Monday, April 10, 2006
Cost Of Crime
Forget the government propaganda: Britain's crime rate is appalling. According to international stats published by the Home Office, your chances of being a crime victim are higher here than in virtually any other developed country. In fact the only country that does worse is the penal colony of Australia.
In 2000, the HO estimated the cost of crime at £60bn. Others reckon it's higher, but let's go with the HO figure, and scale it up to £75bn in today's money. That's about 6% of GDP, or £3,000 pa for every household.
So it's pretty chunky.
But of course, the total cost of crime is even higher. This year we'll be spending well over £30bn on Public Order and Safety, most of it to combat crime. So the overall cost of crime- even on the HO's conservative figures- is running at around £100bn pa.
What can we do?
I've always been a big fan of deterrence. There's plenty of evidence to show it reduces crime, and simple people like me can't understand why we don't just do it. Clearly it needs to be real deterrence, so I'm not just talking about a few more Community Support Officers wandering around Guildford. But neither am I (necessarily) talking about the full-on Major Frobisher plan for cost effective justice. No, as a starter, surely we can all sign up to building a few more prisons.
Yesterday's Sunday Times showed how powerful this can be. Britain records about 10,600 crimes per 100,000 population, but we have only 12 prisoners per 1,000 of those crimes. In Spain, they have four times as many prisoners in relation to the number of crimes, and guess what- their crime rate is less than a quarter of ours. And the same strong relationship can seen right across Europe: the higher the rate of imprisonment relative to the number of crimes, the lower the crime rate.
So how many more prison places do we need? David Green of Civitas reckoned 80,000 might do it. That was based on Home Office estimates that 100,000 persistent offenders carry out about half of all crime and that about 20,000 were in jail at any one time. So if we locked up the other 80,000 we'd cut the crime rate by half.
Since it costs about £40 grand a year to imprison someone, that implies £3.2bn pa extra. Well, that's what the total budget numbers imply, although the detailed establishment costings (see here) suggest some prisons can do it for much less. Jeffrey Archer's alma mater only costs £30 grand, and Jonathan Aitken's a mere £15 grand. Not enough security? Well, the Scrubs comes in at a very reasonable £25 grand. That's not a lot more than Eton.
But even if it is £3.2bn extra, that's chickenfeed against the £100bn pa cost of crime.
What are we waiting for?
Posted by Mike D at 4:42 pm