Expert Commentary

What cost-of-crime research can tell us about investing in police

2010 RAND Corporation paper on the estimates of the cost of crime, the effectiveness of police force in combating it, and potential benefits of investments in enforcement.

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, policing

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