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Essays on the Economics of Urban Crime


This dissertation focuses on what determines crime and victimization in the urban space. The theoretical basis of this work strongly rests on the contributions of Gary Becker and Ronald V. Clarke to the crime literature. Chapter one offers a brief and selected overview of many important contributions in the economics of crime literature. I focus on some particular puzzles and the kind of solutions that have been offered in the last fifty years where the understanding regarding the role of prisons as a crime-control policy tool is critically assessed. I emphasize the complexity and multi-causal nature of crime as a way to motivate the theoretical and empirical contributions of chapters two and three. In the following chapters I pay special attention on how criminal activity reacts to changes in incentives or situational factors under different theoretical and empirical settings. Chapter two is devoted to understand criminal activity in the public transportation sector which represents a salient place where criminal activity takes place. I incorporate a simple model of offenders and victim's interactions to describe how victim's behavior reacts and determines the set of criminal opportunities available for potential offenders. Empirically, I exploit a set of subsequent reforms in the public transportation system where variations to driver's incentives as well as the availability of cash substantially altered the amount and the nature of criminal activity observed. In chapter three, jointly written with Kenzo Asahi, we study the effect of a particular situational factor such as ambient light on crime. In both cases, the evidence I find supports the relevance of incentives. I identify specific policy changes or situational deviations whose effects in terms of criminal victimization can be equivalent to enormous public policy interventions in terms of prosecution. All findings presented in this dissertation attempts to enlarge the growing body of scientific understanding regarding criminal activity in urban areas.

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