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Measuring the Costs of Crime

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2014
26 pages
This paper, one in a series on factors involved in calculating the costs of drug-related crime, discusses the importance of including all ramifications of the adverse consequences of a particular behavior or condition.
The discussion first notes the importance of approximating the cost of crime in order to determine the cost-effectiveness of efforts to reduce crime. In this calculation, the authors reject an assumption often made about crime-reduction expenditures in relation to reduction in crime costs; for example, if the costs of social condition X were $100 billion and an intervention would cut the condition's prevalence by 10 percent, the value of that intervention is estimated to be about $20 billion. The authors argue against this assumption, noting that a 10-percent reduction in the risk for criminal victimization will not generally lead to a 10-percent reduction in completed crime. This is because it will tend to reduce precaution, increasing the "supply" of criminal opportunity as "demand" falls. A 10-percent reduction in completed crime might occasion a reduction in total crime costs either greater or less than 10 percent, because of the gains from reduced precaution. Similarly, reduced criminality might lead to reduced criminal justice expenditure. The point being made in this paper is that expenditures on crime control and crime rates are not tightly bound, and a reduction in crime will not directly mitigate all the factors that result from crime. Thus, in making effective criminal justice policy, analysis of victimization costs must be supplemented by an analysis of primary and secondary avoidance costs and residual fear that affect people's well-being. 22 references

Date Published: April 1, 2014