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Effects of Increasing the Certainty of Punishment: A Field Experiment on Public Transportation

NCJ Number
European Journal of Criminology Volume: 6 Issue: 5 Dated: September 2009 Pages: 387-400
Martin Killias; David Scheidegger; Peter Nordenson
Date Published
September 2009
14 pages
This paper presents the results of Zurich's field experiment on their public transportation system evaluating the certainty of punishment as a crime deterrent.
The Zurich natural experiment on fare-dodging revealed a substantial and lasting reduction in fare-dodging on suburban trains after ticket checks were reintroduced on virtually all trains operating after 9 p.m. The success of this experiment was not only limited to the evening trains, but extended to all hours of operation. However, beyond a certain upper threshold, additional increments of certainty of detection did not reduce fare evasion beyond a certain level. This suggests that some people may remain unaffected by increasing threats. The Zurich suburban transport systems have operated since 1993 without attendants on trains and with sporadic passenger ticket checks. However, with increased safety concerns a program was launched in June 2003 reintroducing attendants on all trains after 9 p.m. as well as to check tickets of all passengers. The experiment reported in this paper offers an opportunity to observe the effects of continuous changes in the certainty of sanctions. Figures and references