Cost of crime in Philly? A lot

Posted: June 20, 2012

THE ANNUAL COST of violent crime in Philadelphia averages more than $472 per person, or a total of $736 million in 2010 alone. That's just one eye-popping conclusion of a new study examining costs associated with violent crime.

The yearlong study by the Center for American Progress that was released Tuesday analyzed the direct and intangible costs associated with murders, robberies, assaults and rapes in eight U.S. cities, including Philadelphia.

Direct costs are those borne by residents and city governments for increased spending on policing, prosecuting and incarcerating violent offenders; and by the victims of violent crime in medical expenses and lost income; as well as foregone tax revenue to cities.

In the case of Philadelphia, the costs are staggering. The report's authors concluded that the direct, annual costs of violent crime in Philadelphia in 2010 came to $736 million. When intangible costs associated with violent crime are factored in — such as the pain and suffering of surviving victims — the tab for violent crime here topped out at $3.7 billion a year.

And, as Philadelphia has painfully learned, more money spent on policing and crime-fighting means less money for schools and infrastructure, not to mention increased taxes on residents and businesses.

The report did not attempt to calculate the costs of reducing violent crime, but said a 10 percent reduction could reduce total government costs by an average of $240 per resident per year here.

However, it said the largest economic benefits arise from the impact that lower violent-crime rates have on housing values.

The authors — Robert Shapiro, a senior fellow at Georgetown University, and Kevin Hassett, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute — found that, on average, a reduction in a given year of one murder in a ZIP code could boost housing values by 1.5 percent the following year and yield additional savings and increased revenues for the city and its surrounding burbs.

If the region could reduce its murder rate by just 10 percent per year, residential property values could increase by as much as $3.2 billion a year and substantially expand revenues from property taxes, the study found. n

Contact Michael Hinkelman at 215-854-2656 or hinkelm@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @MHinkelman.

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