Crime Displacement and the Elasticity of Substitution

Graham Farrell, Police Foundation
John Roman, The Urban Institute

Crime displacement is a form of substitution. When the risks of offending change, offeners substitute one form of activity for another. For example, offenders move from one place and target to the next or shift from one technique to another. Alternatively, offenders may substitute criminal behavior with non-criminal behavior. These choices are analogous to consumer behavior when prices change. This paper presents economic models of substitution transformed to criminal behavior. The six known types of displacement (spatial, temporal, tactical, crime type, target, offender) are examined in the economic framework relating to substitution. The role of the elasticity of substitution and its relationship to crime prevention is examined. Implications for the study of crime prevention, displacement and the diffusion of benefits are suggested.

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Updated 05/20/2006