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The Effects of Stolen-Goods Markets on Crime: Pawnshops, Property Theft, and the Gold Rush of the 2000s

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This paper investigates the effects of stolen-goods markets on crime. I focus on pawnshops, a legitimate business often associated with the illicit trade of stolen property. Within-county estimates reveal that a 10 percent increase in the rate of pawnshops increases, by around .3 percent, the rate of acquisitive crimes that yield stolen goods that might be tradeable to pawnshops. A quasi-experimental design shows that the effects of changes in gold prices on burglaries are amplified by the initial stock of pawnshops in a county. Overall, the analysis suggests that a larger market for the trade of stolen property can affect burglars’ incentives by increasing the value of criminal opportunities.

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