What Cost-of-Crime Research Can Tell Us About Investing in Police
Spending on police personnel is one of the primary crime-control investments for both state and local governments. To assess the effectiveness of such investments, conducting a cost-benefit analysis is essential.
A 2010 RAND Corporation paper, “Hidden in Plain Sight: What Cost-of-Crime Research Can Tell Us About Investing in Police,” surveys various estimates of the costs of crime and the effectiveness of policing. Some of the study’s key findings include:
- The costs of crime to society are large and far exceed the costs of enforcement.
- Among the types of crimes analyzed, murder is the most expensive, with an average cost of more than $8 million per homicide.
- An increase in police-force size is associated with reduced violent and property crimes. A 1% increase in the size of a police force in a typical department would reduce the number of homicides in that department’s area by 0.927%.
The paper concludes by highlighting that current pressures on public-sector budgets have underscored the importance of budgetary prioritization. In this regard, the researchers state that it is important for additional research to be carried out comparing returns across various crime-control alternatives.
Tags: crime, law, safety
Read the issue-related New York Times article titled "Concern Over a Shrinking Police Force."
- If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?
Read the full RAND Corporation paper titled "Hidden in Plain Sight: What Cost-of-Crime Research Can Tell Us About Investing in Police."
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.