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Extent and Costs of Crime Victimization: A New Look

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1996
2 pages
Publication Series
Previous studies have been able to estimate some of the short-term costs of criminal victimization, but long-term estimates have been incomplete; the research summarized in this paper adds in the long-term costs and the intangibles of pain, suffering, and risk of death.
For counts of crime, the researchers used the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports and the National Criminal Victimization Survey, supplemented by data from other nationally representative surveys. For the most part, only street crime and domestic crime were counted and their costs calculated. This study differs from most other victimization figures by including crimes against people under age, using estimates of domestic violence and sexual assault from surveys that focus specifically on these topics and ask more explicitly about these crimes, more fully accounting for repeat victimization, and including child abuse and drunk driving. Certain categories were excluded, among them crimes against business and government, personal fraud, white-collar crime, child neglect, and most "victimless" crime. The new calculations produced an estimate of more than 49 million victimization and attempted victimization annually for the period 1987 to 1990. This study focused on victim-related costs, not costs to operate the criminal justice system. The researchers found that victimizations generate $105 billion annually in property and productivity losses and outlays for medical expenses. This amounts to an annual "crime tax" of approximately $425 per man, woman, and child in the United States. When the values of pain, long-term emotional trauma, disability, and risk of death are put in dollar terms, the costs increase to $450 billion annually (or $1,800 per person).

Date Published: January 1, 1996