April 13, 2024

Source: The crime report

A recent research report has found that the sharing economy, which includes businesses like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb, could be disruptive enough to influence crime trends and bring crime down.

The research article, titled Crime Sharing: How the Sharing Economy May Impact Crime Victims, was authored by Ben Stickle, Ph.D., a professor of Criminal Justice Administration at Middle Tennessee State University.

Aside from a decrease in criminal activity, Stickle also sees the sharing economy potentially influencing a move away from traditional, government-run justice systems towards prevention and alternative dispute resolution. This is because the sharing economy alters the circumstances in which crimes can be committed and, purportedly, increases safety through digital place managers, guardians and handlers.

Stickle argues that the sharing economy prioritizes the well-being of victims and often seeks out alternative methods for resolving disputes outside of the criminal justice system.

What is the “sharing economy?” 

The sharing economy can be defined as the sharing of under-utilized goods or ‘service capacity’ through an intermediary without transfer of ownership.

The sharing economy, which allows individuals to share resources such as homes, cars, and tools, is multiplying.

This trend is changing how people interact and share goods and services and could significantly impact the criminal justice system. Using contracts and rating systems, the sharing economy could reduce crime, increase safety, and provide alternatives to traditional, government-run justice systems.

The research notes how contract violations can be resolved in private courts, which empowers individuals and prioritizes the well-being of victims.

Stickle’s analysis of a study of 40 popular sharing economy websites found that the majority had rating systems in place, provided access to contracts, and specified arbitration as a means of resolving disputes, suggesting that the sharing economy and private regulation are shaping the justice system in ways that enhance safety, reduce crime, and empower individuals.

The sharing economy has grown in popularity since the 2008 recession, which caused people to look for different streams of income and cheaper alternatives to goods and services. It also was a time of increased use of social media and smartphones.

Sharing Economy Companies And Lower Crime Rates

The argument that ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft potentially have a positive impact on crime rates is backed by a recent study. A 2018 study found that fatal car crashes in areas where Uber operated for years decreased by 17-40%. Other crimes, like robbery and assault, didn’t change, but offenses related to alcohol, like DUI and disorderly conduct, went down.

Other studies have found similar results, with reduced traffic fatalities in Brazilian cities and decreased arrests for impaired driving in Houston, Texas. In addition, Lyft’s 2017 economic impact report said that 88% of customers use their service to avoid drinking and driving.

Stickle acknowledges that more research is needed to understand how the sharing economy will impact other forms of crime.

How To Look at The Sharing Economy’s Effect On Crime

One way of understanding crime is called The Routine Activities Approach, which looks at how everyday activities create opportunities for crime. This approach is part of the crooks of Stickle’s research study as he sees this approach as useful in understanding crime and prevention methods in the sharing economy.

The Routine Activities Approach focuses on three things: a motivated offender, a suitable target, and the place where the offender and target meet. This idea is often represented as a “crime triangle.”

The approach was improved by adding “controllers” like place managers, guardians, and handlers, which can be visualized as a double-layered triangle. This approach has been used to understand various crimes, from burglary to package theft. The sharing economy, Stickle argues, changes the structure of opportunity and the nature of controllers.

Stickle concluded that in traditional systems of law, the government is often seen as the victim in cases of crime, but in the sharing economy, the individual who is directly affected by a crime or dispute is considered the victim. This shift in victimhood may come from the social and legal contracts between individuals on these sharing platforms, which prescribe remedies available to both parties and place control of the process and compensation into the hands of the individual victim or wronged party.

Impact On The Justice System

Studies have found that ridesharing companies, like Uber, have significant control over driver behavior, which can lead to reduced crime. This is because if a criminal act does occur, the police will have easy and quick access to information, like which ridesharing company picked up the victim, where the driver took the victim or how long the victim and offender were together.

Criminal investigations could be quicker and more evidence-rich. Those engaging in a sharing activity will know controllers monitor behavior, which may reduce rude or criminal activity.

When a legal contract agreement is violated, police will be freed from the responsibility to investigate and may refer a victim to arbitration or the civil court system, which will reduce police involvement with the public and allow for a re-direction of resources to potentially more pressing issues. Property disputes could also shift from criminal to civil matters, reducing the burden on the criminal justice system.

As the sharing economy grows in size and depth, its ultimate impact on the justice system is yet to be seen.

Some economists have called for privatizing police, courts, and corrections and using private arbitration, behavior ratings, and insurance to comply with contracts and cultural norms. This idea in the past was a more predicting need or based on controlled environments like Disney World, for example, rather than meant for a more extensive system.

Stickle says the sharing economy could be the disruptive innovation that could make that level of systemic change a reality, ultimately arguing that the sharing economy could possibly reduce crime, enhance safety, and give control back to victims. The study encourages further research into the sharing economy and its impact on crime.

The full research article, Crime Sharing: How the Sharing Economy May Impact Crime Victims, can be read here.

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Report: Could The ‘Sharing Economy’ Help Decrease Crime?