Self-protection, Psychological Externalities, and the Social Dynamics of Fear

We examine the social dynamics of crime by means of evolutionary game theory, and we model the choice of boundedly rational potential victims to privately self-protect against prospective offenders. Negative externalities from self-protection, as the socially transmitted fear of victimization, can influence the strategic choices of victims even with constant or declining crime rates, and this circumstance may lead to Pareto inefficient equilibria with excessive expenses for private protection. Providing higher levels of public security (or of appropriate social care) financed through discriminatory taxation of private defensive behaviors can prevent crime andreduce superfluous selfprotection, thus driving the social dynamics toward a more efficient equilibrium.
Public policy can therefore be effective in implementing the social optimum. This article extends previous work by Cressman, Morrison, and Wen by increasing the range of possible dynamics and the scope for public intervention. Consequently, in our model, public policy can deter crime and improve the welfare of victims by addressing the intangible aspects of crime, that is, the social dynamics of fear.

Article by Angelo Antoci, Alessandro Fiori Maccioni, Pier Luigi Sacco, Mauro Sodini
Published in Journal of Conflict Resolution 1-23 (2015)

From the Conclusions (excerpt)
(…) A major conclusion of our analysis is that the dynamics of crime depend on subtle interactions among economic, social, and psychological elements. This concept has been earlier pointed out byBraithwaite (2000) and is related to the contemporary transition to a risk society (Beck 1992) where social and psychological elements play an increasing role in the context of safety. Still, the literature seems to lack an interdisciplinary framework that brings together the concepts of the economics of crimewith the insights from sociology and psychology. Filling this gap requires a formidable amount of work, in that it is necessary to acquire a profound knowledge of very different streams of literature and of alternative methodological approaches, which should be combined creatively and fruitfully into a suitable analytical framework. This article is a first attempt to fill this gap and we hope that it will stimulate the achievement of this goal.(…).

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