The Influence of Scope, Frames, and Extreme Willingness to Pay Responses on Cost of Crime Estimates

  • Jacqueline G. LeeEmail author
  • Daren Fisher


As governments with limited fiscal resources seek to invest in the “best” programs to prevent crime, they often first try to identify the true costs of crime to guide these decisions. Contingent valuation (CV) is a common survey method used to elicit how much the public is willing to pay (WTP) to reduce a particular crime. We utilize one of the first datasets in criminal justice that includes open-ended WTP data gathered from a survey using factorial design and random assignment. WTP figures are then input into a formula which also takes into account 1) the number of households and 2) the number of crimes “avoided,” which is calculated based upon the percentage crime reduction presented to survey respondents. Drawing upon data from a representative sample of the United States, we assess how sensitive respondents are to crime type, crime reduction percentages, program types, and framing. Results demonstrate that in general, open-ended WTP surveys elicit highly skewed responses and that respondents are more willing to pay for crime reduction programs with a higher number of individual components. However, respondents are not sensitive to crime reductions or several other survey framing techniques. Importantly, due to these highly skewed WTP values and lack of responsivity to crime control percentages, final cost of crime numbers vary widely – potentially altering policy decisions driven by these methods. We conclude with a discussion of the appropriateness of these methods for accurately estimating the costs of crime.


Costs of crime Willingness to pay Policy decision-making Open-ended survey Framing 


Funding Information

This project was supported by Award 2013-IJ-CX-0058, granted by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Any opinions, viewpoints, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice. All code for analyses are available upon request by contacting the first author. Data are available through the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data:


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Copyright information

© Southern Criminal Justice Association 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Criminal JusticeBoise State UniversityBoiseUSA
  2. 2.Department of Criminal JusticeThe CitadelUSA

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