The Deterrence Hypothesis and Picking Pockets at the Pickpocket's Hanging

28 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2000

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 2000


The tenet that harsher penalties could substantially reduce crime rates rests on the assumption that currently active criminals weigh the costs and benefits of their contemplated acts. Existing and proposed crime strategies exhibit this belief, as does a large and growing segment of the crime literature. Using a new approach, this study examines the premise that criminals make informed and rational decisions, presents findings on the influences affecting criminals, and discusses crime prevention strategies that respond to the apparent roots of criminal behavior. The results suggest that 76 percent of active criminals and 89 percent of the most violent criminals either perceive no risk of apprehension or have no thought about the likely punishments for their crimes. Still more criminals are undeterred by harsher punishments because drugs, psychosis, ego, revenge, or fight-or-flight impulses inhibit the desired responses to traditional prevention methods.

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Anderson, David Anton, The Deterrence Hypothesis and Picking Pockets at the Pickpocket's Hanging (March 2000). Available at SSRN: or

David Anton Anderson (Contact Author)

Centre College ( email )

600 West Walnut Street
Department of Economics
Danville, KY 40422
United States
859-238-5282 (Phone)
859-238-5774 (Fax)


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