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The Perception of Small Crime

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  • Douhou, S.
  • Magnus, J.R.
  • Soest, A.H.O. van

    (Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research)

Abstract

Violations of social norms can be costly to society and they are, in the case of large crimes, followed by prosecution. Minor misbehaviors — small crimes — do not usually result in legal proceedings. Although the economic consequences of a single small crime can be low, such crimes generate substantial losses in the aggregate. In this paper we measure perceptions of incorrect behavior or ‘small crime’, based on a questionnaire administered to a large representative sample from the Dutch population. In the questionnaire we ask the respondents to rate the severity and justifiability of a number of small crimes. We present short questions that only state the nature of the small crime, as well as vignette questions, describing in detail the fictitious person committing the small crime and other factors related to the circumstances in which the small crime is committed. We find that the perceived severity of small crimes varies systematically with characteristics of the respondent as well as of the person committing the crime. Small crimes are considered less serious if committed by someone with lower income. Also, the association between respondent characteristics and perceived seriousness changes if the respondents are given more information about the offender and the circumstances of the offense.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research in its series Discussion Paper with number 2010-115.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:dgr:kubcen:2010115

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Web page: http://center.uvt.nl

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Keywords: Crime seriousness; Social norms; Vignettes;

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References

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  1. Balestrino, Alessandro, 2008. "It is a theft but not a crime," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 455-469, June.
  2. Beattie, Jane & Loomes, Graham, 1997. "The Impact of Incentives upon Risky Choice Experiments," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 14(2), pages 155-68, March.
  3. Cooter, Robert, 1998. "Expressive Law and Economics," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt3w34j60j, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  4. Traxler, Christian & Winter, Joachim, 2012. "Survey evidence on conditional norm enforcement," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 390-398.
  5. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote, 1996. "Why is There More Crime in Cities?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1746, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  6. Sebastian Kube & Christian Traxler, 2011. "The Interaction of Legal and Social Norm Enforcement," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 13(5), pages 639-660, October.
  7. Greenberg, Jerald, 2002. "Who stole the money, and when? Individual and situational determinants of employee theft," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 985-1003, September.
  8. Kwan, Ying Keung & Chiu, Lai Lin & Ip, Wai Cheong & Kwan, Patrick, 2002. "Perceived crime seriousness: Consensus and disparity," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 30(6), pages 623-632.
  9. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  10. Warneryd, Karl-Erik & Walerud, Bengt, 1982. "Taxes and economic behavior: Some interview data on tax evasion in Sweden," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 187-211, September.
  11. Stylianou, Stelios, 2003. "Measuring crime seriousness perceptions: What have we learned and what else do we want to know," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 37-56.
  12. Cooter, Robert, 1998. "Expressive Law and Economics," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(2), pages 585-608, June.
  13. Traxler, Christian, 2006. "Social Norms and Conditional Cooperative Taxpayers," Discussion Papers in Economics 1202, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
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Cited by:
  1. Douhou, Salima & Van Soest, Arthur, 2013. "Explaining subjective well-being: The role of victimization, trust, health, and social norms," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 52-78.
  2. Traxler, Christian & Winter, Joachim, 2009. "Survey Evidence on Conditional Norm Enforcement," Discussion Papers in Economics 8992, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  3. Salima Douhou & Jan Magnus & Arthur Soest, 2012. "Peer Reporting and the Perception of Fairness," De Economist, Springer, vol. 160(3), pages 289-310, September.
  4. Entorf, Horst, 2012. "Expected recidivism among young offenders: Comparing specific deterrence under juvenile and adult criminal law," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 414-429.

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