What We Spend and What We Get: Public and Private Provision of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

Fiscal Studies (Impact Factor: 0.49). 02/2001; 22(1):1-40. DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5890.2001.tb00033.x
Source: RePEc


In this paper, we consider a number of issues regarding crime prevention and criminal justice. We begin by considering how crime is measured and present both general and specific evidence on the level of crime in a variety of countries. Crime is pervasive and varies substantially across countries. We outline the arguments for some public role in crime prevention, enforcement, prosecution, defence, adjudication and punishment. We consider the relative roles of the public and private sectors in crime control and criminal justice. We discuss various measures for the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. We conclude by suggesting some potential areas for research.

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Available from: Robert Witt,
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    • "In a recent paper, however, Glaeser et al. (1996) explored the idea that social influences can explain cross-city crime rates in the United States. Other recent attempts to consider the impact of social interactions on criminal behavior include Grogger (1997), Imai and Krishna (2001), Lochner (1999) and Witte and Witt (2001). In all cases, the basic idea is that social interaction variables such as strong family links, marital status, frequency of church attendance among others, affect the probability of an individual engaging in an illegal behavior. "

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    • "In two recent articles that provide a survey of the crime literature from an economics perspective (Witte and Witt 2001 and Levitt 2004), social insurance was ignored as a potential determinant of international or temporal variations in crime. Some notable exceptions in the literature include Zhang (1997), which is one of the only studies in economics to explicitly model and empirically measure the impact of welfare payments. "
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    ABSTRACT: The Great Depression of the 1930s led to dire circumstances for a large share of American households. Contemporaries worried that a number of these households would commit property crimes in their efforts to survive the hard times. The Roosevelt administration suggested that their unprecedented and massive relief efforts struck at the roots of crime by providing subsistence income to needy families. After constructing a panel data set for 83 large American cities for the years 1930 through 1940, we estimated the impact of relief spending by all levels of government on crime rates. The analysis suggests that relief spending during the 1930s lowered property crime in a statistically and economically significant way. A lower bound ordinary least squares estimate suggests that a 10 percent increase in per capita relief spending during the Great Depression lowered property crime rates by close to 1 percent. After controlling for potential endogeneity using an instrumental variables approach, the estimates suggest that a 10 percent increase in per capita relief spending lowered crime rates by roughly 5.6 to 10 percent at the margin. More generally, our results indicate that social insurance, which tends to be understudied in economic analyses of crime, should be more explicitly and more carefully incorporated into the analysis of temporal and spatial variations in criminal activity.
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    • "Additionally, we circumvent several types of measurement error common to police statistics that may result in biased estimates. Recorded crime statistics are subject to changes in reporting and recording behaviour that are hard to control for with cross-sectional and time-series dummy variables (Dryden Witte and Witt, 2001). The effect of more police officers on the percentage of crimes reported may be limited (Levitt, 1998), but there are many other factors that may bias both cross-section and time-series analysis based on recorded crime. "
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    ABSTRACT: In this paper, we present evidence on the effect of greater numbers of police personnel on victimisation of crime and experience of nuisance. We make use of individual data from a Dutch victimisation survey unique in its size, duration and scope. By using individual victimisation data we provide evidence on the effects of police on nuisance rather than 'hard crime' only, we circumvent measurement error common to police statistics, and we are able to control for both individual and municipality characteristics.
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