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The Costs of Violent Crime
Giles Atkinson, Susana Mourato & Andrew Healey, World Economics, December 2003
This paper reviews a number of studies that have sought to estimate the economic costs of criminal offending and, more specifically, violent crime. Firstly, it discusses those approaches that have sought to describe the ‘big picture’ by calculating the aggregate burden of all crime. These studies yield useful overall summaries about the magnitude of the crime problem but also reveal how little is known about the value of the ‘intangible’ effects of violent crime (e.g. the anxiety suffered by potential victims or the pain and suffering imposed on actual victims). Secondly, the authors review the growing number of contributions that have begun the process of filling this gap through novel applications of nonmarket valuation methods in a crime context. In particular, the findings of a recent attempt to estimate the costs of categories of violent crime (of varying levels of severity) in the United Kingdom using the contingent valuation method are discussed. Whilst valuing the intangible costs of violent crime is a challenging task, a more explicit assessment is needed not just to improve the transparency of public decision-making but also to ensure that policy benefits of crime prevention can be compared directly with the costs of implementation.

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