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How to Calculate the Cost of Youth Arrest

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2013
16 pages
As part of the toolkit series on how to use available budget data and processing statistics to estimate costs for various stages of juvenile justice processing, this document presents a toolkit for calculating costs of an arrest of a juvenile.
The proposed approach provides reformers with a simple formula that produces consistent, accurate, and conservative results. The calculation method multiplies a law enforcement officer's average hourly rate (including benefits, support costs, and overhead costs) by the average number of hours it takes to arrest a youth. The toolkit uses budget data for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in taking the reader step-by-step through locating budget information, calculating an officer's average hourly rate, determining the number of hours per arrest, and then estimating the costs of an arrest. After explaining how to calculate the costs of arresting a youth, the toolkit suggests how the calculation of this cost may be used in management and policy decisions. In some cases, this calculation of the cost of arrests may lead to a more complex cost-benefit analysis of the effects of arrest policies on communities and individual youth. The cost of arresting a youth may also be used in comparing the costs of an arrest in a particular jurisdiction with the cost of alternatives to arrest, such as the issuance of citations and diversion options. Calculating the cost of arrests may assist in assessing the cost implications of expanding enforcement activities, such as the establishment of curfews, or reducing the money available to fund alternatives to arrest. In addition, arrest cost calculations can be used to assess the additional money available or saved when arrest rates decline. 3 figures