NPR has an interesting take on why burglaries have been declining for decades:

"I was a salesman. I could sell anything," Mathis says, as he waits to see his probation officer at a city building in Washington, D.C. "Go get me some toilet paper, and I could sell it."

For almost 20 years, Mathis burglarized homes to support a drug habit. He only got caught a few times. Mathis says he stopped breaking into homes because there's just no money in it anymore.

"If you're going to do a burglary, you need to have some buyers," Mathis says. "Everybody has everything now."

Mathis says there's just too much on the street already. Everyone he knows already has a digital camera, iPod knockoffs and pirated DVDs shipped in from China.

"And if it's not new, a lot of people don't even want to fool with it," Mathis says.

Forget about last year's video games and old laptops, Mathis says. And don't even bring a VCR or boxy TV to the street.

"You can get a TV for nothing almost," he says. "People are giving them away now."

How's this for a definition of what it means to be a "wealthy" nation: legal commerce puts the black market out of business.

Perhaps most interesting is that private enterprise isn't just attacking burglaries from beneath, but also from above.

The program and the street economy may have turned Mathis' life around, but criminologists say there are other reasons behind the 30-year drop in burglaries — such as the 1 million private police and security guards at work in residential communities.

Two years ago, Steve Southworth, a private police investigator for the Wintergreen Resort in central Virginia, spent six months tracking the movements of a burglar who traveled along the Appalachian trail. ...

In the past, remote communities like this one were ripe for thieves. But since residents started paying for their own private officers, crime has dropped 70 percent.

Maybe a wealthy free market can provide solutions to problems that even many libertarians often believe require government intervention?

Of course, the flip side is that gadget robberies are up.

(HT: Marginal Revolution.)

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