The latest issue of The Journal of Law & Economics has an excellent piece on the relationship between crime prevention and economic factors (Carrots, Sticks and Broken Windows by Hope Corman and Naci Mocan). The piece demonstrates a fairly elastic correlation between burglary, robbery, vehicle theft, grand larceny and murder and economic factors such as minimum wage and unemployment rates
Interesting that there is no such relationship with assault and rape; crimes that appear to be committed unrelated to economic pressures.
“Broken Windows” refers to the Giuliani “get tough” on crime approach that New York City popularized throughout the 1990s. Some have argued that this reduction in NYC crime had less to do with law enforcement, and was more likely attributed to the sustained growth of the economy throughout the 90s. The authors argue that economic variables were not significantly influential to New York and the 90s boom, but also, broken-windows policing was not universally significant (Further, other urban areas in the States saw a substantial reduction in crime, without a significant increase in misdemeanor arrests).