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Economic model of crime

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Consider major government policies and events since the last general election and evaluate their likely impact on crime. Base your arguments on the economic model of crime.

In this essay I will examine how government polices since the last general election have impacted crime levels. The economic model of crime pioneered by Gary S. Becker in 1968 describes how criminals weigh up the costs and benefits of criminal activity against the legal alternatives. The model has four main aspects in it, which are: the utility derived from legal work (U (W)), the likelihood of getting caught when engaging in criminal activity (p), utility from successful crime (U(W ͨ )) and the disutility from punishment when getting caught (U(S))

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U (W) < (1 – p) * U (W ͨ) p * U(S)

The model basically shows that you should be a criminal if the benefits, including the possibility of being punished, are greater than in legal life.

Theoretically crime should decrease when the risk of getting caught increases and when punishment is made tougher.

During a recession crime rates can either increase or decrease, this is because it can increase crime as there are less work opportunities but it can also decrease crime as there is less being produced so therefore less to steal. The model works best for property crimes as the utility from the crime is greatest but the model can also be applied to violent, anti-social and non-monetary crimes.

One policy used by the government to help the police fight crime more effectively was the electing of police and crime commissioners in November 2012. The commissioners’ help reduce crime as they: regularly engage with the public, set the force budget, update a police and crime plan, work with others to find better ways to prevent crime and also hold the chief constable to account for policing in the area. This policy increases the likelihood of criminals getting caught in Becker’s model of crime and therefore is likely to reduce the amount of people committing crimes.

However, the election of police commissioners may not increase the likelihood of criminals getting caught as in some areas commissioners are making large cuts to the police force which will lead to less police on the streets and this could actually decrease the likelihood of a criminal getting caught. In Leicestershire for example, the police commissioner could be realising up to 300 officers and this could directly influence the number of criminals caught purely as there will be less police on the streets.

The introduction of police and crime commissioners was a response to the riots in the summer of 2011 after the death of Mark Duggan. They were introduced to bring local communities and the police force closer together in the hope to prevent any future riots of the same scale. The riots also highlighted to the government that gang and youth violence needed to be tackled. Those who were arrested in the rioting were punished severely; the average sentence length was four times longer than the average sentence for similar crimes in 2010. This can be related to Becker’s model of crime as it shows that the government wanted to increase the disutility from punishment when a criminal is caught. As the length of sentences was increased by so much it is likely that many potential criminals will have decided against committing a crime as the benefits of the crime would not have been greater than the cost. Also others who saw people getting years in prison for looting items such as Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Olay moisturiser will perceive that the utility from looting is not worth the potential punishment if caught and will therefore be less likely to loot in the future if any riots were to potentially happen again.

The Home Office are looking to reduce the amount of gang, knife and gun crime, which currently is accountable for 22% of all serious violent crimes. The Home Office have introduced new offences of threatening with a knife in a public place and this is likely to improve prosecution rates. As well as this £1.2 million has been spent on support workers to help girls suffering from gang related sexual violence. The Home Office has also created an offence of possessing illegal firearms with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. By introducing new offences the Home Office have increased the likelihood that a person will be caught when engaging in criminal activity which means according to Becker’s model of crime the number of crimes being committed will reduce as the possibility of being caught increases. This
means that the benefits are less likely to outweigh the costs of criminal activity. By increasing the maximum penalty for a crime the Home Office will also deter people from committing crimes as the punishment for the crime is greater and according to the model the greater the disutility from punishment the less likely it is that a person will commit a crime.

The Home Office’s policy of reducing gang, knife and gang crime has been successful to date as there has been a 10% drop in recorded crime under the coalition government. The number of recorded crime has dropped from 4,388,295 in March 2010 to 3,720,629 in June 2013. This shows the policy has clearly affected Becker’s model of crime as some criminals are choosing not to commit crimes as the benefits of committing a crime are not greater than the benefits of leading a legal life.

Another crime associated with gangs is drug use and distribution. For people between the ages of 16 and 24 19.3% of them have taken an illegal drug. Also crimes related to drugs cost the United Kingdom’s economy £13.3 billion a year. The government are trying to combat crimes associated with drugs by providing accurate information on the dangerous side effects of drugs, through sites like FRANK, and also providing treatment and support to those with drug problems. The government are also trying to restrict the supply of illegal drugs by classifying and controlling drugs, this includes the recent classifying of some supposed ‘legal highs’ such as methoxetamine, a supposedly safe substitute for ketamine. This can be linked to Becker’s model of crime, as with more substances becoming classified the likelihood of someone getting caught when engaging in the taking or supplying of drugs increases. The utility from successfully taking an illegal drug may also decrease when people learn more about the short and long term negative health effects from drugs or supposedly safe ‘legal highs’. This means that if drug use and supply can be effectively combated by government policies at least two parts of Becker’s model will be affected and the number of crimes committed would almost certainly decrease.

Current statistics show that 73% of young people released from custody reoffend within a year; this led to the government to introduce a policy to
aim to reduce the number of young people, those between the ages of 10-17, reoffending. The government plan to reduce youth crime by treating a young person’s time in custody as education with detention as opposed to the other way round as this is more likely to increase the chances that the young person will not reoffend. This is because with better education they are more likely to understand the costs of crime. Improving education will therefore help the young person learn about the disutility from punishment when getting caught and according to Becker’s model of crime this should mean fewer crimes will be committed. However young people reoffending has been an issue in the government for the last few years and previous policies have failed to correct this and there is little evidence so far to show that this policy is any different.

In the 2013 budget it was announced by the government that the personal tax allowance would be raised to £10,000 next year. The 2013 budget should help increase the utility derived from legal work as it means people are able to keep more of their income. However this will only affect criminals that have a job as those who are unemployed will not be affected by the change in personal allowance. Therefore the likely impact of the 2013 budget on crime is likely to be minimal. A government policy that will affect unemployed criminals is the benefit cap which was introduced in April 2013 in London and rolled out to the rest of the United Kingdom in July 2013. The benefit cap is likely to affect 310,000 individuals and will on average reduce benefits by £83 a week. This loss in benefits could lead to an increase in crime as individuals are receiving less income and therefore will gain greater utility when committing a successful crime. The benefit cap is likely to affect crime most in London as 54% of those affected live in London and London is also the area with the highest crime rate in the United Kingdom. As well as having the highest crime rate in the UK London also contains the top five least peaceful local authorities, with Lewisham being top of the list.

Since the last general election the government have introduced many polices to combat crime, the UK peace index shows that there is been a drop in violent crime over the last decade. The index shows that the number of
people treated in hospital after violent crime in England and Wales had fallen by 14% in 2012. This to some extent shows that some government policies have been successful; however the UK peace index only takes into account violent crime so other crimes such as property crimes are not taken into account. Through the polices the government have been using the two parts of Becker’s model that they are targeting most are; the likelihood of getting caught when engaging in criminal activity and the disutility from punishment when getting caught. As well as government policies combatting crime other polices are also helping reduce crime. The recent fall in unemployment rate will have led to a reduction in the number of crimes. This is as Becker’s model shows that when unemployment rates are falling so are the number of crimes being committed, this is because people will receive a greater utility derived from legal work.










Cite this Economic model of crime

Economic model of crime. (2016, Nov 05). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/economic-model-of-crime/

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