Centre for Vocational Education Research LSE RSS Email Facebook Twitter


Journal article
The changing returns to crime: do criminals respond to prices?
Mirko Draca, Theodore Koutmeridis and Stephen Machin
May 2019
Paper No' :

Tags: illegal behavior; the enforcement of law; crime

To what extent does crime follow the pattern of potential gains to illegal activity? This article presents evidence on how criminals respond to this key incentive by reporting crime-price elasticities estimated from a comprehensive crime dataset containing detailed information on stolen items for London between 2002 and 2012. Evidence of significant positive crime-price elasticities are shown, for a panel of 44 consumer goods and for commodity related goods (jewellery, fuel, and metal crimes). The reported evidence indicates that potential gains are a major empirical driver of criminal activity and a crucial part of the economic model of crime. The changing structure of goods prices helps to explain over 10-15% of the observed fall in property crime across all goods categories, and the majority of the sharp increases in the commodity related goods observed between 2002 and 2012.