Development and crime drop: A time-series analysis of crime rates in Hong Kong in the last three decades


Chen Xi & Zhong Hua

International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology (2020)

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Abstract: Although the recent crime drop in Western societies has rejuvenated crime trend studies, little is known about the crime trends and the corresponding explanations in the East. This study aims to fill the gaps by examining different types of offenses in Hong Kong between 1976 and 2017. Specifically, this study tests and evaluates major macro-level theoretical approaches explaining crime trends, including institutional anomie theory, routine activities theory, and deterrence theory. Using Error Correction Models, our analyses reveal that the strengths of different social institutions are negatively associated with crime rates, showing strong support to institutional anomie theory. The results also partially support routine activities theory by demonstrating that levels of economic development are negatively associated with both violent and property crime rates, and the number of mobile cellular subscriptions is negatively related to homicide rates. Deterrence explanations are mainly supported for property crime. These findings provide theoretical insights on the etiology of crime and also yield important policy suggestions on how to sustain the observed decline in crime rates in modern societies.

About the author: Chen Xi was a HYI Visiting Fellow from 2013-14.