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Statistics: Costs of Crime

The Social Cost Framework, Direct Costs Of Crime, Indirect Costs Of Crime, Distribution Of Costs

Estimating the costs of crime serves many purposes. At a very basic level, such estimates indicate the burden of crime for individuals and society. Victims often lose or have their property damaged. Replacing or repairing damaged goods, even in an era of widespread insurance, can result in substantial monetary loss. Victims also often sustain physical injury and suffer considerable psychological trauma. In seeking treatment or counseling, not to mention days lost from work, decreased productivity, and even long-term financial distress, victims of crime often experience a diminished quality of life and substantial financial burden. As the myriad consequences of crime are diverse and varied, estimates of monetary costs provide a common, easily interpretable measure for understanding the impact of crime on individuals and society.

Estimates of monetary costs also have important policy implications. They facilitate comparisons with the costs of other social ills, provide an indication of the relative importance of crime as a social problem, and give guidance for the general allocation of resources. Such estimates also help identify the relative harm for specific types of crime and indicate where policies and resources are best directed. Accurate estimates of the costs of criminal violence are also important for making cost-benefit assessments of different policy options. They facilitate assessments of the savings that might accrue from particular crime-prevention strategies. These can be compared to the costs of implementing particular strategies to assess the overall benefit of different policy options. Ultimately, accurate estimates of the costs of crime are central to understanding crime as a social problem and to the formulation and implementation of crime-related social policy.

While it is difficult enough to enumerate the many consequences of crime, it is considerably more difficult to quantify and monetize these consequences to estimate costs. While some costs are relatively easy to estimate, others are virtually impossible. Still, an extensive and growing body of research in criminology and economics has attempted to place dollar values on the pain, suffering, and loss that accompany criminal activity. This entry provides a conceptual framework for estimating costs of crime and examines both costs of crime and vulnerability to such costs.


Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law