Collective Dynamics in Biological and Social Systems

The game of crime: How societies "choose" their crime level

Martin Short

Georgia Tech


Evolutionary game theory is a powerful tool that can help us understand how the interactions among large numbers of social agents lead to wide-scale behavior. In this talk, I will show how this tool can be used to understand why some societies exhibit high levels of entrenched crime, while others have relatively low crime levels. This is done by first casting crime into a stylized "game", then examining the dynamics associated with game "strategy" choice among the many players under a variety of assumptions. These theoretical considerations seem to indicate that achieving low levels of crime is dependent upon the presence of criminal informants: those who commit crimes but also assist the authorities in punishing other criminals. I will then discuss a series of laboratory experiments that seem to back up these theoretical results.