The Costs of Crime and Justice

By Mark A. Cohen | Go to book overview

1

Introduction and overview

On April 20, 1999, 17-year-old Dylan Kebold and 18-year-old Eric Harris walked into the Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado and began a shooting rampage that was heard around the world. This single act of violence resulted in the death of 13 students and teachers, serious injuries to 28 others, and the death of the two gunmen. This tragedy certainly took its worst toll on the victims and their families. Although no amount of money can bring back the individuals whose lives were lost, the amount of money that was lost as a result of this incident was still enormous. There is no doubt that this incident caused the victims and their families to spend a significant amount of money on medical bills, caused them to lose time at work, and imposed other direct costs. Numerous indirect costs were also likely to have been incurred, such as the cost to families who took their children out of public schools and incurred private school tuition, or those who incurred the cost of moving to another school district or city. Charities around the world helped out, with an estimated $6 million being contributed directly to help families of victims (Washington, 1999). The fact that the murder victims will no longer earn a living means that over their expected future lifetime, hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of dollars in earnings will have been lost. However, the loss to the victims and their families was considerably more than this amount. Any assessment of their loss must account for the tremendous pain, suffering, lost quality of life, and grief they suffered.

Many would argue that no amount of money would be adequate to compensate the victims or their families for this loss. We'll put that issue aside for now and return to it throughout this chapter and this book.

This act of violence affected others beside the families and victims. The impact and resultant costs were felt by thousands of friends, relatives, and neighbors who attended the funerals-perhaps taking time off work. They bought condolence cards and flowers, spent time visiting, brought food to the grieving family, and also suffered a non-trivial amount of grief and fear themselves. An estimated 70,000 people-many of whom traveled from out of town to express their grief-attended a memorial service for the community. Local florists donated 25,000 bouquets for the service as fighter jets flew overhead as a tribute (Serrano and Moehringer, 1999).

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The Costs of Crime and Justice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Figure ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • 1 - Introduction and Overview 1
  • 2 - An Economic Approach to Crime and Costing Methodologies 16
  • 3 - Victim Costs 41
  • 4 - Third-Party and Society Costs 74
  • 5 - Policy Analysis and the Costs of Crime 90
  • Notes 106
  • References 109
  • Index 119
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