Theft and Deterence

Yesterday, I was commenting about protecting my daughter’s laptop. This morning, already sensitized to theft, I read Nicholas Kristoff’s column in the Times with great interest. He was talking about cars and not computers and the thrust of the article was unexpected.

Car theft, it turns out, is a volume business. And so if even a small percentage of vehicles have LoJack, the professional thief will eventually steal a car with one and get caught.

The thief’s challenge is that it’s impossible to determine which vehicle has a LoJack (there’s no decal). So stealing any car becomes significantly more risky, and one academic study found that the introduction of LoJack in Boston reduced car theft there by 50 percent.

Two Yale professors, Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres, note that this means that the LoJack benefits everyone, not only those who install the system. Professor Ayres and another scholar, Steven Levitt, found that every $1 invested in LoJack saves other car owners $10.

The article is well worth reading. To summarize Kristoff, there are two ways to protect yourself. One makes everyone safer… saves everyone money. The other saves you, but sends the thieves elsewhere.

I’m not sure how much of this is applicable to my daughter’s laptop, but it makes a topic I always thought was pretty simple a lot more complex and thought provoking.

4 thoughts on “Theft and Deterence”

  1. Geoff,

    I read your post yesterday, and today read that a software company has licensed the LoJack name for a security solution like you’re looking for. I’m sure if you search around you’ll find it. Sorry I don’t remember the link!


  2. Geoff, please keep in mind that 95% of those rude comments were written by 45 year old guys living in their parents’ basements, where security is less of an issue.

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