Cost Benefit Tool

 

There is often only limited information on the costs and benefits of crime reduction interventions, which can hamper evidence-based decisions on what to do about crime problems.  To help practitioners make more accurate cost benefit assessments of their interventions, a tool has been developed by the Commissioned Partnership Programme for the What Works Centre for Crime Reduction.  The Manning Cost-Benefit Tool (MCBT) has been developed by Professor Manning, and Dr Gabriel Wong from the Australian National University with assistance from Professors Shane Johnson and Nick Tilley (UCL).

The academic team produced Economic Analysis: A Brief Guide for Crime Prevention Practitioners which provides a summary of some of the issues faced by practitioners when conducting economic analysis. It also outlines the major forms of economic analysis that can be used and provides some examples before going on to describe the MCBT.   

The MCBT is divided into 2 parts. Part 1 uses traditional costing techniques - such as those employed in the HM Treasury (2003) The Green Book – allowing input of all relevant cost and benefit data into the Tool to calculate total expenditure on one or more interventions/programmes (across all years of the intervention), and/or to compare the average annual expenditure before and after the introduction of the intervention. In terms of benefits (or avoided costs of crime), the MCBT estimates the size of savings made by avoiding or preventing crime. Costs associated with crimes are based upon The Economic and Social Costs of Crime: Second Edition (Home Office, 2018), but other local data can be used. The MCBT allows for the calculation of cost-savings, cost-effectiveness, cost-feasibility and cost-benefit ratios as well as net returns on investment. Importantly, the MCBT disaggregates results by stakeholder.

Part 2 of the MCBT uses a combination of traditional economic methods and multicriteria decision making to estimate the costs of an intervention in the absence of reliable accounting data. Part 2 allows the user to estimate how much it will cost to implement an intervention in a different context, such as a new location or more widely (upscaling from a pilot project to a whole treatment area).  This analysis asks the user to compare the differences between the two areas in a series of simple questions, then utilises analogous estimation and expert judgement to account for contextual variations that may exist between jurisdictions. Variables that may affect the costs of implementing the intervention in another jurisdiction include the size of the targeted population/targeted area, the perceived risk of the problem being addressed and the perceived difficulty of implementation. 

The recent update to the MCBT (Part 1 - Version 5.7 and Part 2 - Version 5.5, 2019) is similar to earlier versions but incorporates the following changes: 

  • New Home Office costs of crime data (2018);
  • Currency conversion tool;
  • Updated layout to improve user experience; and
  • Included worked examples for Part 1 and Part 2 of the MCBT.

In addition, an online Demo APP (https://dmm.anu.edu.au/Criminology-Demo/) has been developed by the Australian National University, which incorporates the same functions as Part 1 but utilises a web-based interface. An updated version of this APP (The Smart Manning Cost Benefit Tool or Smart MCBT) is currently under development and will overcome the shortcomings of traditional cost benefit tools by reintegrating individual cost-benefit analysis projects using a database system that securely stores and de-identifies project data, and redeploys it using a range of machine learning and data science techniques. The Smart MCBT will employ these techniques to assist with data imputation (missing data), anomaly detection, correlation detection, contextual variation, input error, lack of insight from earlier studies and lack of integration of other important data (e.g. utilising open access data).The question of what works is respecified by the Smart MCBT as a data science pipeline, which serves to enhance cost-benefit analysis and reconfigure the policy making process in the paradigm of open data and data analytics.

Has the Cost Benefit Tool been tested?

The Cost-Benefit Tool was tested by practitioners at a workshop held by academics from UCL and the Australia National University.  Participants came from a wide range of organisations including police officers and staff, representatives from the office of the PCC and charities delivering services directly to both victims of crime and to offenders as part of rehabilitation.  Discussions during the day revealed that participants identified individual ways of using the Cost-Benefit Tool in a range of ways.  For example, a charity providing services for rape survivors, decided that they would use the Tool to cost their contribution to a wider multi-agency initiative; allowing them to identify their proportion of the cost, along with the benefits.

Nicky Harkin, CEO, Arch North East said:

"I think the tool could be a really good way of demonstrating partnership inputs to multi-agency initiatives such as the MARAC, and would be useful for specialist support services and other voluntary sector partners to highlight their contributions to these processes.  The Tool provides a really useful template for identifying full cost recovery on project costs and we will use it when costing out future bids and initiatives."

Lee Fryatt, Inspector, Criminal Justice and Investigations, Hampshire Constabulary, noted that:

"….the workshop and the cost benefit tool have the potential to help police forces be more objective in providing a more robust evidence base for new and ongoing projects in terms of ensuring any investment provides value for money. This is a key requirement in times of diminishing public funds and the drive for continuing police efficiency."

Fiona Murray, Development Manager, Dorset Police and the Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner said:

"By using cost benefit analysis tools like this, commissioners can become more informed about which interventions may deliver greater benefits that result in financial savings for the police and partners.  This is particularly important for Police and Crime Commissioners who are interested in jointly commissioning services with health or local authority partners, because identifying potential savings for the police and partners can help commissioners work out who should contribute what."

The participants worked through an example based on the costing of the Cardiff Violence Prevention Programme to demonstrate both the costs and benefits sections of the Tool.  So, costs of replacing pub glasses with plastic cups were categorised as indirect costs and the effectiveness and benefits of the interventions were identified and costed as reductions in violence against the person offences such as wounding, serious wounding and common assault.   Costs associated with crimes are based upon Crime against individuals and households.  Home Office Online Report 30/05 (2005), but other local data can be used.  

 

Further information

Links to information regarding the Parts 1 and 2 of the MCBT, the Economic and Social costs of crime: Second Edition (Home Office, 2018), the Green Book and the Smart MCBT APP are presented below.

(Please note that the links provided to the MCBT parts 1 and 2 are zipped files and therefore need to be saved before being opened).