The Costs of Crime and Justice

By Mark A. Cohen | Go to book overview
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Third-party and society costs

While crime has its most dramatic impact on victims, others suffer as well. Family members of crime victims may have to take time off work to accompany a victim to the doctor or otherwise care for the victim. They may grieve over the loss of a loved one and may themselves require psychological counseling to deal with such a loss or simply to deal with the trauma of having a family member victimized. Children of domestic violence victims may suffer long-lasting psychological effects that can only be overcome with costly treatment and long-term care. Others may also suffer, such as the employer who needs to hire a replacement worker or pay workers overtime while an injured victim is off the job. Society as a whole, either as insurance purchasers or as taxpayers, may bear some of these costs through higher insurance premiums or higher taxes. Some of these costs (e.g. administrative costs of insurance) are in addition to victim costs. Others (e.g. higher insurance premiums to cover additional crime-related losses) are simply a shifting of the cost burden from the victim to a larger group of people. Taxpayers pay for crime prevention and criminal justice programs. Potential victims-including virtually every member of society-pay through increased security or changing their behavior in ways that represent increased time or a decrease in pleasurable activities such as walking in a park.

Third-party costs are perhaps the least studied component of the cost of crime. In this chapter we explore some of these third-party costs in detail. Third-party and society costs generally fall into the same categories identified in Table 1.1: (a) costs directly attributable to individual crimes, (b) costs of society's response to crime, and (c) offender costs. Each is dealt with in turn. In addition, however, there is growing awareness that trying to piece together all of these individual costs is a difficult task that will likely under-estimate the true impact of crime. At the end of this chapter, we will explore a relatively new approach to estimating costs that attempts to assess the aggregate burden of crime by developing an understanding of society's willingness to pay to reduce crime.


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