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Why Do Increased Arrest Rates Appear to Reduce Crime: Deterrence, Incapacitation, or Measurement Error?

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  • Levitt, Steven D

Abstract

This paper attempts to discriminate between deterrence, incapacitation, and measurement error as explanations for the negative empirical relationship between arrest rates and crime. Measurement error cannot explain the observed patterns in the data. Incapacitation suggests that an increase in the arrest rate for one crime will reduce all crime rates; deterrence predicts that an increase in the arrest rate for one crime will lead to a rise in other crimes as criminals substitute away from the first crime. Empirically, deterrence appears to be the more important factor, particularly for property crimes. Copyright 1998 by Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Levitt, Steven D, 1998. "Why Do Increased Arrest Rates Appear to Reduce Crime: Deterrence, Incapacitation, or Measurement Error?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 36(3), pages 353-372, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:ecinqu:v:36:y:1998:i:3:p:353-72
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    1. Samuel Cameron, 1988. "The Economics of Crime Deterrence: A Survey of Theory and Evidence," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(2), pages 301-323, May.
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    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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