The cost of crimes against property and people in Uruguay in 2010 totaled at least $1.2 billion, which was equivalent to 3.1 percent of the country’s gross national product.
This was the conclusion of a new study carried out at the country’s Economic Research Center by researchers Aboal Diego, Jorge Campanella, and Bibiana Lanzilotta, with the collaboration of Magdalena Dominguez and Maren Vairo.
The study is one of eight selected in a competition organized by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to measure with appropriate methodologies and innovative the cost of crime and violence in Latin America and the Caribbean, which are being presented by the authors in a seminar held on 24 and 25 January at IDB headquarters.
Crime rates in Uruguay are generally lower than in other Latin American countries. However, the growth of certain crimes over the past 20 years has put the subject at the top of the public agenda, according to the study. It adds that cost calculations for crime can be a useful input for formulating public policy and public debate.
The research analyzes kinds of criminal activities as follows: property crimes (76 percent in 2010), personal injury crimes (14.4 percent), sexual crimes (0, 6 percent), smuggling (0.1 percent), and other offenses (8.8 percent).
The study’s calculations include the cost of security and crime prevention,the criminal justice system, incarceration and rehabilitation of criminals,stolen goods, health, loss of life, and loss of productive time of prison inmates.
It then groups costs in three categories: those incurred in preparing for crime, as a consequence of crime, and in response to crime.
The largest component of the total figure is costs associated with preparing for crime, which account to US$738 million, or 1.90 percent of GDP. Included was public and private spending on security and administrative costs of insurance companies.
The second largest component was the result of crime, where costs totaled $319 million, or 0.81 percent of GDP. Included was the cost of stolen property, opportunity time in prison, homicides, and intangible costs of victims of other crimes.
The third component was costs of responding to crime, which totaled $145 million, equivalent to 0.37 percent of GDP. This includes public spending on the judiciary, incarceration and rehabilitation, and private expenditure on criminal legal aid.
Finally, the study highlights limitations in the analysis that tend to result in lower estimates of total costs. Therefore, according to the study, the estimate that crime costs the equivalent of 3.1 percent of GDP should be considered a minimum.