Effective Crime Prevention: Assessing Costs and Benefits in an Australian Community

Lisa Kennedy, University of Queensland

This paper examines the contribution that cost benefit analysis (CBA) can make to evidence based policy development. In particular, the paper deals with the issue of how the evidence from CBA studies can be contextualised to assess the costs and benefits for a specific community. The effect sizes from meta-analyses of the effectiveness of various crime prevention programs implemented in North America are used to model the cost and benefits of crime prevention in a community using cost data from Australia. The cost per participant to implement crime prevention programs is generally higher in Australia, whereas the cost of running the criminal justice system is generally lower. So even if a crime prevention program reduces crime at the same rate as program run in the US, the savings to the criminal justice system are less because it is cheaper to run, while implementing programs is more expensive. The result is that the crime-related benefit-to-cost ratio is often lower in Australia than those demonstrated by US-based organisations, such as RAND and the Washington State Institute for Public Policy for the US. The conclusions are outlined with reference to the socio-political context in Australia which is reflected in political and administrative structures that constrain policy development.

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Updated 05/20/2006