Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Wonkish Look at Crime

An interesting column by Nicholas Kristof arguing that if we

tackled crime as comprehensively and wonkishly as we do pollution or auto safety, we'd all be better off.
I completely agree.

He looks at LoJack vs. the Club in terms of reducing auto theft.
Car theft, it turns out, is a volume business. And so if even a small percentage of vehicles have LoJack, the professional thief will eventually steal a car with one and get caught.

The thief's challenge is that it's impossible to determine which vehicle has a LoJack (there's no decal). So stealing any car becomes significantly more risky, and one academic study found that the introduction of LoJack in Boston reduced car theft there by 50 percent. Professor Ayres and another scholar, Steven Levitt, found that every $1 invested in LoJack saves other car owners $10.

Professors Nalebuff and Ayres note that other antitheft devices, such as the Club, a polelike device that locks the steering wheel, help protect that car, but only at the expense of the next vehicle.

"The Club doesn't reduce crime," Mr. Nalebuff says. "It just shifts it to the next person."
Levitt of course is the author of the excellent book Freakonomics. Interesting how the club and LoJack have similar effects for the person buying, but much different for society as a whole. Another case where the invisible hand doesn't work. This same logic is used to show how concealed gun laws can help to reduce rapes and other crimes, as criminals are not sure who can protect themselves and who can't. But that didn't make this article.
We have about 300,000 more prisoners than is cost-effective, Professor Donohue calculates. In other words, every extra $100 spent on incarceration reduces crime losses by some smaller amount, say $50. But he also finds that we could add up to 500,000 police officers, and they would pay for themselves in crime savings.
That is an interesting point that we could add up to 500,000 more police officers and they would pay for themselves. I had never thought of a police officers salary as paying for itself, but it certainly makes sense.

Via New York Times

1 comment:

Monroe Kalani said...

Interested. Keep Blogging!

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.