The social costs of crime-related expenditures are staggering, according to economists’ estimates. The losses people suffer can be identified as either intangible or tangible. Intangible costs are hard to translate into dollars and cents but refer to the pain,

suffering, and reductions in the quality of life indi- viduals endure when they are shaken or even trau- matized by negative events. Direct tangible economic losses are relatively easy to measure mon- etarily whenever offenders take cash or valuables; steal, vandalize, or destroy property; and inflict injuries that require medical attention and recuper- ation that interferes with work. Theft and fraud bring about the direct transfer of wealth from vic- tims to criminals. Murders terminate lives prema- turely, resulting in lost earnings. Nonfatal wounds trigger huge expenses for medical care—bills from doctors, emergency rooms, hospitals, pharmacies, nursing services, occupational therapists, and den- tists. The old saying “It’s only money” might underestimate how even modest losses from a rob- bery or theft can impose serious hardships for indi- viduals living from paycheck to paycheck, as this case demonstrates:

A knife-wielding robber steals the purse and jewelry of a retired woman scraping by on disability pay- ments. It takes at least six weeks to replace the ID cards and Social Security check in her stolen wallet. In the meantime, she has no cash, no bus pass, and no way to pay for her many prescription drugs, or even dog food for her pet. None of the social service agencies on the list provided by the big city police department offers emergency financial assistance. Finally, she discovers a faith-based charity that is willing to pay her rent and electric bill and give her food vouchers and $50 in cash. “If not for them, I could not have gotten my heart medication, and I’d be going to bed hungry,” she tells a reporter. (Kelley, 2008)

Serious injuries may also inflict emotional suf- fering that requires psychological care for intense feelings of fear, grief, anger, confusion, guilt, and shame. Possible long-term consequences include mental illness and suicide, as well as alcohol and drug abuse. Some may get their lives back in order rather quickly, but others could be haunted by disturbing memories and burdened by phobias and by posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for long periods of time. Overall, the lifetime risk of developing PTSD is much higher for those who


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suffer attacks than for the general public. Rates of experiencing episodes of major depression and gen- eralized anxiety also are greater. Furthermore, the effects of the victims’ emotional turmoil are likely to spill over on to family members, close friends, and even neighbors. An outbreak of crime can have a negative impact on an entire community, stoking a fear of strangers, undermining involve- ment in activities outside the home, eroding a sense of cohesiveness, and driving out some of the most productive residents (Herman and Waul, 2004).

Even those who are not directly connected to the injured parties may suffer a psychic toll from the ever-present fear that permeates a crime-ridden community. The result is that people are willing to pay substantial amounts of money in the form of taxpayer-funded government actions plus private expenditures in their search for greater security and an improved quality of life. Expenses arise from the crime-induced production of goods and services that would not be necessary if illegal activi- ties were not such a grave problem. For example, the time, money, and resources spent on manufacturing protective devices (locks, surveil- lance cameras, and alarm systems) are crime- induced outlays, as are private security forces and theft insurance. Similarly, local, state, and federal government funds are consumed pursuing the “war on crime,” the “war on drugs,” and the “war on terror.” That translates into huge expendi- tures for investigating illegal activities by law enforcement agencies and running court and prison systems (including prosecutors’ offices, indigent defense, incarceration, treatment programs, proba- tion, and parole). All of these governmental expen- ditures can be considered to be a net loss of productive resources to society. If the risks to life and health from criminal activity were not so great, these corporate, governmental, taxpayer, and per- sonal expenditures could have been used to meet basic needs and improve living standards for the law-abiding majority (Anderson, 1999).

Some studies that attempt to estimate the costs of crimes focus on what victims lose, but others highlight how much society loses when an offender

becomes enmeshed in a criminal career. For exam- ple, one group of researchers projected that every murder of an adult (in Pennsylvania in the late 1990s) cost the entire society about $3.5 million. Another group of researchers devised a formula for monetizing a criminal career in order to deter- mine its “external costs” to others over a lifetime and came up with even larger estimated societal outlays. For example, each murder inflicted about $4.7 million in victim costs, over $300,000 in jus- tice system expenditures, and nearly $150,000 in offender productivity losses, for a total cost of over $5 million. Each armed robbery imposed costs of nearly $50,000, and the average burglary inflicted losses of about $5,500 (De Lisi et al., 2010). A study using a different method of defining and measuring tangible and intangible losses and expenses yielded estimates that each murder cost over $8.4 million, each robbery about $25,000, and each burglary over $1,650. Rapes were second only to murder in the size of losses, costing over $200,000. These estimates need to be incorporated into cost-benefit analyses when discussing appropri- ate funding levels for criminal justice outlays, such as for police departments or drug treatment pro- grams (McCollister et al., 2010).

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