Modeling the Cycles of Gang and Criminal Behavior: Understanding the Social and Economic Influences


One of the challenges in developing policy for dealing with asocial behavior, such as burglary, vehicle theft, or violent crimes is the seemingly unpredictable rise and fall of activity. In retrospect these cycles in crime are often attributed to changes in factors such the size of a police force, level unemployment, or high school drop-out rate. What causes changes in these factors can some times be external to a local community, such as economic shifts affecting tax revenue, however many are internally linked. For example when crime is high, there is a call for more police and when crime is low, there is a justification for reducing the size of the force. Therefore, understanding how these factors are linked together as a whole may allow for better policies that reduce asocial behavior further and create more stability in the long term.

To approach this problem, this paper will discuss an extension of a generic structure developed by Khalid Saeed and Oleg Pavlov (2007) that explores the role of resource allocation in creating cycles in political economies, markets, and other systems with competition over resources. Figure 1 provides an overview of this structure, where three interconnected stocks compete for a resource, affecting one another directly or indirectly. Through this structure control resources are collected and put towards combating asocial behaviors. However, the collection of control resources in the form of taxes also reduces social freedom and economic prosperity, which increases motivations for asocial activity and thus counteracts some of the gains made in controlling asocial behaviors. Only the civilian resources stock has a direct positive effect on 1 welfare, and yet it is caught in the middle of those seeking to control the system and those seeking to exploit it.

Resource allocation microstructure

Modeling Crime Cycles from Bruce Skarin on Vimeo.