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Therefore, the presence of opportunity coupled with a lack of guardianship increases criminal motivations and the likelihood of an offence taking place. There is some research that supports the rational nature of crime. This support, however, is confined primarily to instrumental crimes, such as property and drug offences. These offences are generally crimes of opportunity. R. V. G. Clarke: Books

In this way, if offenders come across an opportunity to commit an offence, but perceive a high likelihood of capture, they will likely refrain from partaking in the activity. Property offenders tend to stay away from locations that are occupied, have security measures, or are in areas where neighbours look out for one another. Conversely, property offenders are enticed by unlocked doors and windows, secluded areas and unsupervised property.

Similarly, it appears that drug dealers tailor their transactions in a similar fashion, as they tend to work in locations where they are able to clearly see anyone approaching and where there is an insignificant presence of watchful guardians. In terms of common street crime, it was found by Clarke and Harris that auto thieves are selective in their choice of targets, selecting different types of vehicles depending on the purpose of the theft.

This suggests that the decision with respect to a target and opportunity is rationally motivated. This rationale of decision-making is also found to hold true for sex-trade workers. Maher suggests that women rationally choose whom to solicit, whom to engage with and what risks they are willing to take to fulfill an interaction. For substance offenders, the decision to use has been reported as being related to the benefits associated with use.

Specifically, according to Petraitis et al. In terms of the distribution of drugs, MacCoun and Reuter found it to be related to the economics of the trade; drug dealers often cite the desire for a supplementary income as a prime motivator for getting involved in the drug trade. Perceived risk is formed in part by information gleaned from informal peer groups, as well as from direct experience with the legal system. Theft and violence are a function of the perceived risk of arrest, subjective psychic rewards including excitement and social status and perceived opportunities.

The perceived risk of punishment has a small but significant effect. Similarly, Honkatukia et al. The preeminence of instrumental violence, and its use in situations where youth feel they lack power, supports the notion that crime emerges out of a rational thought process. With respect to violence, it has also been found that perpetrators are selective in their choice of target; they select people who appear vulnerable, without the means to protect themselves. By way of example, Wright and Rosi found that violent offenders avoid victims who may be armed and dangerous, preferring to select more defenceless victims who are less likely to resist.

More recently, Siegel and McCormick conclude that although some acts of lethal violence are the result of angry aggression, others seem to show signs of rational planning. Therefore, although violent acts appear to be irrational, they do seem to involve some calculations of the risk and rewards Taken together, these studies indicate that there is an element of rationality in the decision to engage in offending behaviour. Carmichael and Piquero , however, found mixed support for the rational nature of decision-making. They found that individuals who perceive higher informal sanction severity are less likely to report assault intentions, while individuals who perceive a thrill from engaging in the assault are more likely to report assault intentions.

The research demonstrates that perceived anger is an important component of decision-making, and that it influences how rational choice considerations are interpreted by would-be offenders. The authors concluded that although rational choice considerations and perceived emotional arousal are both important in this regard, emotional impulses exert particularly strong influences on decision-making. Further, the rational nature of violent offences was not confirmed by Wright et al.

These people, who live a lifestyle of desperation, can not afford to pay for the basic necessities of life except by impulsive robberies. These robberies also tend to fit patterns of aggressive and violent behaviour that has no regard for the needs or feelings of others.

Robbery, therefore, was not a rational choice based on a consideration of alternatives and measured consequences; rather, robberies were an impulsive act of desperation used as a source of income for a lifestyle of immediate personal gratification. Though alcohol and anger interacted to increase one measure of aggressivity, the perceived costs and benefits of violence were unaffected. This challenges the robustness of the rational choice model, as the theory was unable to uniformly explain aggression across experimental conditions. Routine activities theory is commonly used to explain why and how youth are at a heightened risk of being involved in offending behaviour and of being victimized.

Young unmarried males experience the highest frequency of victimization; their nightly activities, then, provide significant support for the theory, as it is these that take them away from the security of the home. By being out at night, these youth come into increased contact with offenders, partake in high-risk behaviours such as drug and alcohol use, participate in delinquent activities themselves, and frequent high-risk situations and areas Kennedy and Ford, ; Lauritsen, Sampson and Laub, Therefore, as a consequence of their routine activities and lifestyle, they are at a substantially higher risk for victimization.

Similarly, as people age, their risk of victimization decreases, and this may be the result of alterations in their routine activities. By putting oneself in a risky environment or disorganized neighbourhood, youth increase their likelihood of criminal involvement. Further supporting the situational nature of offending, Campbell et al. Similarly, Gouvis found that schools act as a social milieu for violence, with social disorganization and routine activities influencing block-level violent crime rates.

During the after-school period, blocks near schools that are categorized by resource deprivation experienced higher rates of violence than blocks near schools with more resources. This finding suggests that a lack of resources results in less supervision of youth, which creates more opportunities for offending.

Hummer , however, did not find support for the situational nature of offending, as it was found that these factors were insignificant in reducing violent or property crimes on campuses. In terms of guardianship, Schreck and Fisher found that tightly knit families are better situated to provide direct protection for children, as well as to reduce their exposure to motivated offenders.

Children who associated with delinquent peers tended to experience enhanced exposure to motivated offenders and to be ineffectively supervised and were seen as more suitable targets for violence. The effects of peer context, however, did not seem to detract from the influence of family variables; each appears to predict violent victimization independently. The findings also revealed that demographic variables remain important predictors, net of the routine activities, family, and peer variables.

Similarly, Spano concluded that, over all, routine activities theory receives mixed support in terms of the influence of deviant lifestyles as a risk factor and social guardianship as a protective factor, with these factors exerting inconsistent influence depending on race and sex. Much offending behaviour appears to be impulsive, without consideration of the consequences. In this way, the likelihood of apprehension or the seriousness of the sanction do not appear to cross the minds of offenders when they make the decision to offend.

Offenders, particularly property offenders, may give some consideration to the chances of being caught; however, this does not appear to be the deciding factor in the decision to offend. It appears that, instead of thinking of the long-term negative consequences, offenders focus primarily on the immediate benefits associated with the offence.

This suggests that offenders may not be as rationally motivated or calculating as it is often assumed. Rational choice and routine activities theory both hold that crime rates are a product of criminal opportunity. It is thus thought that by increasing the number of guardians, decreasing the suitability of targets or reducing the offender population, the crime rate should decline. A central implication of understanding offending in terms of a rational calculation means that the criminal justice system is capable of controlling crime, that aggressive law enforcement and severe punishment should deter offenders, and consequently, produce a notable reduction in criminal offending.

The question, however, remains: The inherent difficulty with these theories is they are premised on the assumption that offenders are rationally calculating individuals. Though there is some support for the tenets of this theory, the primary weakness in its applicability is the assumption that offenders think before acting, that they conduct a cost-benefit analysis before deciding to engage in crime.

Despite the appearance of rationality in offending, the implications of assuming this rationality, in terms of deterrence, is not strongly supported by research. Deterrence comprises the certainty, severity and celerity speed of legal sanctions. According to deterrence, rationally calculating offenders can be swayed from committing offences if the chances of apprehension are high, the punishment is severe and justice is swift. Therefore, if criminals are indeed rational, an inverse relationship should exist between punishment and crime; as the sanctions for offending are increased, a threshold should be reached where it is no longer beneficial to the offender to engage in offending behaviour.

By implication, it is held that crime rates are influenced and controlled by the threat and imminence of criminal punishment. It is commonly assumed that if offenders were punished more severely, offenders, being rationally calculating individuals, would choose not to offend because the offence is not worth the punishment. However, Doob and Webster conducted a comprehensive review of deterrence literature published in the last 30 years and concluded that variations in sentence severity do not affect the level of crime in society.

Therefore, while deterrence makes intuitive sense, it is not supported by empirical research. The difficulty, according to LeBlanc and Frechette , is that offenders make almost no preparation for an offence, something that is especially true for young offenders. This means that the offence is not the result of a calculated or well thought out process. While it is conceded by Ladouceur and Biron that some thought goes into offending, the plans tend to focus on the immediate offence, not the long-term consequences of that action.

Doob and Cesaroni suggest that a distinction needs to be made between rational choice in the short term and consideration of the long-term implications. Youth do not consider the long term; they are impulsive and focus on the immediacy of the rewards associated with offending. Even if youth do think of the criminal justice consequences, they find them irrelevant as it is unlikely that they will be apprehended In fact, in interviews with prisoners, Tunnell found that all 60 respondents reported that they simply did not think about the criminal consequences of their actions.

Though they knew their actions were criminal, and therefore tried to avoid capture, more than half were unaware of the severity of the punishment for the offence Since most offenders do not think they will be caught, and in fact it is unlikely that they will be caught, increasing the penalty has no prolonged effect on the crime rate.

It is the perceived risk of apprehension, not the severity of punishment, that holds the greatest power to deter, though this ability is limited as well. This is amply demonstrated by the Kansas City experiment, where it was found that variations in police patrol techniques had little effect on the crime patterns Kelling et al. Regardless of the actual likelihood of apprehension, most offenders do not think they will be caught.

This finding is supported by Burski et al. Originally postulated by Oscar Newman in the s, situational crime prevention is supposed to create defensible space, which suggests that crime can be prevented through the use of architectural designs that reduce opportunity. Situational crime prevention is aimed at convincing would-be criminals to avoid specific targets. It is thus held that criminal acts will be avoided if the potential targets are carefully guarded, if the means to commit crime are controlled, if potential offenders are carefully monitored, and if opportunities for crime are reduced Siegel and McCormick, The difficulty with situational crime prevention strategies in general, and closed-circuit television and public surveillance in particular, is that they tend to displace offending behaviour to locations that are not under surveillance.

Instead of preventing crime, these often costly surveillance strategies simply move crime to another location Barr and Pease, This is exemplified by the police crackdown on illicit drug use in Vancouver. Assuming a rational basis for committing a crime overestimates the extent to which people consider the legal consequences of their actions.

These exert considerable influence on people. Engaging in crime is not simply a rational decision. It is affected by the interaction of a number of factors and influences. This, again, is assuming that offenders are aware of the change in the severity of the sentence and rationally calculate their choice of action. Since this assumption is not supported by the literature, both specific and general deterrence strategies have not yielded the results predicted by rational choice theorists.

Barr, R and K. Crime placement, displacement and defections. A Review of Research Vol. University of Chicago Press. Sexual assault on university campuses. Dissertation Abstracts International, 64 , 08A. The effect of longitudinal arrest patterns on the development of robbery trends at the neighborhood level. Opportunity theory and adolescent school-based victimization. Violence and Victims, 17 2 , Sanctions, perceived anger, and criminal offending. The research and policy value of these estimates is perhaps best demonstrated through a practical application.

Federal, state, and local governments allocate a substantial amount of resources to programs that either directly or indirectly mitigate criminal activity. Because criminal activity is heterogeneous, these agencies need a way to normalize changes in criminal activity so that program benefits can be compared and scarce resources can be allocated accordingly. These unit cost estimates can be matched to the respective crimes that are avoided or reduced to calculate the total economic value of crime reductions. The economic benefit estimates can eventually be directly compared with the economic costs of the particular programs to determine which programs to fund, expand, or eliminate.

Many different types of crime prevention, ranging from strategic policing initiatives in large cities to school-based violence prevention programs in rural communities, could be evaluated in this way. Consider a residential aftercare program for parolees with substance use problems. Assume that the average aftercare participant committed 3 fewer robberies during the assessment period and 12 fewer acts of vandalism compared to an average parolee with substance use problems who did not attend the aftercare program.

The key message here is that even modest reductions in criminal activity can generate economic benefits that significantly outweigh the costs of treatment. Moreover, crime-cost estimates have proven particularly useful for calculating the economic benefits of various treatment programs for criminally active individuals French et al. We confronted various conceptual and empirical challenges in conducting the present study. Perhaps the most significant challenge was the lack of uniformity between data sources. One goal of this study was to identify the most current and reliable data available on criminal activity, crime victims, perpetrators, and criminal justice system resources.

Following the methods proposed in Rajkumar and French , we selected many of the data sets used in previous crime-costing studies with more current data for the present analysis. Information on victim losses and productivity losses, however, which were used to estimate other components of crime costs, had to be pieced together from several disparate sources e.

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Ultimately, the availability and quality of data in all of these areas had the biggest impact on the precision of our estimates. The present study is subject to several limitations, most of which are common to all crime-costing studies. First, the study uses national data from the United States and thus the crime cost estimates may not be generalizable to other countries. A second limitation is the difficulty of quantifying the actual number of offenses for crimes such as drug law violations and prostitution, and their consequent exclusion from the analysis.

Given the high frequency of these offenses, the sporadic reporting by victims, and the difficulty in apprehending offenders, the actual number of crimes is surely much greater than the number of reported arrests. A related question is whether an average incident of these offenses has a significant impact on society. For example, the act of purchasing illegal substances transfers income from one member of society drug user to another drug dealer. Absent any negative externalities e.

A similar case could be made for prostitution. Indeed, ingesting illicit drugs or engaging in unsafe sexual activity could have a negative impact on society, but the link is indirect. For example, heavy or chronic drug users may consume a disproportionate amount of health services such as emergency department care, which is very costly French et al. There is also evidence that heavy drug users are likely to commit crimes to support their addictions Chaiken and Chaiken, ; Goldstein, Other crimes such as DUI may be more costly to society, particularly if a DUI-related traffic crash involves a death s or serious injury s.

We were not able to reliably measure and incorporate these potential consequences in a crime-cost estimate, but some previous studies have attempted to value crimes such as DUI, prostitution, and drug law violations e. Future studies may be able to consider a broader list of crimes with better sources of criminal activity and cost data. The exclusion of psychological injury from the estimates presented here constitutes another limitation of the present study. Although pain and suffering inherently involve some elements of psychological distress, these elements are not clearly defined and fail to provide a complete account of the psychological injury suffered by the crime victim.

Other studies Cohen, ; Miller et al. Another debatable issue is whether property loss is legitimately part of the cost of crime to society. Some previous studies, including Rajkumar and French , used the value of property damage exclusively in their crime-costing calculations, arguing that property loss is a transfer from one party to another, regardless of the means of this transfer e. In the present analysis, we take the position that certain costs are incurred by the property loss victim e. Another limitation is that we do not account for additional costs associated with sexual violence such as sexually transmitted infections STIs , pregnancy, suicide, and substance abuse.

Other excluded costs are those associated with child abuse and neglect, which were estimated by Miller et al. We recognize that the assumption that certain criminal justice system costs are uniform across criminal acts is tenuous. Without more detailed information on the criminal justice system process for each type of offense, however, it is difficult to precisely estimate the unique economic impact of specific crimes on the criminal justice system. Our decision to treat police protection costs as uniform across types of crimes was based on the assumption that these resources are allocated pre-offense.

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We decided to apportion legal, adjudication, and corrections costs using adjustments for the proportion of arrests per offense type to total arrests and the proportion of inmates per offense type to the total number of inmates across all jurisdiction levels. This approach has obvious limitations. For police protection costs, we were not able to divide policing effort across crime prevention and other police activities such as traffic control and administrative duties.

In addition, for legal and adjudication costs, we could have used the number of convictions as opposed to number of arrests, but we were unable to find any information on the total number of convictions for both federal and state courts excluding civil courts that were recorded by specific offenses. This suggests that our estimate of legal and adjudication costs per offense may be overstated.

Crime career costs may also be inflated as our method for valuing lost productivity due to incarceration assumes prisoners would be employed full-time if not incarcerated. Furthermore, we have no way of accounting for the opportunity cost of time spent engaging in illegal activities if not incarcerated. Aos and colleagues ; Aos and Cohen and colleagues have made great strides in this area, which provide a foundation for future research to disentangle the various cost elements of the criminal justice system at both the state and national levels.

Another limitation with the crime cost estimates presented here is that they reflect the average cost per crime as opposed to the more policy relevant marginal cost. This distinction is relevant for the economic evaluation of crime prevention programs where analysts are interested in the cost savings associated with preventing the last crime or group of crimes instead of the cost resulting from a typical crime. For example, if a local crime prevention program avoids 5 additional robberies per month, how does this translate into cost savings for the jurisdiction?

On this level, using the average cost per robbery could potentially overstate the marginal value of each additional criminal act avoided. Finally, these crime cost estimates do not include a measure of the time, effort, and expenditures by households and communities to minimize the risk of being victims of crime.

Other costly crime-averting behaviors include choosing to pay higher property prices to live in neighborhoods with relatively low crime rates and avoiding leisure i. These activities and expenditures contribute funds to the overall economy that might fruitfully be redirected. An opportunity cost resulting from the mere presence of crime must therefore be acknowledged. This study presents the most current estimates of the societal cost of thirteen individual criminal offenses, using the most recently available national crime statistics. Such estimates are crucial for evaluating the economic impact of programs that directly or indirectly reduce crime.

Because most of the crime-costing literature is more likely to include only tangible costs, one might infer that tangible cost estimates are more precise or reliable than intangible cost estimates. Yet this is not necessarily the case for all crimes due to data challenges, simplifying assumptions, and methodological limitations associated with tangible cost estimation.

Similar issues pertain to intangible cost estimation as well. We therefore believe that tangible and intangible costs should be viewed together when assessing the cost of crime to society and that one should not be chosen at the expense of the other in terms of which is most reliable for a particular type of crime.

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An important advantage of these new crime-cost estimates is that they are not aligned with any particular program, population, or setting, which will permit future research to incorporate this information into any economic evaluation of a crime prevention program. Considering the challenges and limitations noted earlier, greater coverage, better data, and more advanced methods are needed to improve precision and perhaps to incorporate some of the excluded crimes.

We encourage interested researchers to pursue this project using the detailed template provided in this study. Given the dynamic trends in criminal activity and victimization, re-estimation of the social cost of individual offenses can justifiably be conducted every five years. This is a PDF file of an unedited manuscript that has been accepted for publication. As a service to our customers we are providing this early version of the manuscript.

The manuscript will undergo copyediting, typesetting, and review of the resulting proof before it is published in its final citable form. Please note that during the production process errors may be discovered which could affect the content, and all legal disclaimers that apply to the journal pertain. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Author manuscript; available in PMC Apr 1. McCollister , a Michael T. French , b and Hai Fang c. Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer.

The publisher's final edited version of this article is available at Drug Alcohol Depend. See other articles in PMC that cite the published article. Abstract Estimating the cost to society of individual crimes is essential to the economic evaluation of many social programs, such as substance abuse treatment and community policing. Introduction Crime generates substantial costs to society at individual, community, and national levels. As presented in numerous prior studies, the cost of crime to society can be divided into four fundamental components: Criminal justice system costs Local, state, and federal government funds spent on police protection, legal and adjudication services, and corrections programs, including incarceration.

Intangible costs Indirect losses suffered by crime victims, including pain and suffering, decreased quality of life, and psychological distress. Literature Review Previous studies estimating the economic impact of criminal activity vary greatly in their perspective, methods, measures, and data sources.

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Government reports Many government agencies are responsible for collecting criminal activity data as well as estimating the cost of crime. Crime-costing methods A variety of scientific studies have been instrumental in developing and refining crime-costing methods. Unit cost studies Only a handful of studies have estimated the societal cost of crime for specific criminal offenses. Type of Crime Aos et al.

Open in a separate window. Values reflect present value cost of each offense used to calculate the benefits of adult community-based substance abuse treatment. Cost per assault is for aggravated assault. Jury compensation approach to estimate the monetary value for pain, suffering, and fear in personal injury cases.

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Estimated using contingent valuation method willingness to pay. Victim costs of violent crime and resulting injuries.

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Estimates reflect victim losses including medical and mental health care spending, tangible losses, and reduced quality of life. Excludes adjudication and sanctioning. Estimated using a combination of cost of illness and jury compensation approaches. Cost of assault is for aggravated assault. Data The availability of quality data sources plays a fundamental role in developing and implementing a comprehensive estimation strategy.

Offense Definition Data Source Murder The killing of one human being by another, through either a willful act nonnegligent manslaughter or negligence negligent manslaughter. NCVS Aggravated Assault Attack or attempted attack with a weapon, regardless of whether or not an injury occurred, and attack without a weapon when serious injury results.

NCVS Robbery Completed or attempted theft, directly from an individual, of property or cash by force or threat of force, with or without a weapon, and with or without injury. NCVS Arson The unlawful and intentional damage, or attempt to damage, any personal property by fire or incendiary device.

NCVS Embezzlement The unlawful misappropriation for profit of money, property, or some other article of value entrusted to the care, custody, or control of the offender. UCR and NIBRS Fraud The intentional perversion of the truth for the purpose of inducing another person or entity to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right.

UCR and NIBRS Stolen Property The reception, purchase, retail, possession, concealment, or transportation of any property with the knowledge that it has been unlawfully taken. UCR and NIBRS Forgery and Counterfeiting The unauthorized altering, copying, or imitation of an article with the intent to deceive or defraud by passing off the copy as the original or the selling, buying, or possession of an altered, copied, or imitated article with the intent to deceive or defraud.

UCR and NIBRS Vandalism The willful destruction or damage of real or personal property without the consent of the owner or the individual in custody or control of it. Methods The analysis follows a two-pronged approach that employs cost-of-illness and jury compensation methods to estimate both the tangible and intangible costs of crime Rajkumar and French, Criminal Justice System costs The three elements of criminal justice system costs at the federal, state, and local levels are police protection costs, legal and adjudication costs, and corrections costs. Crime career costs Productivity losses associated with perpetrators of crimes were calculated using corrections data.

Corrected risk-of-homicide costs Risk of death was calculated differently for tangible and intangible costs. Total crime cost By combining the tangible and intangible cost estimates, a total per-offense societal cost of crime was calculated for each crime category. Results Table 3 presents estimates for the per-offense tangible costs of crime in dollars across thirteen offense types. Discussion The costing methodology outlined in this paper has advantages over other approaches because it employs standardized techniques and provides a comprehensive perspective.

Implications for public policy and future research This study makes several important contributions to the crime-costing literature. Challenges and limitations We confronted various conceptual and empirical challenges in conducting the present study. Conclusion This study presents the most current estimates of the societal cost of thirteen individual criminal offenses, using the most recently available national crime statistics. Consequences and costs of closing a publicly funded methadone maintenance clinic.

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Please review our privacy policy. The killing of one human being by another, through either a willful act nonnegligent manslaughter or negligence negligent manslaughter. Forced sexual intercourse vaginal, anal, or oral penetration involving psychological coercion and physical force, as well as attacks or attempted attacks generally involving unwanted sexual contact between victim and offender. Attack or attempted attack with a weapon, regardless of whether or not an injury occurred, and attack without a weapon when serious injury results. Completed or attempted theft, directly from an individual, of property or cash by force or threat of force, with or without a weapon, and with or without injury.