Less Crime, More (Vulnerable) Victims: Game Theory and the Distributional Effects of Criminal Sanctions

Ehud Guttel and Barak Medina

Harsh sanctions are conventionally assumed to primarily benefit vulnerable targets. Contrary to this perception, this article shows that augmented sanctions often serve the less vulnerable targets. While decreasing crime, harsher sanctions also induce the police to shift enforcement efforts from more to less vulnerable victims. When this shift is substantial, augmented sanctions exacerbate--rather than reduce--the risk to vulnerable victims. Based on this insight, this article suggests several normative implications concerning the efficacy of enhanced sanctions, the importance of victims' funds,and the connection between police operations and apprehension rates.

December, 2007
Published in: 
Review of Law & Economics 3 (2007), 407-435