Objectives: Monetary cost estimates of criminal careers have been limited to specific samples, specific ages, and focused on the United States. This article is the first to examine the costs of a life course of crime in the United Kingdom. Method: This study uses longitudinal data from 411 South London males from the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development (CSDD) to derive costs-of-crime estimates from childhood to middle adulthood (ages 10 to 50). Additional features include a calculation of cost estimates across distinct offending trajectories and centering on costs per offender. Results: Offending over the life course imposes a considerable amount of economic and social costs and these costs are differentially distributed across offending trajectories. The cost of high-rate chronic offending is nearly two and a half to ten times greater than the cost of high adolescence peaked offending, very low-rate chronic offending, and low adolescence peaked offending, respectively. It is estimated that a male high-rate chronic offender on average would impose an annual cost of £18 ($29) per U.K. citizen or a lifetime cost of £742 ($1,185) per U.K. citizen. Conclusions: As the average and total costs of crime were significantly different across offending trajectories, with high-rate chronics imposing the most financial burden, adopting prevention and intervention strategies aimed at reducing the number of high-rate chronics and/or speeding up their eventual desistance will offer many savings to the public and perhaps turn those negative costs into positive contributions.
- costs of crime