Will the Shutdown in Washington Increase Crime?

While the president and congress go back and forth in Washington over the spending bill and the national debt ceiling, many worry that this standstill in the nation’s capital will begin to have a host of unintended effects on the American public. Some of these are already coming to light as in the highly publicized case of Michelle Langbehn who’s clinical trial to treat her rare form of sarcoma was put on hiatus due to the impasse. While we have already begun to see some of the immediate consequences of the shutdown, some worry that the longer it continues the likelihood of increased crime becomes more of a reality.

While the 1995 shutdown lasted 21 days (from December 15th to January 6th) the American economy was in an arguably much better state than it is now. Advancements in technology and a nearly 2% climb in unemployment rates create a fertile ground for an amplification in criminal activity.

As we grow ever closer to that October 17th date when America may officially hit the debt ceiling and defaulting on our national debt becomes a reality, criminal defense attorneys recognize that the plausibility for fraud, identity theft and mortgage crime may escalate (especially at the federal level) as criminals perceive that there will be less government oversight and as a result, an increased likelihood that they will be able to get away with their misconduct.

Florida criminal defense attorney John P. Contini warns of the long term ramifications of the shutdown,

“Unfortunately, this isn’t just a political battle between President Obama and the Republican leadership, or one over healthcare. Criminals out there will see this as an opportunity to exploit government programs like food stamps believing that no one will be watching. That’s what criminals do.”

The impact that the shutdown will have on legal services is highly contingent on the duration. Washington legal firms have already noted a slowdown in things like subpoenas or Inspector General Investigations, two areas that drive a lot of billable hours to certain sectors of the law industry.

This situation becomes further compounded when you begin to consider the significance of the time tested theory of supply and demand. Where there is deficiency there is of course opportunity. As firms that work closely with government entities come to an impasse of their own, some private defense lawyers have been left to fill in the gaps where no specific industry expertise is necessarily needed.

While this may initially seem like a good thing for firms who were already struggling to meet financial targets during the final quarters of 2013, this ultimately leaves a shortage at the end of the hypothetical law food chain. As private defense lawyers become more and more involved in these sorts of scenarios, your everyday average Joe seeking run of the mill legal help may begin to feel the pressure of the shutdown.

This coupled with the potential for increased crime has many wondering what sort of residual effects the United States is facing as congress and the president continue struggle to arrive at an agreed upon spending bill.

About the author: Eli Murphy is an editor who works with AbacusLaw.

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