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Economist's Guide to Crime Busting

NCJ Number
NIJ Journal Issue: 270 Dated: June 2012 Pages: 52-56
Date Published
June 2012
5 pages
Publication Series
Given the high cost of mass incarceration as a means of controlling crime in a time of shrinking government budgets, this article presents three proposals for controlling crime without over-reliance on incarceration.
The three proposals suggest: raising the minimum age at which youths can leave school; promoting business improvement districts and other forms of self-protection; and increasing taxes on alcohol. Regarding the first proposal, lengthening the amount of time youth are required to stay in school should increase the number of high-school graduates. Studies indicate that high-school graduates enjoy better health, improved employment prospects, and greater success in building a family. A focus on improving and requiring participation in structured education for youth is more likely to influence law-abiding behavior than imprisoning them in isolation from mainstream society in their formative years. In presenting the proposal for business improvement districts (BIDs) and other forms of self-protection, limits are placed on opportunities for offending. BIDs are usually established by merchants and property owners as nonprofit organizations in downtown commercial areas. The city government's role is primarily to provide the organization with the authority to collect fees from local businesses to be used in keeping the BID jurisdiction "clean" and "safe." BIDs employ armed private security officers, usually retired law-enforcement officers, who patrol the district. BIDs can also install closed-circuit television cameras. BIDs have been shown to be effective in reducing crime in the areas they serve. The third proposal focuses on improving the quality of individuals' decisionmaking by facilitating self-control and rational judgment. Public policies that reduce alcohol abuse are thus important tools for preventing criminal behavior. Raising the price of beer, wine, and hard liquor should be one of those policies. 1 table

Date Published: June 1, 2012