iCrime Wave Makes More Headlines Than Sense

Mar 6th, 2008 | By | Category: iPhone, iPods & Portable Media Players

ipod woman in the streetsThere have been a lot of headlines over the last few days about iCrime – the idea that the popularity of iPods is leading to a surge in violent crime.

The source for these stories is actually a nearly six-month old paper (pdf) by the Urban Institute research group. The paper argues that the recent surge in violent crime defies easy explanation, and then goes on to propose that the rise in violent offending and the explosion in the sales of iPods and other portable media devices is more than coincidental.

In fact, they argue that “America may have experienced an iCrime wave.”

Here’s the meat of their case:

In the fall of 2004, a new generation of iPods was introduced and consumer demand exploded. By the end of 2005, more than 42.3 million units had been sold, and by the end of 2006, the total was almost 90 million.

In 2005, for the first time in 12 years, violent crime increased—a trend that continued in 2006. This followed a relatively long period of decline. From 1993 until 2004, the violent crime rate fell every year, for a total decline of 38 percent. At the same time that violent crime rates began to rise, America’s streets filled with millions of people visibly wearing, and being distracted by, expensive electronic gear. Thus, there was a marked increase in both the supply of potential victims and opportunities for would-be offenders.

Past crime waves are thought to have occurred in a similar way—triggered by the introduction of a new high-status and expensive product. For instance, in the 1980s and 1990s, the proliferation of such valuable products as expensive basketball shoes or North Face jackets may have led to new crimes. However, in past instances where the supply of crime creating products increased, the consumer population purchasing these goods—and the would-be offenders coveting those products—made up a relatively small part of the U.S. population. By contrast, iPods are everywhere, and, unlike a jacket or a sneaker, one size fits all.

Unfortunately, the Urban Institute’s paper doesn’t make a very strong case; it’s not clear if the popularity of iPods and the rise in crime is coincidence, correlation or causation. In fact, the paper doesn’t tackle the most obvious question: is some significant portion of the increase attributable to ipod-related crimes?

The Urban Institute has found an iMeme, but it makes more headlines than sense.

Image: polpulux

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4 Responses to “iCrime Wave Makes More Headlines Than Sense”

  1. geoff says:

    See, there is no reason for this violence. SomaCow is GIVING AWAY a free iTouch Media Player (8GB) on our website right now. People, stop beating each other senseless for plastic and do something marginally less painful: Listen to our shows!

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