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Crime rates are unaffected by the severity of the punishments attached to offences, according to new research from HEC Paris business school.

The study, conducted by Professor Michel Lander, examined social, economic and demographic data from 100 counties across North Carolina to see whether the factors which drive individuals to commit violent crimes are different to those which encourage crimes against property. These included social factors such as; integration, conflict, inequality, control, and economic triggers such as the likelihood of being caught and the severity of punishment.

The study revealed that the severity of the punishment, even for offences which held the threat of long-term prison sentences or capital punishment did not reduce crime rates. In fact, increasing police presence in the community – and therefore the chance of getting caught – was a far better deterrent.

“To know how to prevent crime, we really have to understand its drivers, as different crimes are prompted by different environmental causes. Property offences, for example, are highly linked to social factors such as poverty and the absence of guardians. This means that originating from a larger household may make a person less likely to commit property crimes, yet will have almost no influence over whether they may be involved in a violent crime”, says Professor Lander.

Lander suggests police services should be more aware of the diversity within their communities as his study revealed a strong correlation between heterogeneity and crime. Furthermore, his findings suggest that the presence of local social services – vocational programmes, community support schemes and greater guardianship are vital in promoting societal inclusion and in reducing crime rates.

He adds: “Where economists and social scientists often disagree about what drives criminal activity, I believe both perspectives must interact in order for us to maximise our understanding and response. If governments are serious about reducing crime, they will have to draw information from both of these approaches.”

More details about the research can be found here on the Knowledge@HEC platform.

About HEC Paris:

Specializing in management education and research, HEC Paris offers a complete and unique range of educational programs for the leaders of tomorrow: Masters programs, Summer School, MBA, PhD, Executive MBA, TRIUM Global Executive MBA, open-enrolment and custom executive education programs.

Founded in 1881 by the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry, HEC Paris is a founding member of the Université Paris-Saclay. It boasts a faculty of 138 full-time professors, more than 4,400 students and over 8,000 managers and executives in training each year.

HEC Paris was ranked second business school in Europe by the Financial Times’ overall business school ranking in December 2015. @HECParis

For more information or to request an interview with Michel Lander, please contact Kerry Gill on or 01582 790701

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