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Crime, Inequality, and the Private Provision of Security

46 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2011  

Jan Heufer

Erasmus School of Economics; Tinbergen Institute

Date Written: July 1, 2011


In a high-crime environment with many high-income citizens, private security companies which offer protection against crime can flourish. In this article crime is modeled as a game where richer victims yield a higher return on crime, but with decreasing returns to crime as more criminals choose crime to supplement their income. Private security providers off er protection against crime and face Cournot competition. The model allows for the analysis of market clearing prices for effort against crime. Among the implications of the model are that rising inequality will lead to more expenditure on protection against crime, and that the upper income classes are suffering from the same or lower crime density than the middle income class. Taking into account the response of criminals and victims, rising inequality can actually lead to less crime if either (i) the legal income opportunity of the marginal criminal increases or (ii) marginal utility from income decreases and richer individuals spend a higher proportion of their income on protection (i.e. protection is a superior good). Often the middle class suffers from higher crime densities as inequality increases, as the increased spending on protection by the upper class (i) shifts crime to the middle class and (ii) increases market prices for protection, leaving the middle class with less affordable protection against crime. Emigration of the middle class can then further increase inequality. This highlights the importance of taking into account the response of individuals against crime and shows that the link between inequality and crime is a complex one.

Keywords: crime, inequality, competition of security companies, private enforcement of law, private provision of security

JEL Classification: D10, D30, D40, K42, L10

Suggested Citation

Heufer, Jan, Crime, Inequality, and the Private Provision of Security (July 1, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Jan Heufer (Contact Author)

Erasmus School of Economics ( email )


Tinbergen Institute ( email )

P.O. Box 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam

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