But are iPods responsible for a rise in crime? That’s what a D.C. think tank says, claiming the player’s rise in popularity corresponds with a rise in crime stats.

The Urban Institute originally raised the iPod / iCrime question in September, and recently held a panel discussion to further explore the matter. The think tank has compiled a lot of statistics backing up its hypothesis. However, as is often the case with stats, the truth is in the eye of the beholder.

The basis for Urban Institute’s iPod = iCrime logic is that robberies had declined since the 1990s but jumped dramatically in 2005 and 2006 – the same years iPods went mainstream.

The institute also bases its assertion on a commonly held theory that crime happens when a situation includes motivation, suitable victims and a good chance to get away with the illegal deed.

And if that isn’t enough to convince you that there’s something to the iPod iCrime wave theory, subway officials in San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C., have reported a rise in iPod thefts.

But is that enough to link iPods with rising crime stats?

Perhaps the answer lies in looking at other crime data. For example, homicides often arise from muggings, and even though the number of murders rose slightly during the years in question, the bump was a small one and did not match the spike in robberies.

Plus, even though the number of robberies rose, the number of larcenies – where iPods might be stolen from backpacks or coat pockets – dropped.

In other words, there’s evidence to suggest that iPods did cause a rise in crime. And there’s evidence that iPods did not cause a rise in crime. It all depends on how you interpret the statistics.

“There has been a lot of anecdotal evidence of cell phones, iPods, GPS systems that have been targets for theft. No research can tell us those wouldn’t have been substituted for other things,” said Jack McDevitt, associate dean at Northeastern University’s College of Criminal Justice.

“I guess I could sort of understand and buy that in a very narrow place, in a short period of time – a short spike for a few months. But to suggest that that’s driving the crime numbers in a major way, I don’t think so.”