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This paper talks about some issues related to the cost of crime. It presents different findings and questions; victim costs regarding the effect on individual well-being, as well as crime cost to the community and the police; it shows some of the spending made by police and government agencies. It also gives a paradoxical theory about the relation between existence of crime and job opportunities for law enforcement officers. The paper examines the increase of the annual cost of crime in the United States. It compares death penalty's cost in Texas and California, as it provides some potential ideas for observing the proper and cost-effective implementation of the capital punishment. Furthermore, it talks about the cost of prison facilities in Washington, providing examples of the different programs, their cost and effect in reducing potential crimes. The paper also gives some examples of the different ways government agencies are trying to be more efficient, like the USA PATRIOT Act, and some results from the existence of these new methods for preventing crimes. Evidently, the cost of crime is constantly raising, as expenses due to any crime, regarding both the loss of money and the money that need to be paid for retribution, the investigation, arresting or the prevention of potential crime is also dramatically increasing.
Criminality is affecting our society on a daily basis, as even a petty theft has an effect on the community. To reduce criminal activity and increase the safety of the citizens, the law-enforcement agencies spend more money, which leads to a tremendous increase in the annual cost of crime in America. A crime might affect the victim in many ways, as the injured party can be both physically and mentally abused, which leads to great medical expenses. It might also reflect victim's productivity and ability to work and be productive citizen. However, the damage or the loss of someone's property also has an effect on him or her, reflecting his or her loss of money. (Dolan and Moore, 274) The expenses of prison facilities is increasing, as more inmates need to be accommodated, and penitentiaries are getting overcrowded, which forces the early releases on some minor offenders to take place and send them back to the community. In some cases, however, states are spending more money to expand their prisons, so that they can accommodate more people, and they provide different programs to help the rehabilitation of the inmates. However, some states are implementing different programs of rehabilitation, which in some case have cost-effective and crime-reducing benefits. Death penalty is another issue that reflects the cost of crime, as states like Texas are spending great amount of money annually for execution, while states like California spend less money for executing people, having roughly the same crime rate. (Price and Byrd, 219) This shows misbalance of the way government money is being distributed. Overall, crime cost is increasing dramatically every year reaching billions of dollars. However, these expenses are necessity for our society's safety, as there is nothing more important for us but our well-being. The passages of different federal and state legislations are helpful in preventing or limiting criminal activity, thus in some cases they are saving lives.
Whenever a crime takes place there is an immediate and ultimate cost of crime, as the first one presents the individual's loss resulting from the crime, the second one is the economic loss to the community and. Under the category of ultimate cost of crime fall all criminal justice administrations' expenditures and expenses on destruction on public property. (Hawkins and Waller, 680) A research from 2007 shows that police spend the minimum of fifty million dollars every year to respond to alcohol related crimes. (NSW) The development of new technology contributes to the escalation between offenders and law-enforcement agencies, as criminals are getting smarter in their way of committing illegal acts, using better types of weapons and innovative ways for doing criminal activity; the police need to respond by supplying officers and departments with new tools and methods to prevent and catch different crimes. This will require additional money to be spent, increasing the ultimate cost of crime, and indirectly affecting the community as well. However law-enforcement agencies cannot respond to all crimes, as most of them are not recorded by the police, forming the "dark figure of crime". In addition, out of more than two million offences every year, police have successfully arrested less than one million. This data shows that crime prevention is less than 50%, but the total annual cost of crime in the United States is increasing and is estimated to $450 billion. This amount of money is divided into two categories: tangible costs and intangible costs. However, the statistics does not include any white collar crimes, personal fraud, or any other crimes committed against business and government. The tangible cost represents medical and mental health care spending, combined with any damage or loss of property, and lost productivity, and it comprises $105 billion. The other 70% of crime cost is the intangible cost of crime, which encompasses all the pain, suffering, and reduced life expectancy due to the crime. This crime cost is estimated at $345 billion. (Bohm and Halley, 38)
Different crimes cost different, as vandalism has cost $1.7 billion to households in the United States. However, property crimes cost victims more than $11.8 billion. Drug-related crimes are among the most "expensive", as they are believed to reach more than $100 billion. Furthermore, crimes, relating to check fraud, cost the American businesses ten billion dollars every year. (OVC) This data shows how different crimes have outrageous cost-effect on different individuals, as well as companies, and communities. Trying to combat these crimes that have resulted in loss of money will require even more money to be spent, which shows the cost of crime is constantly and inevitably growing.
Currently government expenditures, such as police protection, judicial and legal services, encompass the amount of $179 billion. (McCollister, 98) This data, showing government expenses, combined with the data, reflecting the loss of money both directly and indirectly to the victim, gives an idea of how rapidly the cost of crime increases.
Another aspect of crime can also affect society, indirectly; a simple petty theft has an impact on the community. For instance, if John steals a product from the grocery store worth five dollars and the store has put 5% profit on it, now the store needs to increase the price of this product or its profit to make up for the loss. Increasing the price or the profit, ultimately affects the customers, as now they need to pay more to get the same merchandise. In this case not only the store has been affected by John's petty theft but also every single customer. We can see how a simple crime has a significant effect on our community and on us, though indirectly, on a daily basis, and how that small crime can simply get out of control.
Since law-enforcement agencies are spending billions of dollars every year to suppress crime activity a study explains that it is only worth "up to the point at which the marginal expenditure would equal the marginal reduction in cost of crime". (Hawkins and Waller, 683) However, rarely there could be a balance between them, as in some places the money loss due to crime is higher than the police expenses, and vice versa. Furthermore more than 50% crimes remain unreported and unresolved. (Bohm and Halley, 38) All the studies and statistics undoubtedly show an increase of the cost of crime. To supply the necessary amount of money to the particular law-enforcement agency, local governments would probably start increasing taxes. This is another example of how crime has a cost effect on taxpayers and citizens, who are not directly affected by it, but are, however, responsible to make up for it by paying more and more money.
Furthermore, there is another aspect of crime cost. The existence of certain percent of crimes, in a particular area, would require the recruitment of law-enforcement officers, which provides more job opportunities and contributes to the increase of the employment rate. Federal law enforcement agencies have employed more than 105,000 people. (Bohm and Halley, 175) If there was no criminal activity, some of these people might have been working somewhere else, but there is a high chance that a lot of them would have been unemployed. Even though it will reduce the crime cost, this would definitely hurt the economy. Most of the crimes, such as petty theft, robbery, and larceny, are committed by people who cannot find a job or any other legal way to supply their needs. In addition, this shows that paradoxically the existence of certain amount of crimes helps and supports the stability of the economy by providing more jobs.
Examining the crime rate in Washington, a study shows that the state would need two prisons by 2020 and a third one by 2030. In order for these facilities to be built local governments would need to increase taxes. (Drake and Miller, 171) The state of Washington has different program and facilities for the inmates. Particularly, in the adult offender system the state provides: vocational education in prison, intensive supervision for treatment-oriented programs, Washington's Dangerously Mentally III Offender program, general education in prison, cognitive-behavioral therapy, contributing for the rehabilitation of the incarcerated, correctional industries, and drug treatment. (Drake and Miller, 184) Although these programs cost a lot to the community, they are quite beneficial, as if recidivism rate is reduced by 6.9% this is estimated to generate $15,469 in "life cycle benefits" related to crime reduction cost. However, the average cost of these crime-preventing programs costs $15,361 per offender. (Drake and Miller, 193) This shows that avoiding future crimes through different programs of rehabilitation is extremely expensive. Once again, we see the relation between spending more money and reducing crime. However, the NFP program, also implemented in the state of Washington, provides different results. This program provides nurses to women, who are struggling in bearing their first child. The particular nurse has to perform visitations to the family, and this prevents the crime outcomes from the mother. This program evidently reduces crime outcomes by 38.2%. (Drake and Miller, 192) The total benefit from that program is estimated at $20,756 per participant, while the cost is $6,336. This evidently talks about the success and the cost-effectiveness of this program, as its efficiency is significant enough to have four times more benefits than the cost. (Drake and Miller, 193)
Another issue, regarding the cost of crime, is the Death Penalty. States like Texas and California spend an increasing number of money every year to conduct executions. In the recent years Texas has been executing between twenty and thirty people annually, while this number in California is between zero and two (Pryce and Byrd, 218); yet an execution in the state of Texas costs $2.3 million dollars, while the same one in California costs five million, which is more than twice for the implementation of the same statute. (Pryce and Byrd, 219)
Furthermore, the crime rate in both states has been dramatically declining since 1992 and has reached roughly a steady rate between the year of 2000 and 2005. However, while California spent almost the same amount of money during that time period, the state of Texas spent from less than $100 million in 1992 to more than $700 million in 2005. (Pryce and Byrd, 219) That asks the question why the state of Texas keeps spending such a significant amount of money on execution when the crime rate is declining.
Evidently, there is a difference between spending of money in these states. Since both states have roughly the same crime rate and the execution in California is twice as expensive as the one in Texas, this leads to the conclusion that both states should spend more or less the same amount of money on execution. However, this is not the case, as Texas is spending seven times more than California. Even though implementation of death penalty is a state law, its enforcement is funded by the citizens of the particular states and the federal government, which is funded by all of the citizens of the United States. If a state is wasting outrageous amount of money to execute a particular law, when its enforcement is possible with spending less money that suggests the idea that there should be a federal agency or body that can observe the implementation of this law, so that citizens' money are absorbed properly, which will contribute to the reduction of the cost of crime.
Moreover, some states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes; if this drug is being legalized for non-medical purposes, and regulated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), it will reduce the illegal selling of this control substance, and it will also add money to the states' revenue. For instance, if John is able to go to the liquor store and buy some marijuana if he is twenty-one or older, he will legally obtain the substance, therefore crime, regarding illegal purchase of marijuana, will be significantly reduced. In other words, this will reduce crime, increase states' income, and decrease the cost of crime.
After the passage of the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, or commonly referred to as the USA PATRIOT Act, multiple federal intelligence agencies were given bigger freedom in investigating different criminal activity. This provides for deeper investigations to be conducted, as it eliminates boundaries between some intelligence agencies, making it easier for them to transfer information in between. Thus more money are being spent, increasing the ultimate cost of crime. However, as a result many potential terrorist plots have been discovered and prevented. On December 25th, 2009 Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab tried to blow up an airplane flying to Detroit; he was arrested. On May 1 Faisal Shahzad was arrested in his attempt to blow up a car on Times Square. Fortunately all of these potential tragedies were prevented, and none of them resulted in casualties. This proves that spending more money to prevent crimes is worth at any cost, as it saves lives.
Crime is something we deal with every day, whether if it affects us directly or not. Being an immediate victim of a crime, we might have a loss or damage of our property as well as some medical treatment. This contributes to the constantly increasing cost of crime. Moreover, reducing or limiting our productivity due to any crime affects not only us, as we become less productive, thus we are unable to earn more money, but it also has an effect on our employer, who has to make up for the time that we are not able to work, and he needs to pay extra for that time. For instance, if we work in a grocery store, the employer might need to raise the prices or cut wages to make up for the loss. Whatever, his or her choice might be this will affect a lot of people.
Furthermore, local governments are spending significant amount of money to prevent or reduce criminal activity. With the increasing crime rate more law enforcement officers are needed, thus more money is being spent, again escalating the cost of crime. To apprehend hard criminal offenders, police and federal agencies need to develop their technology and methods constantly, recruiting more people, be more precise, and work even harder. This, however, will require even more money and all of it ties back to cost of crime.
In case all of this improvement advances the arrests of offenders, and more criminal are put in prison, this will require more prison facilities to be created, to accommodate all the inmates. The state of Washington has projected the need of building three more prisons by the year of 2030. (Drake and Miller, 171) This will require big funding by tax payers. However, some of the state's programs for preventing crimes are extremely cost-effective, and beneficial.
In addition, states implementing their death penalty spend outrageous amount of money to execute people. The state of Texas has spent more than $700 billion in 2005 to execute nineteen prisoners, while this is possible on a way lower cost. (Pryce and Byrd, 219) This arouses the idea that may be there needs to a federal regulated body that will observe the implementation of death penalty in states that is part of their legislation.
However, some suggestions for legalizing marijuana might be helpful in reducing the illegal market for selling control substances and increase some states' revenue. This will assist in the decreasing of the annual cost of crime in the United States.
Moreover, the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act shows some innovative methods for preventing or limiting crimes. This is showing the successful use of spending more money for crime prevention; even though a lot of money is being spent, lives are being saved.
These findings and statistics show how great the cost of crime is, and how rapidly it grows. However, the presence of some criminal activity might paradoxically provide job opportunities for many law enforcement officers, working in the field of criminal justice, because of the necessity of their presence. A study argues that spending money to reduce or prevent a crime is only worth when it equals the damage or loss of money due to that crime. However, the achieving of such balance is impossible, as most of the crimes are unreported, which make police unable to apprehend them. However, we need to spend more money to apprehend crimes, if necessary, because there is nothing more important to us, as a society and human beings, than our safety and well-being.