Washoe crime rates hold steady in down economy

RENO (AP) " A bad economy doesn't turn honest people into criminals, Washoe County law enforcement officials said.

Despite the economic recession, local authorities say the area's crime rates have held steady. And local businesses say they haven't seen an increase in shoplifting, theft or fraud, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported Monday.

"Just because someone lost their job doesn't mean they're going to turn into a criminal," said Reno police Chief Michael Poehlman. "They are good people and have led a good life and now have tough decisions to make.

"But they're not going to become a criminal because that's not the type of people they are."

While violent crime fell in Reno last year, property crimes rose slightly, which could account for normal growth in the city's population, the department said.

In Washoe County, reports of burglary, fraud and stolen property declined in 2008, while county jail bookings last year for property and theft crimes slightly rose. Sparks police reported no significant increases in its crime statistics.

Historically, when the economy is down, crime goes up, but not in Nevada, said Matthew Leone, associate criminal justice professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Leone speculated that jobs and a prospering economy is what attracts people to Nevada. When the jobs dry up, people leave, he said.

"It's not realistic for people to all suddenly turn to crime," he said.

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