities, including access to more or nicer facilities, resources and institutions.

Repeat offenders also pose a threat, but often feel they have no choice but to return to a life of crime to put food on the table. Forbes recommends hiring more convicts when they complete their sentence to alleviate this. Statistics cited by Forbes show that even after one year of their release, 60% of people are still without jobs. 

Pointing back to the reasons for crime identified by the government, a stronger commitment to diversity in the workforce may also help to alleviate crime. Improving disadvantaged neighborhoods by providing access to more and better resources may also help to keep people on the path away from violent crime.