Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What's A Crime Really Worth?

There was an interesting opinion piece over at Wired Magazine that looked at the economics of crime and punishment. The piece discusses a court ruling giving California two years to solve their overcrowding and asks the question; Are the massive costs of incarceration worth it?
Assigning a price to an assault or a burglary might sound preposterous. We like to pretend that justice exists on a philosophical and moral plane separate from dollars and cents. Yet money is integral to the criminal justice system. Think of the way fines are imposed and damage awards assessed for injuries and wrongful death. New research suggests that we can, and should, measure the dollar value of capital-V values—things like freedom and the fear of crime—and trade them against one another in a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis.
The new economic realities are changing a number of our assumptions about crime and criminal justice. Cash strapped police departments are now having to fine tune their operations to get the greatest effect with the least amount of resources. Inefficient ways of tackling crime problems are being phased out as departments are forced to do more with less.

What do you think a crime is really worth?


  1. I think California corrections is a unique situation where things just got out of control. They are now in a position where they are no longer able to prioritize the most serious and violent offenders. In regard to policing, obviously every crime and every reaction to the crime has a cost. However, I think the emphasis has to be on effectiveness and efficiency and not on savings. A police department can only "save" actual dollars in a budget by cutting personnel. It may start with cutting overtime, but once that is done, actual big dollar savings can only come from layoffs. But an agency can be cost effective and efficient and there by even be more effective. That will not necessarily reduce the budget, but there will be more bang for the buck and lives are saved. Inefficiency in policing is dangerous to citizens and to officers and in there is the real cost to society.

  2. Debra, I may be biased but I think that crime analysis is of great worth to policing because we can help police agencies focus on areas where they get the most bang for their limited bucks. Thanks for the comment!


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