U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Preventing Crime Saves Money

NCJ Number
Jean F. O'Neil
Date Published
September 2005
This report examines the costs of crime; the concepts of cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis when applied to crime prevention activities; and ways that such cost analyses can be applied locally, along with examples of cost savings through crime prevention.
The report first lists the crime costs borne not only by crime victims and their immediate families but also every member of the community. Suggestions are offered for applying crime-cost calculations to localities so as to provide persuasive evidence for communities to invest in crime prevention projects. Tables are provided to show the costs of specific services and losses linked to particular crimes as well as crime in general. The report then presents examples of crime prevention strategies that have proven to be cost-effective. They involve improved street lighting, settling disputes without violence, Operation Safe Streets, Project AWARE (Abused Women's Active Response Emergency), domestic violence shelters, Neighborhood Watch, burglary prevention, auto-theft prevention, Aggression Replacement Training, Operation Restore Trust, antifraud reward, statewide addiction treatment, drug-free small businesses, drug courts, drug treatment, alternative sentencing, and life skills for inmates. The next section provides examples of crime prevention issues that can be addressed cost-effectively. Examples are early childhood prevention strategies, juvenile crime, family-based prevention/intervention, reentry, and financial crimes. Separate sections focus on the prevalence and costs of identity theft and costs and solutions for inmate recidivism following release. The report concludes with two examples that illustrate how crime prevention saves money. Comprehensive crime prevention programs by Washington State and Great Britain have demonstrated their cost-effectiveness. 9 tables, 10 resources, 18 references, and 90 notes