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Prev Sci. 2006 Dec;7(4):333-42.

Costs of alcohol and drug-involved crime.

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Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, 11701 Beltsville Drive, Suite 300, Calverton, MD 20705, USA.


A large proportion of violent and property crimes involve alcohol or other drugs (AOD). AOD use only causes some of these crimes. This paper estimates the costs of AOD-involved and AOD-attributable crimes. Crime counts are from government statistics adjusted for underreporting. The AOD-involved portion of crime costs is estimated from inmate surveys on alcohol and illicit drug use at the time of the crime. The costs and AOD-attributable portion of AOD-involved crimes come from published studies. They include tangible medical, mental health, property loss, future earnings, public services, adjudication, and sanctioning costs, as well as the value of pain and suffering. An estimated 5.4 million violent crimes and 8 million property crimes involved AOD use in 1999. Those AOD-involved crimes cost society over 6.5 billion dollars in medical and mental health care and almost 65 billion dollars in other tangible expenses (in 1999 dollars). If the value of pain, suffering, and lost quality of life is added, AOD-involved crime costs totaled 205 billion dollars. Violent crimes accounted for more than 85% of the costs. Roughly estimated, crimes attributable to alcohol cost 84 billion dollars, more than 2 times the 38 billion dollars attributable to drugs. Although American media--news and entertainment--dwell on the links between drugs and crime, alcohol-attributable crime costs are double drug-attributable ones. Effective efforts to reduce the abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs should reduce costs associated with crime.

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