Lawbreakers do not benefit from their actions. For example, Steve didn't think it mattered that he stole a candy bar, but he's learned the hard way that crime does not pay. This maxim, originating as a slogan of the F.B.I. and given wide currency by the cartoon character Dick Tracy, was first recorded in 1927. There have been numerous jocular plays on it, as in Woody Allen's screenplay for Take the Money and Run (1969): “I think crime pays. The hours are good, you travel a lot.”
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.