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Costs of Crime

The costs of crime can be difficult to measure, impacting victims and their families, local communities, and society more broadly. Research does not have an agreed-upon method of measuring the costs associated with crime, but in general, costs can be direct- those that result from the crime incident and the associated public budget outlays necessary for the administration and maintenance of the criminal justice system- or indirect- intangible harms or losses of opportunity that affect crime- and justice-system-involved people and society at large.

Direct costs of crime include:  

  • funding that must be provided by local, state, tribal, territorial, and federal governments to support law enforcement, the judiciary, and correctional services.  
  • financial losses sustained by crime victims, such as lost money and stolen or damaged property 

Indirect costs of crime include:  

  • physical, psychological, and long-term financial harm incurred by crime victims and their families, lost productivity and wages, and lower quality of life as a result of victimization  
  • heightened fear of crime, reduced ability to stem blight, loss of commercial and other investment, and increased burden on social service organizations in local communities  
  • social and economic consequences of punishments and wrongful convictions, and reduced earning and contribution potential of persons who are incarcerated.  

BJS measures direct public costs associated with crime through the Justice Expenditures and Employment Extracts (JEEE) series. The new Justice Expenditure and Employment Tool (JEET) allows users to explore criminal justice expenditure, employment, and payroll statistics of state and local governments.

BJS also measures direct costs of crime to victims through the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). These data include the amounts of money and property that may have been stolen or damaged, amounts recovered, and amounts spent to repair or replace damaged goods.

At this time, BJS data collections do not measure or quantify the indirect costs of crime. 

Date Created: December 16, 2022