Mobile Phones and Crime Deterrence: An Underappreciated Link

Research Handbook on the Economics of Criminal Law, Alon Harel and Keith N. Hylton, eds., August, 2012

U of Penn, Inst for Law & Econ Research Paper No. 12-33

17 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2012 Last revised: 5 Nov 2013

Jonathan Klick

University of Pennsylvania Law School; Erasmus School of Law; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

John MacDonald

University of Pennsylvania

Thomas Stratmann

George Mason University - Buchanan Center Political Economy; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Date Written: January 1, 2012

Abstract

Between 1991 and 2001, crime rates dropped by about a third across all crime categories. We suggest that the introduction and growth of mobile phone technology may have contributed to the crime decline in the 1990s, specifically in the areas of rape and assault. Given that mobile phones increase surveillance and the risks of apprehension when committing crimes against strangers, an expansion of this technology would increase the costs of crime as perceived by forward-looking criminals. We use the available mobile phone data to show that there is a strongly negative association between mobile phones and violent crimes, although data limitations preclude us from being able to make any claims about causality. We show how the intuition about mobile phones providing crime deterrence fits in well with modern discussions in the crime literature regarding optimal policy and the expanding use of private security precautions in crime prevention.

Keywords: crime, cell phones

Suggested Citation

Klick, Jonathan and MacDonald, John and Stratmann, Thomas, Mobile Phones and Crime Deterrence: An Underappreciated Link (January 1, 2012). Research Handbook on the Economics of Criminal Law, Alon Harel and Keith N. Hylton, eds., August, 2012; U of Penn, Inst for Law & Econ Research Paper No. 12-33. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2130234 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2130234

Jonathan Klick

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
2157463455 (Phone)

Erasmus School of Law ( email )

3000 DR Rotterdam
Netherlands

PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

John MacDonald

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

483 McNeil Building
3718 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215-646-3623 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.crim.upenn.edu/faculty_macdonald.htm

Thomas Stratmann (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Buchanan Center Political Economy ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States
703-993-2330 (Phone)

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

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