Crime is a big problem and in the process of considering a move to a new city I wanted to see if I could compare crime rates between ZIP codes. I found a lot of numbers online and then stumbled onto a bastion of data sanity as well as a way to save nearly $150 billion a year on crime costs.
In my search for good crime comparisons I found that none made a great deal of sense. And then I found out why:
The FBI notes that “many entities — news media, tourism agencies, and other groups with an interest in crime in our Nation — use figures from the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rankings, however, are merely a quick choice made by the data user; they provide no insight into the many variables that mold the crime in a particular town, city, county, state, region, or other jurisdiction. Consequently, these rankings lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents.”
Neighborhood Crimes Are Big Business
“In the United States,” explains one study, “more than 23 million criminal offenses were committed in 2007, resulting in approximately $15 billion in economic losses to the victims and $179 billion in government expenditures on police protection, judicial and legal activities, and corrections.”
Crime Registration Program
Fifteen billion dollars is chump change. Although we identify much “crime” with traditional events such as robbery and assault, the biggest crimes today are institutional and not geographic. Rigging the Libor rate, wrongful foreclosures or selling defective mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are forms of fraud that dwarf not just any local robbery but ALL local crime.
Bloomberg, as one example. reported in August 2013 that banks had paid out more than $100 billion for “lawyers and litigation, as well as for settling claims about shoddy mortgages and foreclosures.” Of course, since last August the total has ballooned and is still growing.
A Modest Proposal….
Cynics, libertarians and Jonathan Swift might raise the idea that if crime costs $15 billion and we’re spending $179 billion to deal with the problem then it would be cheaper and easier for both criminals and victims to simply have a $30 billion crime registration program (CRP) where self-declared criminals can come in, explain the potential crime they want to commit, and then be paid off before actually robbing or stealing.
With a CRP the country would save $149 billion annually, money that could be spent on more useful projects or returned to the citizenry. Criminals would double their profits and avoid jail time, thus they would have a real incentive to participate. As a condition of being in the program criminals would be taxed at the usual rates to create a CRP fund, money that could be used to pay for counseling and educational classes so we can create a better class of criminals….