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The Feasibility of Cost of Crime Estimations in Eastern Europe – The Case of Poland


Estimates of cost of crime have gradually been introduced into the public debate on crime policy. Estimates differ in their scope and methodologies and this impedes international comparisons. This article follows the model of estimating costs of crime developed under the 6th Framework Programme and provides the comparable results of costs of crime in Poland. The total costs of crime have been estimated at 5.1% of GDP. In particular, the victimisation costs of violent crimes have been estimated at 1.94% of GDP and the costs of property crimes against individuals at 0.5% of GDP. The results are in line with estimates for other countries and provide the relevant measure for any cost-benefit analysis of a crime policy.

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  1. The project has been funded by the European Commission under the Sixth Framework Programme. See for the details about the project and participants.

  2. For history of cost of crime estimates and their applications, see generally Cohen (2005) and Czabański (2008).

  3. Estimates of cost of crime have been mostly done in English speaking countries. Recent studies for the US are Cohen (1988), Miller et al. (1996), Anderson (1999), for the UK Brand and Price (2000), Dubourg et al. (2005), for Australia Mayhew (2003), for New Zealand Roper and Thompson (2006). There are no estimates for other EU countries than UK, with the exception of a short article of Palle and Godefroy (1999) for France.

  4. The other approach, top-down, tries to measure the cost of crime by, mainly, the willingness to pay to avoid certain crimes by the general public. In theory, it would allow for measuring such devasting consequences of crime like fear. See Cohen (2007) for the discussion of these two approaches.

  5. See Van Dijk et al. (2008) for international results of the survey and Siemaszko et al (2008) for the discussion of Polish data.

  6. Gruszczyńska (2008) reports that victimisation among high school students (13–15 year old) is widespread, with prevalence rates up to 35% for a few crime types (robbery, assault, theft, bullying).

  7. See Schelling (1968) for the first expression of the notion of it being a neccessity to use a value of statistical life.

  8. Source: statistical tables of the Central Statistical Office, available at

  9. It may not be the case in health economics, where the life expectancy of particular patients may be an important factor in analysing the benefits of treatment.

  10. In the Polish ICVS, only women were asked about sexual offences.

  11. 19 women were victimised once, 5 twice, 6 three times, and 2 five times.

  12. See, for example, Cohen (1988), Miller et al. (1996), Brand and Price (2000), Dubourg et al. (2005).

  13. See Becker (1968), Anderson (1999).

  14. Czabański (2008), p. 108–110.

  15. A report of the Centre for Retail Research, presented in November 2008. A press release available here: (last accessed 11 February 2009.)

  16. The total burden of imprisonment is calculated as: (the average lenght of unsuspended imprisonment for a given crime plus the probability of executing the suspended imprisonment times the length of such imprisonment) times the number of imprisonment conviction for a given crime.

  17. Elsewhere, I argue that cost of crime estimates provide valid weights for measuring benefits of crime reduction. See Czabański (2008), p. 101 ff.

  18. In 2003, the prosecution service finalized 1,535,375 investigations of which 402,292 went before the court (26%). 693,616 cases (45%) were dropped because no offenders could be identified. The rest were dismissed for various reasons: no evidence the alleged crime had been committed, or the act was not criminal in nature (source: Ministry of Justice reports on the functioning of the public prosecution service.)

  19. In 2003, courts acquitted about 2.5% of the accused (source: Ministry of Justice reports on the verdicts of the criminal courts.)

  20. Driving while intoxicated is not the main reason of death by dangerous driving. In 2003, less than 10% of car accidents leading to death in Poland were caused by intoxicated drivers. Much more common reason is speeding.


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I would particularly like to thank Roger Bowles and Richard Dubourg for many valuable comments they provided during their visit to Poland in November 2008.

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Correspondence to Jacek Czabański.

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Czabański, J. The Feasibility of Cost of Crime Estimations in Eastern Europe – The Case of Poland. Eur J Crim Policy Res 15, 327–342 (2009).

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