Jump to Content Jump to Main Navigation

Criminology Costs of Crime and Justice
by
Mark Cohen

Introduction

Estimating the costs of crime and justice is a useful exercise for many different reasons. Just knowing the aggregate costs of crime and justice helps us to understand and compare the impact of crime relative to other social ills. When combined with estimates of the effectiveness of programs, cost estimates of the criminal justice system, for example, can be used to determine the effectiveness of various policy options (“cost effectiveness” analysis). Finally, when estimates of the cost of crime itself are available, analysts can compare the costs of programs to their benefits (“cost-benefit” analysis). To do so requires both a clear understanding of whose “costs” are to be estimated (e.g., victims, taxpayers) as well as a determination of which methodology will be used to estimate those costs. This emerging field requires considerable judgment and methodologies because estimating costs are still being debated in the academic and policy literatures. This makes comparison of existing estimates perilous, as one can easily be comparing apples to oranges without a deep understanding of how each study was conducted. Nevertheless, the importance of estimating costs is becoming recognized by government policy analysts and researchers around the world.

General Overviews

There are only a few general texts on the costs of crime and justice. Gray 1979 provides both a theoretical understanding of how economists view the costs of crime as well as early estimates. However, more up-to-date and thorough treatments and literature reviews are contained in Cohen, et al. 1994, Cohen 2000, Cohen 2005, Czybanski 2008, and Cohen and Bowles 2010.

  • Cohen, Mark A. 2000. Measuring the costs and benefits of crime and justice. In Measurement and analysis of crime and justice. Edited by David Duffee, 263–316. Criminal Justice 4. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Comprehensive review of theory and methodologies for estimating both the costs of crime and the criminal justice system. While this is now somewhat dated and does not include the latest studies, it is a very useful and easy-to-read reference for undergraduate or graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Cohen, Mark A. 2005. The costs of crime and justice. New York: Routledge.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203313145Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A thorough review of economic theory and methodologies used to estimate the costs of crime and justice. Based primarily on the published work of Cohen and his colleagues in the United States. Suitable for all levels of study; no economics background is assumed.

    Find this resource:

  • Cohen, Mark A., and Roger Bowles. 2010. Estimating costs of crime. In Handbook of quantitative criminology. Part 2. Edited by Alex R. Piquero and David Weisburd, 143–162. New York: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/9780-3877765078Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Up-to-date review of methodologies for estimating costs of crime. Targeted toward graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Cohen, Mark A., Ted R. Miller, and Shelli B. Rossman. 1994. The costs and consequences of violent behavior in the United States. In Understanding and preventing violence. Vol. 4, Consequences and control of violence. Edited by Albert J. Reiss Jr. and Jeffrey A. Roth, 67–166. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Detailed discussion and estimates of the costs to victims and to the criminal justice system of violent crimes in the United States.

    Find this resource:

  • Gray, Charles M., ed. 1979. The costs of crime. SAGE Criminal Justice System Annuals 12. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Useful introduction to economists’ characterization of crime costs, including definitions of social costs, external costs, private costs, and more. Contains early estimates of the costs of crime in the United States, but these are now very outdated. Suitable for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students; economics background is helpful.

    Find this resource:

  • Czabanski, Jacek. 2008. Estimates of cost of crime: History, methodologies, and implications. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Perhaps the most comprehensive treatment of the subject, this book includes an exhaustive history of the costs of crime as well as detailed critiques of methodologies. One of the strengths of this volume is its legal framework, including a discussion of how cost estimates relate to theories of punishment and the criminal law. Suitable for upper-level undergraduates, graduate students, and law students.

    Find this resource:

Bibliographies

The most comprehensive internationally focused annotated bibliography is available on the Review of Costs of Crime Literature website, which is up to date as of about 2007–2008 and which contains a very useful review of the US literature (see Shapiro 1999). Two books that contain extensive bibliographies are Cohen 2005 and Czabanski 2008.

Data Sources

Data sources on the costs of crime are generally of two types: surveys of the public and/or victims, and compilations of direct government expenditures on the criminal justice system. Government surveys of households are not designed to fully estimate the costs of crime to victims. They generally ask about property losses, medical costs, and lost wages and often are unable to capture even the full extent of these losses as victims’ out-of-pocket losses may vary considerably from the full value of losses. In addition, there are seldom clear definitions; for example, we often do not know if a victim is reporting the cost of purchase, replacement cost, or the depreciated value of stolen merchandise. Most important, these surveys are not designed to elicit information on mental health care or intangible costs such as pain and suffering. Thus, one must be careful when citing and comparing figures taken from these survey reports. The main surveys are the National Criminal Victimization Survey (NCVS) in the United States; the British Crime Survey (BCS) in the United Kingdom; and the International Crime Victims Survey (ICVS), which has been conducted in more than seventy-five countries. See van Dijk, et al. 2005 for a report using the ICVS in the EU. Other national data sources can be located at Costs of Crime

Methodologies for Estimating Tangible Costs

The tangible costs of crime include wage losses, medical costs, and property losses to victims, costs to the government such as police, courts, and prisons, as well as other monetary costs such as burglary alarms. Methodologies for estimating these costs are discussed at length in Cohen 2000, Brand and Price 2001, and at the Costs of Crime website.

  • Brand, S., and R. Price. 2001. The economic and social costs of crime. Home Office Research Studies 217. London: Home Office.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Comprehensive discussion of the theory and methodology for estimating the costs to victims (consequences of crime including intangible costs), government (response to crime), and the public at large through attempts to avoid victimization (anticipation of crime, e.g., burglar alarms). Estimates provided for England and Wales.

    Find this resource:

  • Cohen, Mark A. 2000. Measuring the costs and benefits of crime and justice. In Measurement and analysis of crime and justice. Edited by David Duffee, 263–316. Criminal Justice 4. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Comprehensive review of methodologies for estimating both the costs of crime and the criminal justice system, including a detailed discussion of the methodology for estimating tangible costs. While this is now somewhat dated and does not include the latest studies, it is a very useful reference for undergraduate or graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Costs of Crime.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This website was the output of a two-year project (2007–2008) funded by the European Commission, titled “Mainstreaming Methodologies for Estimating the Costs of Crime.” It contains a comprehensive annotated bibliography and detailed discussions on data sources and methodologies. Appropriate for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students. Target audience is government policy analysts.

    Find this resource:

Methodologies for Estimating Intangible Costs

Intangible costs of crime—including pain, suffering, loss of victims’ quality of life, community deprivation, and the public’s fear of crime—are the most difficult and controversial aspects of estimating the costs of crime. However, without including intangible losses, the cost estimates (especially comparisons of property crimes to violent crimes) can be very misleading. Among the best sources for understanding the various methodologies used to measure intangible costs are Cohen 2000, Cohen and Bowles 2010, and the Costs of Crime website. For more detailed treatments of specific methodologies, see Jury Awards, Quality Adjusted Life Year (QALY) Approaches, Willingness to Pay, Property Values and Crime and Crime and Happiness. See also the more general overview books and articles in General Overviews.

  • Cohen, Mark A. 2000. Measuring the costs and benefits of crime and justice. In Measurement and analysis of crime and justice. Edited by David Duffee, 263–316. Criminal Justice 4. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Comprehensive review of theory and methodologies for estimating both the costs of crime and the criminal justice system, including a detailed discussion of the methodologies for estimating intangible crime costs. While this is now somewhat dated and does not include the latest studies, it is a very useful and easy-to-read reference for undergraduate or graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Cohen, Mark A., and Roger Bowles. 2010. Estimating costs of crime. In Handbook of quantitative criminology. Part 2. Edited by Alex R. Piquero and David Weisburd, 143–162. New York: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/9780-3877765078Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Up-to-date review of methodologies for estimating costs of crime. Comprehensive discussion of alternative methodologies for estimating intangible crime costs. Targeted toward graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Costs of Crime.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This website was the output of a two-year project (2007–2008) funded by the European Commission, titled “Mainstreaming Methodologies for Estimating the Costs of Crime.” It contains a comprehensive annotated bibliography and detailed discussions on data sources and methodologies. Appropriate for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students. Comprehensive discussion of alternative methodologies for estimating intangible crime costs. Target audience is government policy analysts.

    Find this resource:

Jury Awards

The use of jury awards to value the intangible costs of pain and suffering to crime victims was pioneered by Cohen 1988, followed by updates and refinements in Miller, et al. 1996 and more recently Roman 2009. While it is still used extensively, note that it focuses on victims of crime—not the community at large. For methodologies that include intangible losses to the public, see Willingness to Pay, Quality Adjusted Life Year (QALY) Approaches, Property Values and Crime, and Crime and Happiness.

  • Cohen, Mark A. 1988. Pain, suffering, and jury awards: A study of the cost of crime to victims. Law and Society Review 22.3: 537–555.

    DOI: 10.2307/3053629Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Although now dated and more refined estimates have been made, this is the first use of jury awards to estimate the intangible costs of victimization. Includes detailed methodology and underlying rationale for this approach.

    Find this resource:

  • Miller, Ted R., Mark A. Cohen, and Brian Wiersema. 1996. Victim costs and consequences: A new look. NCJ-155282. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Comprehensive estimate of the cost of crime to victims in the United States includes intangible victim losses based on jury awards for pain and suffering to crime victims.

    Find this resource:

  • Roman, Jonathan Kilbourn. 2009. What is the price of crime? New estimates of the cost of criminal victimization. PhD diss., Univ. of Maryland School of Public Policy.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Rigorous treatment of the jury award method with new US cost-of-crime estimates that are based on detailed crime incidence from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) database. Compares estimates to previous studies. Appropriate for graduate students.

    Find this resource:

Willingness to Pay

The “willingness-to-pay” (WTP) approach to estimating the costs of crime is a methodology that uses a survey to elicit the public’s valuation of a nonmarket good. This methodology has been used extensively in the environmental economics literature to value nonmarket amenities such as pollution, biodiversity, or endangered species. WTP has been used to value specific crimes such as gun crimes (Ludwig and Cook 2001) and street crimes including murder, rape, assaults, armed robbery and burglary (Cohen, et al. 2004; Atkinson, et al. 2005); and crime-reduction policies such as drug treatment programs (Zarkin, et al. 2000) and juvenile crimes (Nagin, et al. 2006). It is more comprehensive than other approaches (see Jury Awards) that focus solely on victims.

  • Atkinson, Giles, Andrew Healey, and Susana Mourato. 2005. Valuing the costs of violent crime: A stated preference approach. Oxford Economic Papers 57.4: 559–585.

    DOI: 10.1093/oep/gpi036Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    To date, the only WTP study in the United Kingdom. This is a nonrandom, quota-based survey that estimates the costs of “common assaults” (no injury) and “serious woundings.”

    Find this resource:

  • Cohen, Mark A., Roland Rust, Sara Steen, and Simon Tidd. 2004. Willingness-to-pay for crime control programs. Criminology 42.1: 89–110.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2004.tb00514.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Nationally representative US survey, estimates WTP, for murder, rape, or sexual assault, serious assaults, armed robbery, and burglary. Currently, the most widely used WTP estimates in the United States.

    Find this resource:

  • Ludwig, Jens, and Philip J. Cook. 2001. The benefits of reducing gun violence: Evidence from contingent-valuation survey data. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 22.3:207–226.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1011144500928Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Nationally representative survey of 1,200 US residents, estimates WTP for reduction in gun injuries (including crimes, accidental shootings, and suicides). Appropriate for graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Nagin, Daniel S., Alex R. Piquero, Elizabeth S. Scott, and Laurence Steinberg. 2006. Public preferences for rehabilitation versus incarceration of juvenile offenders: Evidence from a contingent valuation survey. Criminology and Public Policy 5:627–652.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9133.2006.00406.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Random sample survey of residents in Pennsylvania; estimates WTP to reduce serious juvenile crimes. Innovative approach allows for comparison of public’s willingness to pay for equivalent crime reductions using incarceration versus rehabilitation. Appropriate for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Zarkin, Gary A., Sheryl C. Cates, and Mohan V. Bala. 2000. Estimating the willingness to pay for drug abuse treatment: A pilot study. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 18.2: 149–159.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0740-5472(99)00030-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Sample of residents in Brooklyn, New York, and Greensboro, North Carolina. Estimates willingness to pay for drug abuse treatment which can be used to infer cost of drug abuse. Appropriate for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students.

    Find this resource:

Quality Adjusted Life Year (QALY) Approaches

The health literature uses quality adjusted life year (QALY) approaches to value injuries, which is an assessment from health care professionals and others on the reduction in quality of life associated with particular injuries. These QALY estimates are then combined with estimates of the statistical value of a life year to arrive at the estimated cost of a particular injury. Dolan, et al. 2005 used this approach to value crime in the United Kingdom, and Dolan and Peasgood 2007 valued the fear of crime among the British public at large. This is an alternative to the Willingness-to-Pay and Jury Awards approaches to valuing intangible crime costs used more prevalently in the United States.

Property Values and Crime

Economists have long noted that housing prices tend to be lower in high-crime areas. While there are many reasons why this might be true (e.g., crime also tends to occur in high-density, low-income areas—which also tend to have low housing prices), all other things being equal, people are willing to pay more for low-crime neighborhoods. Thaler 1978, an analysis of housing prices in Rochester, New York, is the seminal work, while Gibbons 2005 is an analysis of prices in London. Hoehn, et al. 1987 notes that local wage rates are also likely to reflect crime rates and added this to their analysis of local crime costs. More recently, Linden and Rockoff 2008 and Pope 2008 estimate the cost of a sex offense by examining housing prices nearby known sex offenders following the passage of laws requiring the registering and public availability of information on locations of sex offenders’ homes. Economists tend to like this method because it is based on actual market transactions. However, aside from the rape estimates cited above, these studies have generally been available only for a crime index—not for individual crimes.

  • Gibbons, Steve. 2005. The costs of urban property crime. Economic Journal 114.499: F441–F463.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0297.2004.00254.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Estimates the impact of crime on property values in London. Finds that property damage (e.g., vandalism, graffiti, and other property damage) reduces property values, but found no evidence of any effect from burglaries.

    Find this resource:

  • Hoehn, J. P., M. C. Berger, and G. C. Blomquist. 1987. A hedonic model of interregional wages, rents, and amenity values. Journal of Regional Science 27.4: 605–620.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9787.1987.tb01184.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Expanded the property-value studies to account for the fact that wage rates are also partly determined by local crime rates. Thus, higher wage rates (compensating workers for the added risk) partly offset lower housing values in estimating crime costs. Based on data from 1980 US Census of Population and Housing. Appropriate for graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Linden, Leigh L., and Jonah E. Rockoff. 2008. There goes the neighborhood? Estimates of the impact of crime risk on property values from Megan’s laws. American Economic Review 98.3: 1103–1127.

    DOI: 10.1257/aer.98.3.1103Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Combines data from housing market in North Carolina with location of convicted sex offenders to determine reduced property value of residence near a known sex offender. Appropriate for undergraduate or graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Pope, Jaren C. 2008. Fear of crime and housing prices: Household reactions to sex offender registries. Journal of Urban Economics 64.3: 601–614.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jue.2008.07.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Combining housing prices with a sex offender registry in Hillsborough County, Florida, study finds that after a sex offender moves into a neighborhood, nearby housing prices fall by 2.3 percent ($3,500 on average). However, once a sex offender moves out of a neighborhood, housing prices appear to immediately rebound. Appropriate for undergraduate and graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Thaler, Richard. 1978. A note on the value of crime control: Evidence from the property market. Journal of Urban Economics 5.1: 137–145.

    DOI: 10.1016/0094-11907890042-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The seminal article relating property value to crime using regression analysis. Based on housing prices in Rochester, New York. Appropriate for graduate students.

    Find this resource:

Crime and Happiness

Several authors have attempted to use general public surveys on “life satisfaction” or “happiness” to infer the cost of crime. These surveys ask individuals how satisfied they are with their lives. By controlling for various factors that affect life satisfaction (e.g., income, marital status) they then compare individual respondents according to their risk of crime or actual criminal victimization. Di Tella and MacCulloch 2005 is a cross-country comparison at the aggregate level, Moore 2006 analyzes responses to the European Social Survey to assess the “fear” of crime, Moore and Shepherd 2006 analyzes the British Crime Survey, and Cohen 2008 looks at US data.

  • Cohen, Mark A. 2008. The effect of crime on life satisfaction. Journal of Legal Studies 37.2: S325–S353.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This paper compares violent crime rates in the city of each respondent to the General Social Survey, as well as to the prior criminal victimization experience of each individual. Estimates the income required to maintain same level of satisfaction with changes in crime rates. Suitable for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Di Tella, Rafael, and Robert MacCulloch. 2005. Gross national happiness as an answer to the Easterlin Paradox? Working paper.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This paper compares crime rates and life satisfaction scores in twelve countries and estimates the impact of a rise in violence on per capita GDP. Suitable for graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Moore, Simon Christopher. 2006. The value of reducing fear: An analysis using the European Social Survey. Applied Economics 38.1: 115–117.

    DOI: 10.1080/00036840500368094Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using the European Social Survey response to questions about how safe respondents feel walking alone in their neighborhood after dark, the authors infer the value of reducing fear from crime. Suitable for graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Moore, Simon Christopher, and Jonathan P. Shepherd. 2006. The cost of fear: Shadow pricing the intangible costs of crime. Applied Economics 38.3: 293–300.

    DOI: 10.1080/00036840500367781Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using data from the UK British Crime survey, the authors estimate the cost of “fear” by analyzing the implied trade-off between income and respondents’ feeling of safety in walking at night in their neighborhood. Suitable for graduate students.

    Find this resource:

National Estimates

While methodologies sometimes differ, and care must be taken in making comparisons, national estimates of the costs of crime have been generated in the United States (Anderson 1999), the United Kingdom (Brand and Price 2001), Australia (Rollings 2008), Canada (Leung 2004), the Netherlands (Moolenaar 2006), New Zealand (Roper 2006), Poland (Czabanski 2009), El Salvador (Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrolo 2005), and the Caribbean Region (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2007).

Types of Crime

Some studies on the cost of crime cover many different offenses—with the bulk of studies focusing on traditional street crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, and burglary. Other studies focus on individual crimes such as rape, or white collar and corporate crime. National Estimates contains studies that look at the crimes of murder, rape, robbery, motor vehicle theft, burglary, and more. In addition, however, the categories below include studies that focus on individual crime types.

Rape and Sexual Assault

Estimates of the cost of rape and sexual assault are included in most studies of the cost of crime, see most recently Cohen, et al. 2004 (cited under Willingness to Pay) for the United States and Dubourg, et al. 2005 (cited under Cost to Government) for the United Kingdom. Intangible costs of pain, suffering, and lost quality of life are the most significant portion of costs. Recently, Linden and Rockoff 2006 and Pope 2008 have attempted to value the fear associated with rape and sexual assaults by looking at the impact of a convicted sex offender on housing prices.

Domestic Violence

There have only been a handful of studies that attempt to estimate the costs of violence against women and children, but it is clear that they are high. Miller, et al. 1996 estimates that the costs of child abuse and domestic violence accounted for nearly 30 percent of the costs of crime to victims in the United States. Morrison and Biehl 1999 documents the impact of domestic violence on medical costs and lost productivity in Latin America. Miller, et al. 1995 estimates the tangible costs of violence against women in Canada but excludes any value of intangible pain and suffering.

  • Greaves, Lorraine, Olena Hankivsky, and JoAnn Kingston-Riechers. 1995. Selected estimates of the costs of violence against women, London, ON: Centre for Research on Violence Against Women and Children.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Estimates the economic costs of sexual assault and rape, abuse in intimate partnerships, and incest/child sexual assault. Costs are estimated in four areas: health/medical costs, criminal justice, social services, and employment. Does not include any estimates of emotional costs or pain and suffering. Suitable for undergraduate or graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Miller, Ted R., Mark A. Cohen, and Brian Wiersema. 1996. Victim costs and consequences: A new look. National Institute of Justice Research Report NCJ-155282. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Estimates prevalence and victimization costs of street crime in the United States. Includes estimates of the cost of domestic violence and child abuse. Cost categories include property loss, medical and mental health costs, lost wages, value of household time, cost of victim services, police and fire response services, and intangible pain, suffering, and lost quality of life among victims.

    Find this resource:

  • Morrison, Andrew R., and María Loreta Biehl, eds. 1999. Too close to home: Domestic violence in the Americas. New York: Inter-American Development Bank.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Edited volume of studies commissioned by the International Development Bank on the cost of domestic violence in Latin America and the Caribbean. Includes studies in Brazil, Chile, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru. Studies look at impact on earnings, health care, and other measures of well-being for women subject to domestic violence. Spanish version is titled “El costo del silencio: Violencia doméstica en las Américas” (The cost of silence: Domestic violence in the Americas).

    Find this resource:

Drugs and Crime

Estimating the cost of crime related to alcohol and drug abuse is a difficult task. Among the costs are those involving the drug trade, drug consumption, crimes committed to support a drug habit, and crimes committed by drug abusers who might not have committed them if they were not under the influence. Reports on drug abuse and crime are regularly commissioned and available in the United States (Office of National Drug Control Policy 2001), the United Kingdom (Godfrey, et al. 2002), and various EU governments (EMCDDA). Miller, et al. 2006 estimates the costs of alcohol and drug-involved crimes; Zarkin, et al. 2000 estimates the public’s willingness to pay for drug treatment programs; and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 1998 estimates the worldwide flow of illegal drug money and consumer sales. See also Cohen 1998 and Cohen and Piquero 2009 (cited under High-Risk Youth) for estimates of the costs imposed by heavy drug users over their lifetime.

Guns and Crime

Miller and Cohen 1997 estimates the portion of violent crimes in the United States and Canada that involved gunshot wounds and/or cut/stab wounds. Cook and Ludwig 2000 and Ludwig and Cook 2001 estimate the public’s willingness to pay to reduce gun violence.

  • Cook, Philip J., and Jens Ludwig. 2000. Gun violence: The real costs. Studies in Crime and Public Policy. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Comprehensive treatment of the impact of guns on society, including criminal shootings, accidents, and suicides. Documents the extent of gun violence and its implications on medical costs and productivity. Also reports on a survey of society’s willingness to pay to reduce gun violence (Ludwig and Cook 2001). Suitable for all audiences.

    Find this resource:

  • Ludwig, Jens, and Philip J. Cook. 2001. The benefits of reducing gun violence: Evidence from contingent-valuation survey data. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 22.3:207–226.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1011144500928Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Estimates the willingness-to-pay for reduction in gun injuries based on a nationally representative survey of 1,200 US residents. Appropriate for graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Miller, Ted R., and Mark A. Cohen. 1997. Costs of gunshot and cut/stab wounds in the United States, with some Canadian comparisons. Accident Prevention and Analysis 29.3: 329–341.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0001-45759700007-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Estimates medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering to victims of gunshot and cut/stab wounds in the United States and Canada. Appropriate for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students.

    Find this resource:

Personal Fraud

Only a handful of studies focus on fraud committed against individuals. Titus, et al. 1995 studies episodes of fraud in general in the United States—not all of which are likely to be criminal offenses. Federal Trade Commission 2007 is a study of the prevalence and costs of identity theft in the United States. See also Crimes against Business and Government.

  • Federal Trade Commission. 2007. 2006 Identity theft survey report.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on a survey of the public, an estimated 8.3 million incidents of identity theft were identified in 2006, with average losses of $1,882 and aggregate US losses of $15.6 billion. These are only tangible costs and exclude any pain, suffering, or the public’s willingness to pay to reduce identity theft.

    Find this resource:

  • Titus, R. M., F. Heinzelmann, and J. M. Boyle. 1995. Victimization of persons by fraud. Crime and Delinquency 41.1: 54–72.

    DOI: 10.1177/0011128795041001004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    First national survey of the US population to identify victims of personal fraud. Estimates tangible victim costs only, estimated at $45 billion annually. However, some of the fraud definitions include incidents that may not be considered criminal. Suitable for undergraduate and graduate students.

    Find this resource:

Corporate Crime

The cost of corporate crime is estimated to far exceed the cost of street crime, yet it is the least studied area. One reason for the scarcity of studies is the difficulty of obtaining data. Indeed, unlike street crime, where there is an identifiable victim, corporate crime is often undetected. Moreover, there are various definitions of corporate crime due to overlap of civil and criminal liability as well as prosecutorial discretion. Cohen 1989 discusses the various types of corporate crimes and how social costs are measured. Annual reports are issued by the FBI in the United States (Financial Crimes Report) and Transparency International for corporate crime around the world. See also Crimes against Business and Government.

  • Cohen, Mark A. 1989. Corporate crime and punishment: A study of social harm and sentencing practice in the federal courts, 1984–1987. American Criminal Law Review 26.3: 605–660.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Categorizes corporate crimes and identifies theory and methods for estimating the social costs imposed. Cost estimates are made for individual cases that were prosecuted in federal court. No “average” or “aggregate” cost estimates are provided.

    Find this resource:

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation. 2009. Financial Crimes Report. Washington, DC: Federal Bureau of Investigation.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Annual report on financial crimes under investigation and prosecution by the US government. Includes details on some of the largest crimes involving billions of dollars. While this does not produce estimates of the average or aggregate cost of crime, it is a useful source of information.

    Find this resource:

  • Transparency International. Global Corruption Report.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Annual report that provides detailed global and country-by-country assessments of corruption in business and government, including estimates of dollar magnitudes in many cases. Includes estimates of cartel overcharges, bribery of officials to obtain contracts, and other fraud in international governmental assistance programs.

    Find this resource:

Crimes Against Business and Government

Crimes against business and government include economic fraud as well as theft of property. Shury, et al. 2005 reports on a survey conducted by the British government. Private surveys are conducted annually by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the British Retail Consortium, the Computer Security Institute, the Global Theft Retail Barometer, Pricewaterhousecoopers, and Transparency International. While very informative, these surveys are generally not randomly conducted across the range of business globally, so reports of “average” losses should not be viewed with care. See Personal Fraud for studies of identity theft that also impact business. See also National Estimates and Corporate Crime.

Cost to Government

In the aggregate, it is relatively straightforward to estimate the cost of police, courts, or prisons, although in many countries even these data are not readily available. Aggregate estimates are regularly published in the United States (Bureau of Justice Statistics) and the United Kingdom (Crown Prosecution Service). Until recently, determining the cost per offense has been much more difficult. Cohen, et al. 1994 and Brand and Price 2001 both rely on a few cities that collected such data from their police forces and courts. Dubourg, et al. 2005 uses results from the Crown Prosecution Services’ national activity-based costing exercise of all police forces in England and Wales. Moolenaar 2010 has also estimated police costs in The Netherlands by type of crime based on the frequency of criminal offenses reported to police. Aos, et al. 2001 provides detailed cost estimates by type of activity for the state of Washington.

Cost to Offenders

Many cost of crime studies include an estimate of the monetary value of productivity lost by offenders while they are in prison and would otherwise be working in legitimate occupations, but few studies to date have attempted to estimate other costs to offenders. While imprisonment might provide numerous social benefits including deterrence, punishment, and incapacitation, it also imposes monetary and psychological costs on the offender and/or family. Thus, a comprehensive assessment of alternatives to incarceration might consider these costs. Abrams and Rohlfs 2010 provides the first evidence of how much the offenders value their freedom. Lengyel 2006 estimates pain and suffering to offenders and their families.

  • Abrams, D. S., and C. Rohlfs. 2010. Optimal bail and the value of freedom: Evidence from the Philadelphia Bail Experiment. Univ. of Chicago Working Paper. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    By examining the decision of defendants to post bail, the authors estimate the subjective value of freedom and find that the average defendant forgoes $949 in wages for ninety days and has a value of freedom of $1,050 for the same time period. Appropriate for graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Lengyel, Thomas E. 2006. Spreading the pain: The social cost of incarcerating parents. New York: Healing the Divide.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Pathbreaking research on the impact of incarceration on spouses and children of prisoners in New York. Includes estimates of pain and suffering to offenders while in prison—something that other authors would not include. Appropriate for undergraduate and graduate students.

    Find this resource:

Applications Using Cost of Crime Estimates

Cost of crime estimates have been used to estimate the costs imposed by high-risk youth and career criminals. They are also used to evaluate crime prevention or control programs by comparing the costs of the program to the benefits of reduced crime costs. This section contains some of the key sources for estimating the costs imposed by a high-risk youth, career criminals, and cost-benefit studies.

High-Risk Youth

One stream of literature focuses on the costs imposed by individual offenders. This requires combining estimates of the cost of individual crimes with the crime trajectory of a cohort of offenders. Cohen 1998 is the first such analysis, relying on numerous external estimates of the number and type of crime committed by high-rate juvenile offenders and career criminals. Cohen and Piquero 2009 employs the Cohen 1998 methodology but applies it to a cohort of juveniles in Philadelphia through age twenty-six, while Cohen, et al. 2010 uses the same dataset to distinguish the costs imposed by various offending trajectories. Welsh, et al. 2008 employs similar methods to a sample of youth in Pittsburgh. See also Criminal Careers.

  • Cohen, Mark A. 1998. The monetary value of saving a high-risk youth. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 14.1: 5–33.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1023092324459Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Estimates the present discounted value of costs imposed by high-risk youth throughout their lifetime. Includes a comprehensive treatment of the theory and methodology for estimating lifetime costs. Career criminals (those with six or more known offenses) were estimated to impose between $1.3 and $1.5 million of costs (1997 dollars). In addition, heavy drug abusers were estimated to impose costs between $370,000 and $970,000, while the cost of a high school dropout was estimated to cost $243,000 to $388,000. Suitable for undergraduate or graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Cohen, Mark A., and Alex Piquero. New evidence on the monetary value of saving a high-risk youth. 2009. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 25.1: 25–49.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10940-008-9057-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Updates Cohen 1998 using the Philadelphia cohort study of more than 26,000 juveniles. Includes estimates based on willingness-to-pay (from Cohen, et al. 2004, cited under General Overviews). Does not include the detailed methodology from Cohen 1998, so both studies are included here. Suitable for undergraduate or graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Cohen, Mark A., Alex R. Piquero, and Wesley G. Jennings. 2010. Studying the costs of crime across offender trajectories. Criminology & Public Policy 9.2: 279–305.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9133.2010.00627.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Estimates the costs of crime committed by four different offender groups based on crime patterns (trajectories). Uses the same Philadelphia cohort study as Cohen and Piquero 2009.

    Find this resource:

  • Welsh, Brandon C., Rolf Loeber, Bradley R. Stevens, Magda Stouthamer-Loeber, Mark A. Cohen, and David P. Farrington. 2008. Costs of juvenile crime in urban areas: A longitudinal perspective. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice 6:3–27.

    DOI: 10.1177/1541204007308427Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on a longitudinal study of five hundred inner-city youth in Pittsburgh, aged seven to seventeen. Through age seventeen, chronic offenders imposed costs between $793,000 and $861,000 in dollars in 2000. Also looks at the cost imposed by “early-onset” offenders.

    Find this resource:

Criminal Careers

One stream of literature focuses on the costs imposed by individual offenders. This requires combining estimates of the cost of individual crimes with the crime trajectory of a cohort of offenders. Cohen 1998 first conducted such an analysis, relying on numerous external estimates of the number and type of crime committed by high-rate juvenile offenders and career criminals. Delisi and Gatling 2003 and Cohen and Piquero 2009 employ the Cohen 1998 methodology to different samples. See also High-Risk Youth.

  • Cohen, Mark A. The monetary value of saving a high-risk youth. 1998. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 14.1: 5–33.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1023092324459Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Estimates the present discounted value of costs imposed by career criminal (those with six or more known offenses). Includes a comprehensive treatment of the theory and methodology for estimating lifetime costs. Career criminals were estimated to impose costs between $1.3 and $1.5 million (1997 dollars). Also includes estimates of the cost of heavy drug abuse and dropping out of high school. Suitable for undergraduate or graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Cohen, Mark A., and Alex Piquero. New evidence on the monetary value of saving a high-risk youth. 2009. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 25.1: 25–49.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10940-008-9057-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Updates Cohen 1998’s estimate of the cost of a criminal career. Includes estimates based on willingness-to-pay (from Cohen, et al. 2004, cited under General Overviews). Does not include the detailed methodology from Cohen 1998, so both studies are included here. Suitable for undergraduate or graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Delisi, M., and J. M. Gatling. 2003. Who pays for a life of crime? An empirical assessment of the assorted victimization costs posed by career criminals. Criminal Justice Studies: A Critical Journal of Crime, Law and Society 16.4: 283–293.

    DOI: 10.1080/0888431032000183489Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on the same methodology as Cohen 1998, including intangible victim costs, this study utilized a real cohort of five hundred offenders in the United States. The study was based on a combination of self-reported offending behavior and offender records. It is limited to number of offenses to date and thus not a full criminal career, but estimates average costs of $1.14 million per offender in 2002 dollars.

    Find this resource:

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Crime Policies

One of the primary reasons for estimating the cost of crime and justice is to be able to conduct cost-benefit analyses of crime policies. Cost-benefit studies require both solid evidence on the effectiveness of the policy being studied, as well as measures of costs and benefits. The cost-benefit literature is small but growing in the criminal justice area. Some of the earliest and most comprehensive studies were conducted by Greenwood, et al. 1994 on California’s mandatory three-strikes sentencing law, and Greenwood, et al. 1998 on policies designed to divert children from a life of crime. Drake, et al. 2009 takes a comprehensive look across program areas to compare costs and benefits of programs ranging from early childhood prevention programs to sentencing of offenders based on the Washington State Institute for Public Policy’s cost-benefit model. Welsh, et al. 2000 includes several case studies of crime-prevention programs. McDougall, et al. 2008 reviews the literature on the costs and benefits of sentencing alternatives.

  • Drake, Elizabeth, Steve Aos, and Marna Miller. 2009. Evidence-based public policy options to reduce crime and criminal justice costs: Implications in Washington State. Victims and Offenders 4:170–196.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Comprehensive analysis of alternative programs including prevention and criminal justice programs for both juveniles and adults. The goal was to assess the financial costs and benefits to the State of Washington to reduce the future need for prison beds in a manner that saved money for state and local taxpayers. Based on the Washington State Institute for Public Policy model. Suitable for graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Peter W. Greenwood, C. Peter Rydell, Allan F. Abrahamse, Jonathan P. Caulkins, James R. Chiesa, Karyn E. Model, and Stephen P. Klein. 1994. Three strikes and you’re out: Estimated benefits and costs of California’s new mandatory-sentencing law. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study of California “three strikes” that mandated long prison sentences for repeat offenders estimates the impact of the law on prison population and crime rates in the state. It conducts a cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis and compares this policy to alternative policies that might cost the state less. Suitable for undergraduate or graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Greenwood, Peter W., Karyn E. Model, C. Peter Rydell, and James Chiesa. 1998. Diverting children from a life of crime: Measuring costs and benefits. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A comprehensive review of four early-childhood intervention programs: home visits by child care professionals, parent training and therapy for families with aggressive children, cash and other incentives to induce high school students to graduate, and monitoring and supervision of delinquent high school–age youth. The cost-effectiveness of each approach is studied. Suitable for undergraduate or graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • McDougall, Cynthia, Mark A. Cohen, Raymond Swaray, and Amanda Perry. 2008. Benefit-cost analyses of sentencing. Campbell Systematic Reviews 2008:10.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reviews hundreds of studies on the monetary costs and/or benefits of sentencing alternatives and ranks them by their completeness and ability to come to tentative conclusions about a programs cost-benefit ratio. Proposes a “cost-benefit validity scale.” Ultimately, only a handful of studies rank high enough on this scale to allow for even tentative judgments. Suitable for graduate students.

    Find this resource:

  • Washington State Institute for Public Policy.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This state government–sponsored policy institute has conducted a systematic meta-analysis of effectiveness studies including both prevention and criminal justice programs, and combined this with a cost-benefit analysis based on Washington State data. A series of cost-benefit studies as well as methodological documents are contained on their website. Other states are beginning to replicate this model.

    Find this resource:

  • Welsh, Brandon C., David P. Farrington, and Lawrence W. Sherman. 2000. Costs and benefits of preventing crime. Boulder, CO: Westview.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Edited volume from some of the leading authorities on cost-benefit analysis in crime control. Includes chapters on the methodology of estimating costs, benefit-cost analysis case studies, and a review of crime prevention programs. Suitable for graduate students.

    Find this resource:

LAST MODIFIED: 05/25/2011

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396607-0076

back to top

Article

Up

Down