Opportunity Costs and Crime Clearance


Grits inspired me revisit Opportunity Costs.
The graph is from the FBI’s recent Crime in the US study. It shows the clearance rate for real crime; crimes with victims. A case is cleared by arrest or when a perpetrator is identified.
These numbers represent the Opportunity Cost of the Drug War. The criminal justice resources spent chasing pot smokers and steroid users can not be spent on rapists and burglars. The consequence of choosing Prohibition is that 60% of rapists and 40% of murderers go free.
What do you think the “clearance” rate is for marijuana possession? Probably much less than 1%. Yet the cost of cannabis Prohibition enforcement is that officers are not looking for rapists. Prosecutors are so busy with dope cases that they have less time for real crime.
Prohibition is why innocent men are convicted and cases go unsolved. The system does not have enough resources to do quality work on crimes that matter and chase down all the consumers of controlled substances. In Kaufman county, where I practice, at least 50% of all indictments are for drug cases. Think of the wasted criminal justice resources that could be better spent on real crime.
We have enough jail space, prosecutors, and police officers to apprehend and lock up every violent criminal in the country. We choose not to when we choose Prohibition.


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