The Cost of Crime Examined

Oct 1, 2012

Simply counting crimes is not enough.   A study by a Centre College economics professor says we should also count their cost.  So often, Economist Dave Anderson says crime statistics focus on the number of murders, thefts, and burglaries, for instance.  But, Anderson says the real costs associated with crime go far beyond the number of criminal acts.  Some crimes have been on the decline, but that numbers tells only part of the story.

“We’ve seen a decrease in the number of thefts, but the losses due to thefts have increased.  So, we have a smaller number of larger thefts.  And, if we just looked at the count, we would be cheering, when actually it’s becoming a bigger problem,” said Anderson.

On the flip side, Anderson says some types of arsons have gone up, but the size of the fires has gone down with less structural damage.  The Centre College Economics Professor says the two year study also included interviews with prisoners about lost earning while they’re incarcerated.

“They thought they figured out that they could make more by committing these crimes and of course they were wrong because they ended up in prison, all the ones that I interviewed.  But, if those people weren’t spending their time committing crimes and they weren’t spending their time subsequently in prison, they could spend that same time working and being productive members of society,” added Anderson.

The cost of crime can be counted in what society pays for added security.  Centre College Economics Professor Dave Anderson just released the result of a two-year study into the cost of crime.  Anderson says a sizeable amount of money is spent just on crime prevention.

“People respond to an environment of crime by going out and buying security lighting and security fences and security alarms, and we hire more police and we have guards and safes and locks.  We have neighborhood watches.  All of this amounts to a tremendous expenditure,” said Anderson.

Anderson says this study emphasizes the need for increased ethics instruction in school.  He says with more ethical behavior comes lower costs associated with crime.