Deterrence and crime avoidance

David Alpert proposes making parking collections more like taxes and less like a negative lottery.

Two posts today encourage me to think that some new ideas about crime and crime control are escaping the narrow confines of academic conversation and penetrating more widely.

Matt Yglesias reflects on the costs of crime avoidance, and David Alpert at Greater Greater Washington applies Beccaria’s analysis of certainty v. severity to the problem of parking fines.  (If you can increase the probability of collecting from someone who overstays a parking meter, there’s no need for outrageously heavy fines; that would make the system more like tax collection and less like a negative lottery.)

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

4 thoughts on “Deterrence and crime avoidance”

  1. I have come to agree that swift, certain punishment can help deter crime without draconian penalties. But with respect to parking meters, aren't we really talking about purchasing (or more accurately leasing) something: a space? If so, this means that certain but low parking fines really just raises the price of the parking spot. Or am I missing something?

  2. I think you are missing something – at least in Boston. Feeding a meter here is illegal. The Parking Nazis put a chalk mark on your wheels (not always) and you risk getting a ticket if you continue feeding the meter. Given the shortage of spaces, the city doesn't want you to use a space for more than two hours. If you need more than two hours, the city wants you to go park in expensive private lots (I can only think of one public lot in the city). I disagree with this approach altogether – and maybe Boston is unique – but given this, it would seem like a steeply graduated fee would be required when one exceeds the limit.

  3. What they said. Perhaps it would be simple enough to write additional tickets or increment the existing ticket on each visit where the car is still there. (I live in a town where a parking ticket is less than the cost of a day's metered parking, so if you start with malice aforethought it's a better investment than feeding meters for a day downtown.) On the other hand, more certain enforcement also changes the effective metered rate (because there's less or no grace period), which may lead to negative public reactions including increased meter vandalism.

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