The nation’s costs attributable to crime are “plausibly on the order of $2 trillion per year,” Georgetown University Prof. Jens Ludwig told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, says the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA). Ludwig said the number includes the costs of victimization from both street and white collar crimes, the expense of administering the criminal justice system, and costly private activities designed to reduce the individual risks of victimization.
Jeffrey Sedgwick, director of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, said that what is known about the financial impact of crime on victims comes from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). He said the survey significantly underestimates costs that are non-monetary or intangible. Relying on four measures to estimate the financial cost of crime to victims (injury, theft, damage, and lost work), the NCVS is the primary source of information on characteristics of criminal victimization and on the number and types of crimes not reported to law enforcement authorities. If the Senate’s cuts to the agency’s budget for fiscal 2007 budget are retained, the NCVS could suffer significant reductions, COSSA said. Mary Lou Leary of National Center for Victims of Crime urged using dollar figures on the cost of crime “simply as a starting point. The real cost of crime includes the cost to individual quality of life and to society-at-large.”