Crime is a major part of every society. Its costs and effects touch just about everyone to some degree. The types of costs and effects are widely varied. In addition, some costs are short-term while others last a lifetime. Of course the ultimate cost is loss of life. Other costs to victims can include medical costs, property losses, and loss of income.
Losses to both victims and nonvictims can also come in the form of increased security expenses including stronger locks, extra lighting, parking in more expensive secure lots, security alarms for homes and cars, and maintaining guard dogs. Considerable money is spent to avoid being victimized. Other types of expenses can include a victim or person fearful of crime moving to a new neighborhood, funeral expenses, legal fees, and loss of school days.
Some costs of crime are less tangible (not easily or precisely identified). These kinds of costs can include pain and suffering, and a lower quality of life. There are also the traumatic impacts on friends and the disruption of family. Behavior can be forever changed and shaped by crime, whether it be weighing the risks of going to certain places or even the fear of making new friends.
Inmates led by a drill instructor at an Oregon correctional institution boot camp. About thirty states operate similar facilities, combining military-style workouts, strict discipline, and intensive substance abuse counseling. (AP/Wide World Photos)
Crime not only affects economic productivity when victims miss work, but communities also are affected through loss of tourism and retail sales. Even the so-called victimless crimes of prostitution, drug abuse, and gambling have major social consequences. Drug abuse affects worker productivity, uses public funds for drug treatment programs and medical attention, and leads to criminal activity to support the expenses of a drug habit.
Communities and governments spend public funds for police departments, prisons and jails, courts, and treatment programs, including the salaries of prosecutors, judges, public defenders, social workers, security guards, and probation officers. The amount of time spent by victims, offenders, their families, and juries during court trials also take away from community productivity. By the beginning of the twenty-first century it was estimated that the annual cost of crime in the United States was reaching upward toward $1.7 trillion.
Anderson, Elijah. Streetwise: Race, Class and Change in an Urban Community. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1990.
Beckett, Katherine. Making Crime Pay: Law and Order in Contemporary American Politics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Cook, Philip J., and Jens Ludwig. Gun Violence: The Real Costs. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Felson, Marcus. Crime and Everyday Life. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 1998.
Gray, Charles M., ed. The Costs of Crime. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1979.
Madriz, Esther. Nothing Bad Happens to Good Girls: Fear of Crime in Women's Lives. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997.
Skogan, Wesley G. Disorder and Decline: Crime and the Spiral of Decay in American Neighborhoods. New York: Free Press, 1990.
Welsh, Brandon C., David P. Farrington, and Lawrence W. Sherman, eds. Costs and Benefits of Preventing Crime. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2001.
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