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Time and Punishment: An Intertemporal Model of Crime

NCJ Number
Journal of Political Economy Volume: 96 Issue: 2 Dated: (April 1988) Pages: 383-390
M L Davis
Date Published
8 pages
An analysis of criminal behavior as a problem of labor supply must take into account the timing of rewards and punishment in terms of the uncertainty of the punishment and the expected income from the crime.
If an increase in the rate at which a person commits crimes reduced the expected detection time, the income from crime (net of expected fines) must be discounted at a rate that varies with the rate of crime. A model of the criminal's choice of the optimal crime rate under such conditions suggests that, regardless of the criminal's attitude toward risk, an increase in the probability of apprehension is a more effective deterrent than a comparable increase in punishment. Optimal law enforcement implications are also explored. 6 footnotes, 11 references.