Any-Where Any-Time: Ambiguity and the Perceived Probability of Apprehension

UMKC Law Review 84(1) (2015) 27-59

33 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2013 Last revised: 19 Aug 2016

Date Written: January 19, 2013


Enforcement is a costly endeavour. Thus, governments ought to be innovative in designing less costly policies, yet, effective in preventing crime. To this end, this paper suggests using insights from behavioural law and economics. Empirical evidence demonstrates that police have an important effect in deterring crime. However, increasing the number of policemen is a costly policy. Therefore, this paper explores policy changes which exploit offender’s ambiguity aversion in order to reduce crime without increasing the police force. Namely, empirical evidence suggests that criminals are better deterred by ambiguous detection. Thus, this paper analyses the ways to randomize the apprehension strategies to meet this end. Furthermore, it provides new evidence, based on a survey, that potential violators are largely not aware of policy changes. Inasmuch as the information regarding the intensified uncertainty is essential to its success, this paper discusses the possibility to increase criminals’ awareness through the ‘availability heuristic’.

Keywords: Ambiguity, randomness, criminal law, availability heuristic, law and economics, perceived deterrence

JEL Classification: K14, K42

Suggested Citation

Kantorowicz-Reznichenko, Elena, Any-Where Any-Time: Ambiguity and the Perceived Probability of Apprehension (January 19, 2013). UMKC Law Review 84(1) (2015) 27-59. Available at SSRN: or

Elena Kantorowicz-Reznichenko (Contact Author)

Erasmus University Rotterdam ( email )


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