A crime is defined as conduct that is prohibited by state law and punishable by fine or imprisonment or both.
Conduct punishable only by a forfeiture is not a crime. Convicted criminals may be fined by a judge. Some don’t have any money. That’s why they stole in the first place. Others ignore paying. The fine may have included restitution to the victim and court costs. If they don’t pay, it’s the law abiding citizen that gets the bill.
Here are two examples of how crime costs are passed on to the consumer and taxpayer.
Shoplifting and employee theft are crimes against property rights. These rights belong to the business owner. These thefts impact the consumer. Statistics reveal that businesses lose hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to these criminals. To combat these losses businesses invest in security. This means hiring people to install and watch cameras. They may opt to hire security to physically patrol their property. Not taking security measures could increase insurance costs.
Either way the business pays. This cost gets passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices for products or services.
The theft of public property can end up in increased taxes. Stealing a stop sign for a recreation or dorm room can be costly. Removal of the sign at an intersection may cause a collision. The driver of the striking vehicle claims the municipality is at fault due to the lack of a sign. The people in the vehicle that was struck make the same claim because the other person doesn’t have insurance. Both claims could result in a lawsuit against the municipality.
If this collision caused injury, and the individuals involved aren’t covered by insurance, who should pay? The person that stole the sign is the cause and should pay. Even if this thief is arrested and convicted they can’t or won’t pay. So the municipality can be left to pay for the cost of the ambulance, hospital treatment, tow truck, and overtime involved in the investigation. Taxpayers suffer the consequences.
These are only the monetary costs. There are also the costs of mental, physical, and emotional pains suffered by victims. These pains often leave scars.
What can be done to reduce the cost and suffering? Information about criminal activity can be reported to Waupaca County Crime Stoppers. Tips can be made by cell phone text to 274637, by computer tips to www.tipsubmit.com, or by phone to 88-258- 9955. Rewards are paid for tips that result in arrests.
To learn more, visit www.waupacacountycrimestoppers.org.
Let’s keep Waupaca County a safe place to live and work.
Bernie Kocher is with Waupaca County Crime Stoppers.