Crime rates rise and fall, sometimes with no understandable or apparent cause. Rates are the aggregate of all experiences, causes and effects for a community, region, or unit of government, so they may change for many reasons and in many ways before specific causative factors are identified.
The traditional approach is to assume that race, poverty, immigration status and the problems of "those people" are the cause of crime. Today, all people are in jeopardy of being identified as "those people". There is political, social, mental, economic, personal financial, substance related and other forms of instability that are leading to some astounding and horrific levels and types of crimes that were unseen a generation ago.
From the highest in standing to the lowest on the totem pole, crime is being committed and crime is being identified. It is just that crime is not being equally or truthfully reported, prosecuted or even identified as crime. The leadership of the entire nation committed crimes and simply redefined them as legally permitted. This is the process that any recidivist criminal uses to deny responsibility for their crimes.
Today, there are doctors and lawyers who financed their educations through illegal straight, gay, male and female prostitution.
Women and girls are engaging in criminal acts that are not necessarily common to their gender, including cults of personality and imagination, sex deviance, anti social behavior, violent crimes, murder, murder for hire, organized crime, drug trafficking, advanced and high level financial and corporate crimes, rape, serial killing and child predation and killing.
One of the most obvious factors is a lack of opportunity for unoccupied people, particularly children, to engage in legitimate activities. When there are no supervised (or at least monitored) after school activities, children will make up their own rules for right and wrong. There will always be a controlling or manipulative individual or group that will lead some, if not most toward activities with no respect for the rules, and ultimately, the law.
This is happening in all communities in striking ways, mostly with drug and alcohol abuse, problematic group behavior, rape, assault and battery, bullying and other crimes that are not usually associated with the more prosperous communities.
What causes so many children to be under such lack of supervision and monitoring? Neighborhoods that are empty until after the rush hour create periods of time when children are not at home or directly under parental supervision. Or, neighborhoods are built with the "snout house" effect, where no one wants to interact on a street that is mostly blank, creepy and uninviting garage frontage.
The streets of a neighborhood are where neighbors once normally interacted, and where children's activity was observed over a larger roaming area by more responsible people. One city, Davis, California made a move to outlaw "snout house" communities because of crimes that included acts of racist and other vandalism.
The drug and organized crime industries and theier control over low income, non English speaking, declining or impoverished neighborhoods is one major incubator of generational childhood criminal activity and anti social behavior. When the adults live either in fear of, or in need of, the illicit drug industry operatives, they will easily turn a blind eye or knuckle under to their children being recruited or forced into cooperating with gangs and drug organizations.
When law enforcement refuses to respond to crime in impoverished and drug industry controlled neighborhoods, then criminals know that they can act with impunity. Worse, child predation, abuse, murder and kidnapping flourishes because the child protective services and other agencies are overwhelmed. Many children are being negligently returned to clearly dangerous homes and subsequently killed by unstable adults, or they are sold to settle drug disputes and debts, sometimes with a failure to report the missing children for weeks or months.
There is no community, no matter what is claimed, that is "crime free". Most crime, including so-called "victimless crime", goes unreported to law enforcement and thus, it all goes unreported to the media and to the academics who study crime.
In a society that has been economically, politically and socially destabilized, a crime response to personal troubles tempts far more people and reaches everywhere. And crimes against women and children are reaching more and more horrific proportions. This comes from rises in acute episodes of mental illness and abuse of alcohol and drugs.
These conditions also lead to much more violence against social target groups, such as immigrants, gays and lesbians, certain religious groups and the helpless: the elderly, handicapped, women and children.
There is also more attention to contract violence that is set up by one spouse against another.
There is a rise in social and interpersonal predation by increasing activity by sociopaths and psychopaths who have gone over the edge. It is possible that the new genres in "torture-tainment", such as the "Saw" and "Hostel" series of films or the popularity of rape fantasy as entertainment is, along with mental and substance abuse problems the cause of increasingly violent, horrific and deviant crimes in the real world.
There is more financial crime as desperate people resort to making false statements in order to get services, tax evasion, commit identity theft, drug dealing, scams and white collar crimes. The spectrum of crime continues to the levels of armed and aggravated robbery, mass murder, murder-suicide and theft. The range of these crimes extends to communities that once boasted of being prosperous and therefore crime free.
In an environment of social and economic instability, there are crimes of opportunity as major government institutions and marketplaces cut back on staff, relying on surveillance cameras to catch shoplifters, who ignore the cameras and shoplift, anyway. There are break-ins and occupations of empty, foreclosed homes and in blighted or almost blighted neighborhoods. Many urban areas and insurance companies no longer bother to investigate vehicle and smaller property thefts.
Finally crimes are committed when not enough information is made available to establish a crime rate. White collar, judicial, legislative, law enforcement, medical, corporate, military, scientific, religious and a host of other environments that are full of opportunities to commit and to cover up for crimes. These crimes can be too complicated for the average person to understand, may be veiled in secrecy and security classification and may simply go unreported by victims and witnesses who are in fear of their jobs, lives or careers. Worst of all, such crimes may simply be redefined as legally tolerable actions after the fact.