The International Review of Law and Economics has published an interesting study by Ming-Jen Lin in Taiwan. Lin has tried to tease a small thread from the complex fabric of social science in order to find out if the intuitive equation that forms the title of this post is indeed a true description. Given certain assumptions, Lin figures that it does, to a statistically significant degree.
Why is this noteworthy? Because good government policy should be evidence-based policy, and that in turn needs – obviously – evidence. Lin isn’t the first to provide such evidence – Levitt makes the same claim in Freakonomics, for example, and Tabarrok & Klick said in the Journal of Law and Economics that 10% more police would reduce crime by 4%. Pleasingly, they all use quite different methods to come to the same conclusion, lending credibility to the results. The visibility of the police is an important factor too.
It suggests to me that governments in Australia can do two or three simple things to reduce crime – hire more police; or better, stop the failed War on Drugs and put the police currently persecuting addicts and teenagers into patrolling and investigating real crimes; and place the extra police in crime hotspots or potential hotspots (ie in entertainment districts where lots of people are drinking alcohol, a notorious cause of crime).
Are you listening, Premier? I don’t mind if you pretend it was your idea – just do it.