Deterrence and Avoidance

41 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2005 Last revised: 2 May 2014

See all articles by Jacob Nussim

Jacob Nussim

Bar-Ilan University - Faculty of Law

Avraham D. Tabbach

Tel Aviv University

Date Written: October 20, 2005


This paper explores the effects of public enforcement, in general, and punishment, in particular, on crime levels if offenders can engage in avoidance activities. Avoidance reduces the probability or magnitude of punishment. In general, offenders can reduce their expected punishment either by substituting legal for criminal activities (the deterrent effect) or by increasing avoidance activities. This paper shows that increasing the direct costs of crime - by either increasing punishment or enforcement efforts - does not necessarily deter criminal activity and may actually trigger increased crime, if avoidance is possible. Furthermore, this paper shows that increasing the opportunity costs of crime (e.g., by subsidizing legal alternatives or through education or vocational programs) reduces both crime and avoidance and in this respect is advantageous. The conditions for such outcomes are identified, the economic mechanisms explained, and an underlying intuitive approach for these results proposed.

Keywords: Crime, Punishment, Deterrence, Avoidance, Self-Protection, Enforcement

JEL Classification: J2, K14

Suggested Citation

Nussim, Jacob and Tabbach, Avraham D., Deterrence and Avoidance (October 20, 2005). Available at SSRN: or

Jacob Nussim (Contact Author)

Bar-Ilan University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Faculty of Law
Ramat Gan, 52900
972-3-531-7088 (Phone)
972-3-535-1856 (Fax)

Avraham D. Tabbach

Tel Aviv University ( email )

Ramat Aviv
Tel Aviv, 69978

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