They say crime doesn’t pay, but that doesn’t stop people from trying to make a quick buck by engaging in illegal activity. Though crimes of passion may grab headlines, money is the real motivator for many people who break the law, whether they’re committing insurance fraud, embezzling from an employer, robbing a bank, or dealing drugs. Now, new survey results suggest many more Americans than you might expect are willing to engage in illegal behavior if the price is right
Home security company GetSafe asked 2,000 people which of 10 crimes they’d be willing to commit in exchange for cash — from running a red light to committing murder — as well as how much they’d have to get paid to break the law. Virtually everyone polled said they’d be comfortable engaging in some illegal activities if they knew they’d get paid afterward, and the payday didn’t have to be huge to get them to turn criminal.
Eighty percent of people surveyed said they’d steal candy if they were paid $50 to do so. Eighty-three percent said they’d run a red light for $250. Eighty-two percent would pee in public for $500.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that many people would be willing to commit relatively minor offenses in exchange for cash. Running red lights and shoplifting candy are crimes many people may have already committed. (One out of 11 people have shoplifted something in the past, according to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention.) But when GetSafe asked if people would be open to committing more serious crimes for money, like robbing a store, punching someone, or stealing a car, many didn’t balk.
Seventy-two percent of people said they’d punch someone, a crime that can sometimes lead to a felony assault charge. More than half of respondents said they’d be up to robbing a home, store, or bank if someone paid them enough. And 41% said they wouldn’t rule out killing someone for cash.
People did say they’d need to be well compensated to commit more serious or violent crimes. While punching someone required an average paycheck of $1,500, people would need a payout of $70,000 before agreeing to rob someone’s home and $5 million before they held up a bank. Murder, the most serious crime on the list, came with a $100 million price tag.
Men were more willing than women to become criminals for hire, and required less of a financial incentive to do so. Though guys would be willing to kill someone for $100 million, women said they’d need $500 million. And future Bonnie and Clydes would also need to contend with pretty unequal wages: Men said they’d rob a bank for $2 million but women said they’d need $8 million to do the same deed.
Those who’ve already been convicted of a crime were more likely to say they’d commit each of the 10 crimes GetSafe asked about. But the gap between past and future criminals wasn’t as huge as you might expect. Forty-six percent of people with a criminal history said they’d kill for cash, compared to 40% of those who’d always been on the right side of the law. About 30% of Americans have a criminal record (including arrests that didn’t lead to charges or a conviction), perhaps more, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Of course, saying you’d be willing to commit a crime for money and actually going through with it are two different things. And those who say they’d steal or kill for money likely aren’t considering the cost of getting caught.
Running a red light could cost you close to $500 if you live in a state like California, more than what most people said they’d be willing to accept for breaking the law in the first place. In some places, urinating in public can land you on the sex offender registry, which will severely limit where you can live and work. Aggravated assault costs $2,200 in lost productivity for the person who committed the crime, a study published in the Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology found. Hiring an attorney to defend yourself from any of these crimes can cost thousands of dollars (sometimes much more), to say nothing of what you’d lose by ending up in prison. Proof, perhaps, that breaking the law isn’t the best way to make a quick buck.