Costs of Crime


Armed with a better understanding of the actual costs of crime, and by combining our efforts in many ways—including increasing forensic evidence analysis capability and capacity—we can solve crimes, prevent crime, and save lives.

The RAND Corporation developed a “Cost of Crime Calculator” in 2010. It was developed to “…help city managers, police leaders, city council members, media, and the public better understand the cost of crime in their communities”. The calculator was based on research for a RAND-supported publication: “Hidden in Plain Sight: What Cost-of-Crime Research Can Tell Us About Investing in Police”, 2010, by Paul Heaton.

Although the research paper was supported and published by RAND to show the returns on police personnel investments the information is a great source to help us understand the true costs, tangible and intangible, of crime in our communities, and help determine whether combatting crime with Forensic Science is worth the costs.

The RAND Corporation's Cost of Crime Calculator, and original research information used by RAND was used in the charts on this page, and other areas of this website.

A major premise of the report—based on empirical accounting research for victim-related tangible costs and as well as more extensive intangible costs, and several research studies from 1997 through 2009, includes the importance of knowing that:

“While it is commonly understood that some crime costs are borne by offenders and victims, it is equally important to consider costs borne by society at large. That is because crime does not take place in a vacuum but, rather, affects everyone within the neighborhoods and communities where it occurs.”

Info: RAND Corp., Center on Quality Policing Research Consortium

In the RAND article mentioned in the "Cost of Crime Calculator" dropdown box above, Mr. Heaton described the data reported for both tangible and intangible costs as follows:

Tangible costs involve direct financial costs to individuals, businesses, or government from out-of-pocket expenditures or lost productivity. They include such costs as property loss, medical treatment, and lost productivity for victims; crime-prevention expenditures by businesses; and expenditures for offender adjudication and incarceration by government entities.

Data for the study were drawn from numerous sources. Property-loss costs were estimated using victim loss reports in the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) along with data on insurance-claim processing costs. Medical cost figures were derived by combining data from victim reports, detailed hospital administrative records that report the costs of treating various types of injuries, and workers’ compensation data on fatal incidents. Data on mental-health treatment and first-responder investigative costs were obtained from surveys and published administrative cost data. Productivity losses were estimated from NCVS data and wage data. For violent crimes, most of the costs are intangible, whereas almost all costs for burglary, larceny, and motor-vehicle theft are tangible costs.

Intangible costs involve lost quality of life resulting from fear of crime or the psychological effects of victimization. Not surprisingly, intangible costs are inherently more difficult to measure because they aren't readily apparent, and may involve costs in addition to physical items, money, etc. However, they are important to capture because they can, in some cases, represent a substantial component of the total cost of a particular crime.

For example, the monetary costs of medical treatment for sexual-assault victims are likely small relative to the significant psychological and mental-health impacts of victimization. Intangible costs were [also] estimated using data on wage premiums for occupational risk and jury awards for pain and suffering to crime and burn victims. Failing to account for intangible costs would lead researchers and policymakers to an underestimate of the costs of this crime.

One substantial cost of crime estimate that may surprise some, is the costs attached to homicides (tangible and intangible). The lowest tangible accounting figure provided is $5 million. The average of the tangible and the intangible “Contingent-Valuation Method” is $8.65 million. As the author explained it:

“… while the social benefit of roughly $10 million for preventing a homicide is large, it is not that different from the $7 million representative figure for the “value of life” that can be derived from observing individual decisions about the assumption of risk (Viscusi, 2008). Value-of-life figures are widely used by federal and state governments to make regulatory decisions regarding safety and environmental quality.”

A December 2013 article, "The Economic Cost of Crime", by Aaron Chalfin, provides a review of the costs of crime, as well as the additional costs that are not accounted for. The document isn't a quick read, but the Conclusion on page 13, provides some staggering cost information, including: "...Applying median estimates of the cost of each index crime in the literature to the number of index crimes reported in the United States in 2012 yields an estimate of the cost of index crimes that is approximately $200 billion if only UCR index crimes reported to the police are counted and as high as $310 billion when unreported crimes are accounted for." Here's a link to a copy of the entire article:
The Economic Cost of Crime by Aaron Chalfin 12-16-13

Source: "The Economic Cost of Crime", by Aaron Chalfin, retrieved 3-20-16 from: www.achalfin.weebly.com/uploads/8/5/4/8/8548116/chalfin_econcost.pdf
Tangible Crime Costs Per Crime, U.S., est. 2010

Sources: FBI 2013 UCR, RAND 2010OP279 report, multiple original

Tangible & Intangible Crime Costs, U.S., est. 2010

Sources: FBI 2013 UCR, RAND 2010OP279 report, multiple original


Clark County, Nevada

Clark County is the County seat for the City of Henderson, Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Boulder City, City of Mesquite, and several townships. The County is situated in the southern-most portion of the State of Nevada. The Las Vegas Strip is principally located in an unincorporated area of the County.

The following excerpts are from www.clarkcountynv.gov, retrieved 8-30-15: “…Clark County is the Nation’s 13th largest county, covering an area the size of New Jersey, and provides regional services to more than 2.1 million citizens and more than 44 million visitors a year… Clark County includes the 9th busiest airport in the Nation, and provides municipal services that are traditionally provided by cities to about 930,000 residents in the unincorporated areas.”

Clark County and the City of Las Vegas share budget requirements to fund the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD), which includes the LVMPD Forensic Laboratory.

Tangible Costs of Crime, Clark County, NV, 2013

Sources: FBI 2013 UCR, RAND 2010OP279 report, multiple original

Tangible & Intangible Costs of Crime, Clark County, NV, 2013

Sources: FBI 2013 UCR, RAND 2010OP279 report, multiple original




    Cost of Crime in Clark County, 2013 UCR Crimes

City of Henderson, Nevada

The City of Henderson is the second largest city in Nevada with a 2014 population estimated at 277,440 (source: quickfacts.census.gov, retrieved 8-30-15). The City began as a small township during World War II as a supplier of magnesium to support the war effort and has grown to over 107 square miles. As of November 2015, the City of Henderson has a population of approximately 291,000 with a growth rate of approximately 2.3 percent. Source: City Manager's Update (video), 11-5-15.

Henderson has a small (4,500 sq. ft.) forensic laboratory that provides limited services for the City including: crime scene investigation, evidence processing, blood alcohol analysis, blood drug analysis, controlled substance/drug analysis, fingerprint comparison and footwear/tire print examination and comparison. Henderson’s lab supports many of the forensic analysis needs of Boulder City. The lab also occasionally conducts limited analysis for agencies in various parts of Nevada, when their needs are critical and immediate, as the other public forensic (crime) laboratory in southern Nevada (LVMPD) has significant backlogs and cannot fully support the region.

A formal study, referred to as a “Forensic Laboratory Needs Assessment” was commissioned by the City in 2014. The $70,000 study was paid through private funds provided from those raised by NevadaCSI (this site). A subsequent in-depth study for pre-planning, design, and cost estimates was commissioned by the City with an additional $100,000 granted by NevadaCSI through the Henderson Community Foundation. The second of the studies was completed in December 2015. The information gained through those studies was used to determine the need for, and the scope of this project to meet our communities' needs.


Tangible Costs of Crime, Henderson, NV, 2013

Sources: FBI 2013 UCR, RAND 2010OP279 report, multiple original

Tangible & Intangible Costs of Crime, Henderson, Nevada, 2013

Sources: FBI 2013 UCR, RAND 2010OP279 report, multiple original




    Cost of Crime in Henderson, 2013 UCR Crimes

Boulder City, Nevada

Boulder City is located approximately 26 miles south east of Las Vegas, and about 11 miles south east of Henderson. It was first developed as a federal site to house the workers who built Hoover Dam (previously known as Boulder Dam). Boulder City’s population in 2014 was estimated at 15,386 (source: quickfacts.census.gov).

The Henderson Forensic Laboratory conducts the following services for Boulder City: Blood alcohol analysis, blood drug analysis, controlled substance/drug analysis, fingerprint comparison, and footwear/tire print examination and comparison.

City of North Las Vegas, Nevada

The City of North Las Vegas (NLV) occupies approximately 100 square miles of the northern portion of the Las Vegas valley. It is the fourth largest City in Nevada, with a 2014 population estimated at 230,788. The City does not have a forensic laboratory and relies on the LVMPD forensic laboratory and other forensic labs for their evidence analysis needs. The FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR) information for the City is included separately, some of which is provided on this page in addition to crime cost information. Info sources: www.cityonorthlasvegas.com and www.quickfacts.census.gov, retrieved 8-30-15.

City of Mesquite, Nevada

The City of Mesquite occupies the northeast corner of Clark County, near the Utah border and adjacent to the Arizona border. Families began settling in the “Mesquite Flats” and Virgin River Valley from 1878. The 2014 population was estimated at 18,262 and has an area of approximately 32 square miles. The City does not have a forensic laboratory and relies on the LVMPD forensic laboratory and other forensic labs for many of their evidence analysis needs. The FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR) information for the City is included separately, some of which is provided on this page in addition to crime cost information.

Info: www.mesquitenv.gov, retrieved 8-30-15.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) is a joint city-county law enforcement agency for the City of Las Vegas and Clark County. LVMPD’s jurisdiction covers 7,560 square miles. The LVMPD is headed by an elected Sheriff.

The LVMPD Forensic Laboratory provides services for many law enforcement organizations in Clark County, including Controlled Substances analysis, DNA, Trace Evidence, Toxicology, Firearms and Toolmarks, and Questioned Documents. As of this writing (August 2015), LVMPD’s forensic laboratory backlogs require outsourcing some of their DNA and Toxicology analysis, as well as all of their footwear/tire impression evidence analysis. Their backlogs and/or other limitations in DNA, Controlled Substances, and Toxicology provide substantial evidence that Clark County’s forensic evidence analysis capability and capacity is critically limited. This problem is not unique to forensic laboratories throughout our Nation. In fact, sadly, it is the norm. (Information courtesy of www.lvmpd.com and other sources.)

Las Vegas, Nevada

The City of Las Vegas, with a population of 619,419 (www.lasvegasnevada.gov), is the largest city in Nevada. It covers 133.8 square miles. The City and Clark County share budget requirements to fund the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD), which includes the LVMPD Forensic Laboratory. FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR) information for the City is included in LVMPD’s service area of responsibility.