Cost-benefit analysis and its application to crime prevention and criminal justice research


Cost-benefit analysis is one of a number of ways of measuring the impact and effectiveness of crime prevention programs and has been used by governments in Australia and elsewhere to determine the utility of a given program or intervention. In essence, cost-benefit analysis is an analytical tool that compares the total costs of an intervention or program against its total expected benefits; it assists in answering the question ‘has the money been well spent?’.

In this report, a description is provided of when and how such analyses of crime prevention programs have been used and a number of cost-benefit analyses are reviewed, using a tool developed to assess the merit of cost-benefit analysis. It is noteworthy that a number of the programs that have shown a reduction in the risk of crime have not been developed by criminologists or law enforcement personnel, nor has crime prevention been the primary objective. Rather, a crime prevention effect has occurred as part of a suite of positive outcomes.

This report improves our understanding of the application of cost-benefit analysis and provides ways in which to make this important analytical tool more responsive and effective, which will help to ensure sustained investment in quality crime justice and crime prevention programs.