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Methodology Changes in Public Safety Cost-Benefit Analysis


Although more than 100 billion dollars is spent each year on policing, we know very little about what works, and still less about whether the benefits of various policing policies and practices outweigh the costs. In particular, although there has been some important work done to assess the effects of various practices, and even to monetize some of the benefits of reducing crime, there has been virtually no attention paid to the other side of the benefit-cost equation: the social costs that particular policing practices potentially can impose. In February 2017, the Policing Project at NYU School of Law held a conference aimed at jumpstarting the use of benefit-cost analysis to assess policing practices, and to begin to tackle the many methodological challenges to doing so. Here, we provide an overview of the existing literature, identify the serious gaps that remain, and sketch out a research agenda for moving forward.

Ponomarenko, M., & Friedman, B. (2017). Benefit-Cost Analysis of Public Safety: Facing the Methodological ChallengesJournal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, 8(3), 305-329. doi:10.1017/bca.2017.28

While focussed largely on policing actions, I believe much of the discussion around alternative pricing models for costing and realisation of benefits could be used or adapted for national security and other public safety fields.

For anyone attending this years Society of Benefit-Cost Analysis’s Annual Conference, this is a pre-conference workshop entitled “Putting Benefit Cost Analysis into Practice: Creating a Criminal Justice BCA Model” which seems to cover similar ground, again with an emphasis on policing models. If you attend this workshop, let me know what you thought.

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