Crime, protection, and incarceration
Criminals impose costs on society that go beyond the direct losses suffered by their victims; crime casts a shadow of uncertainty over our daily economic and social activities. Consequently, individuals and society as a whole choose to direct resources to crime prevention. In this study we analyze a virtual society facing such choices. Individuals, neighborhoods, and cities make crime prevention decisions and adjust their decisions over time as they attempt to balance the cost of crime with the cost of fighting it. The society that ultimately emerges exhibits aggregate criminal characteristics that mimic patterns of crime observable in the natural world. We then use this virtual society to conduct a series of anti-crime policy experiments, the results of which illustrate how different approaches to crime protection and incarceration can vary in their efficiency at reducing crime. As expected, more effective anti-crime measures tend to reduce crime, but the impact of prison is less clear. The model suggests that throwing more criminals into prison may reduce crime in the short run but may actually increase it in the long run.
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