Handbook on the Economics of Crime
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Handbook on the Economics of Crime

Edited by Bruce L. Benson and Paul R. Zimmerman

While few economists analyzed criminal behaviour and the criminal justice process before Gary Becker’s seminal 1968 paper, an enormous body of economic research on crime has since been produced. This insightful and comprehensive Handbook reviews and extends much of this important resulting research.
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Chapter 8: The Allocation of Police

Bruce L. Benson


Bruce L. Benson INTRODUCTION Most resources are scarce, including those allocated by the public sector. Thus many public sector decisions, including those involved in public policing, are resource allocation problems. Legislators must decide how much funding to allocate for policing given alternative uses of tax revenues. Police budgets secure control of resources that must then be allocated among competing uses. Police resources can be allocated to the control of drug markets, prostitution markets, illegal gambling, solution of robberies and burglaries, pursuit of rapists, traffic control, crime prevention efforts, various community services and so on. While economics essentially is the study of how scarce resources are allocated, relatively little economic research on the process that determines the allocation for policing resources has been done. Nonetheless, much of the economics-of-crime literature makes assumptions, generally implicitly, about how police resources are allocated and/or how these resources influence incentives to commit various types of crime. The following presentation focuses on two positive questions: (1) how are police resources allocated?, and (2) how does the allocation of policing resources affect criminal behavior? First, however, some consideration of what police resources actually do is warranted. Empirical economics research on crime focuses, for the most part, on the so-called Index I crimes, the violent and property crimes for which both reporting and arrest data are included in the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report (UCR): murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft (arson data are also included in the UCR but rarely considered in...

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