I’ve got a few ideas to post on the general subject of crime. Rather than collecting them into a big rambling essay on Anomaly UK – The Director’s Cut, I’m going to try chucking them out here one at a time as the week goes by.
The first point is that crime which is actually committed is just the tip of the iceberg as far as impact on society is concerned. You can count it up, put a value on it, and say that is the cost of crime. But it doesn’t include everything we spend on successfully preventing crime. Pretty much everything we spend on fences, locks, guards, audits, stocktaking, and, for that matter, police and prisons, is a cost not of the crime that happens but of the crime that doesn’t happen. I would hazard that that cost adds up to the same kind of amount as the cost of the crime that does happen.
But even that isn’t the full story. The biggest cost of crime is the forgone opportunity – all the things we could do, but don’t because we would run too much risk of crime. If you have to take a day off work to let the gas man in, that’s a cost of crime, because without crime you could say “walk in and fix it – call me if there’s a problem”. One of the biggest costs of small business (and some large business) is establishing a reputation for trustworthiness. Our whole way of life is conditioned by the need to make crime difficult, in ways that are so ingrained that they’re difficult to notice.