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William Alex Pridemore
IU Department of Criminal Justice

Last modified: Thursday, February 14, 2013

IU's Pridemore organizes AAAS panel to examine costs of crime, benefits of crime reduction

Feb. 14, 2013

BOSTON -- The economic costs of crime in the United States are staggering, running into the trillions of dollars. And they are borne by virtually everyone -- victims and offenders, businesses and taxpayers.

What can research on the costs of crime tell us about effective crime-reduction policies? A symposium organized by Indiana University criminologist William Alex Pridemore for this weekend's annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science will provide some answers.

Scholars on the panel, all of whom are economists and members of the American Society of Criminology, use carefully constructed datasets and sophisticated methods in their research. Their presentations include:

  • Studies that show the monetary costs of youth violence are so large that even programs and interventions that produce modest benefits are worth the investment.
  • An examination of how private incentives align with public interests via actions taken by business that reduce crime and have significant benefit-to-cost ratios.
  • A comparison of the costs of street crime and white-collar crime and a look at the public's willingness to pay for responding to and reducing white-collar crime.
William Pridemore

William Pridemore

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Pridemore, a professor in the Department of Criminal Justice in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington and founder and director of IU's Workshop in Methods, organized the panel in his role as the American Society of Criminology's liaison to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Jens Ludwig of the University of Chicago will speak about randomized experiments conducted in Chicago to address deficits in social-cognitive skills among at-risk youth. The experiments produced only small or temporary reductions in youth violence or delinquency. But because the economic costs of youth crime are so great, the programs yielded benefits ranging from three to 30 times their cost.

Philip J. Cook of Duke University will document the effectiveness of private actions that prevent crime, including better reporting, increased sophistication and use of alarms, the use of monitoring equipment and locks, employment of security guards, and a decline in the use of cash. He examines business improvement districts, nonprofit organizations that can tax merchants and property owners to pay for improved public safety, with a potential 20-to-1 benefit-to-cost ratio.

Mark A. Cohen of Vanderbilt University will provide a framework and initial estimates for comparing the costs of white-collar crime and street crime. There is growing evidence that out-of-pocket costs are greater for white-collar crime than for street crime. Yet more resources are devoted to street crime, possibly because the costs in pain, suffering, fear of crime and loss of social cohesion are more visible to the public for street crime than for white-collar crime.

The symposium, "The Economic Costs of Crime and Justice in the United States," will take place from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, in Room 308 of the Hynes Convention Center. The panel will have a news media briefing at 11 a.m. the same day in Room 101 of the convention center.

To learn more or to speak with Pridemore, please contact Steve Hinnefeld, Office of Communications, at 812-856-3488 or

For more information, read about Indiana University's involvement at the 2013 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.