When Does Crime Respond to Punishment?: Evidence from Drug-Free School Zones
61 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2020 Last revised: 15 Aug 2022
Date Written: August 12, 2022
Economic theory suggests that crime should respond to punishment severity. However, empirical evidence on this link is ambiguous. We propose one explanation for this discrepancy: Punishments deter crime but only when the probability of detection is moderate. Using increases in punishment severity in drug-free school zones along with changes in the probability of detection resulting from a community crime-monitoring program, we demonstrate that drug-related crime drops in blocks just within the drug-free school zones, where punishments are more severe, but only if the monitoring intensity--and hence the probability of detection--is at intermediate levels.
Keywords: crime, deterrence, punishment, fines
JEL Classification: K40, K42, H40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation