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Poverty also contributes to a cycle which reinforces an environment where criminal behavior is more likely. Streets that are not safe, schools that are underfunded, having children too young, unemployment are all part of a vicious cycle, especially in the inner cities of America. So when we say that crime is economic, and related to poverty, it is in this larger sense as well.
There are many causes of crime in the United States, but I would argue that the main cause of crime (the one that causes more crime than any other) is poverty.
I am not arguing that poor people can somehow not help themselves and that they are therefore not culpable for their crimes. I am arguing that if there were less poverty, there would be less crime. I believe that poor people are more tempted to commit crimes than other people and therefore a reduction in poverty would come with a reduction in crime. There would still be crime because people commit crimes for many reasons, but the amount of crime would be lower.
For example, I would argue that many property crimes and many violent crimes come about because of poverty. People steal to get money or they commit violent acts because they are members of gangs. Both of these are driven to some extent by poverty. Many drug dealers get into that line of business because of poverty as well.
So while I don't believe that poor people are forced to be criminal, I think that there are more temptations for the poor. This leads me to believe that poverty is the leading cause of crime.
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