Let's say you take a particular crime, like shoplifting. There must be statistics for that crime. The police probably have a database somewhere of all the shoplifting that occurs in a given time period in a given area.
So, for the sake of argument, let's say that the average shoplifter takes fifty dollars worth of goods. $50.00
It's probably equally easy to estimate what percentage of shoplifters are caught. It'd depend on where you go to shoplift and how smart you are about it, but let's say you get caught two-thirds of the time. 66.7%
And, of course, it's easy to estimate the average punishment if you are caught. Very often, shoplifters are kids who get away with a warning. If they are adults who get convicted, though... well, the signs in the department stores say you can be fined thousands of dollars.
Again, just for the sake of argument, let's say the average punishment is five hundred bucks: $500
Now, look at those numbers. You can see that the average result of a shoplifting caper is profoundly negative:
$50 x 33.3% - $500 x 66.7% = $16.65 - $333.5 = -$316.85
The average shoplifter, if we use our numbers, faces a loss of three hundred bucks. Given these made-up figures, only an idiot would shoplift. It's a loser's game. Let's look at a more profitable crime.
Let's pretend the average break'n'enter nets a thousand dollars. You go in when the family's away, aim for jewelry, appliances, safety deposit box.... that's at least a thousand there.
Breaking and entering, if you know the family isn't home, is relatively safe. The cops can almost never trace the stolen jewelry. Let's say there's only a ten percent chance you get caught.
If you do get caught, let's say you get fined five thousand dollars, or face the equivalent jail time. (Judges often offer x fine or y jail time. It should be easy to establish a conversion rate.).
$1000 x 90% - $5000 x 10% = $900 - $500 = $400
According to these highly fictional stats, the average break and enter nets four hundred dollars, a clear victory for the criminal underworld.
Actual statistics on these crimes should not be too hard to find. It would be fairly easy for someone with said stats to create what I call the Crime Profitability Index. It would look something like this:
|Grand Theft Auto||$2300|
|Breaking and Entering||$400|
|Armed Robbery (convenience store)||$43.88|
|Armed Robbery (bank)||-$204.66|
Ah, so many completely made up numbers...
Such an index would be of incalculable use to the criminal underworld. It by no means represents a guarantee, but it does show those crimes which do, on average, pay. It's like knowing the stats of a given sports team before betting on them.
Similarly, such an index would be invaluable to the judicial system, which would alter its fines and whatnot so that every crime is in the red. Having every crime in the red, in turn, would discourage potential criminals.
I dunno. It's just an idea.