What noteworthy criminal incidents or activities occurred during the last half century, and what social and economic conditions might have produced them?

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Over the last half-century, there have been many riots in cities. During the mid- to late 1960s, protests and riots broke out in many urban areas, and this trend has occurred on and off since then. Lack of economic opportunities, an increase in poverty, and lower levels of employment and education have contributed to these riots. Recently, concerns of police brutality have also fueled these incidents.

Another growing trend is the rise of scams. More and more people have become targets of various scams, such as false reports of IRS threats, false communication from a bank or credit card company, or false reports of endangerment or abduction of family members. New and more sophisticated forms of technology have made these actions possible. Through the use of computers and the increased ease of contacting people quickly by email or by phone, more people have fallen prey to these schemes. Many of the forms of communication actually look as if they are coming from a bank, the IRS, or a computer company such as Apple. Many people don’t know how to respond when presented with a threatening situation and believe these false events are actually occurring.

The use of illegal drugs has also increased significantly. Today, the opioid crisis has placed many people in danger. As more people have become addicted to painkillers or have used very addicting drugs such as heroin, the death rate from overdosing is on the rise. People also used illegal drugs such as cocaine throughout the last fifty years. The increased availability of these drugs and the desire to experiment with some of them has led to an increased dependency on these drugs.

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It is very hard to decide which noteworthy criminal incidents or activities to include since there have been so many since 1963.  I will focus on three criminal activities or trends rather than on any specific incidents.  These activities are the rise of illegal drugs, increases in identity theft, and the riots that occurred with some regularity in the 1960s.

It is possible to connect the illegal drug trade and the riots that occurred in the ‘60s.  Both of these were caused, in part, by the same factors.  For both of these, part of the cause was the lack of economic opportunity in the inner cities.  Most of these inner cities were and are populated by non-white people.  The riots were caused in large part by their frustration over a lack of economic opportunity and a lack of social equality.  The drug trade can be seen as a response to the lack of economic opportunity as well.

A very different sort of criminal activity is identity theft.  This is largely a crime of the 21st century.  The condition that has been most important in bringing about this sort of crime is the rise of computers and the internet.  Before the late 1990s, there was not enough usage of the internet to make cybercrimes like identity theft possible.  Today, so much business is conducted online that computerized identity theft is a major criminal activity.

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