Are U.S. Cities Underpoliced? Theory and Evidence
Aaron Chalfin & Justin McCrary
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming
We document the extent of measurement errors in the basic data set on police used in the literature on the effect of police on crime. Analyzing medium to large U.S. cities over 1960–2010, we obtain measurement error corrected estimates of the police elasticity. The magnitudes of our estimates are similar to those obtained in the quasi-experimental literature, but our approach yields much greater parameter certainty for the most costly crimes, which are the key parameters for welfare analysis. Our analysis suggests that U.S. cities are substantially underpoliced.
Beyond Incarceration: Criminal Justice Contact and Mental Health
Naomi Sugie & Kristin Turney
American Sociological Review, August 2017, Pages 719-743
A growing literature documents deleterious consequences of incarceration for mental health. Although salient, incarceration is only one form of criminal justice contact and, accordingly, focusing on incarceration may mask the extent to which the criminal justice system influences mental health. Using insights from the stress process paradigm, along with nationally representative data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, we examine criminal justice contact — defined as arrest, conviction, and incarceration — and mental health. First, fixed-effects models, which adjust for stable unobserved and time-varying observed characteristics, show that arrest is deleteriously associated with mental health, and arrest accounts for nearly half of the association between incarceration and poor mental health, although certain types of incarceration appear more consequential than others. Second, the associations are similar across race and ethnicity; this, combined with racial/ethnic disparities in contact, indicates that criminal justice interactions exacerbate minority health inequalities. Third, the associations between criminal justice contact, especially arrest and incarceration, and mental health are particularly large among respondents residing in contextually disadvantaged areas during adolescence. Taken together, the results suggest that the consequences of criminal justice contact for mental health have a far greater reach than previously considered.
Stand Your Ground Laws, Homicides, and Injuries
Chandler McClellan & Erdal Tekin
Journal of Human Resources, Summer 2017, Pages 621-653
This paper examines the impact of Stand Your Ground laws on firearm homicides and injuries. Using state-level monthly data and a difference-in-difference identification strategy, we find that these laws result in an increase in homicides. According to our estimates, at least 30 individuals are killed each month as a result of Stand Your Ground laws. Furthermore, we document evidence to suggest that these laws also are associated with an increase in hospitalizations related to firearm-inflicted injuries. Taken together, the findings in this paper raise serious doubts against the argument that Stand Your Ground laws make the public safer.
Quick to the draw: How suspect race and socioeconomic status influences shooting decisions
Samantha Moore-Berg, Andrew Karpinski & Ashby Plant
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming
We examined the role of both suspect race and socioeconomic status (SES) on shooting decisions during a first-person shooter task. Two studies revealed that both suspect race and SES influenced shooting decisions. Non-Black participants shot armed high-SES Black suspects faster than armed high-SES White suspects and responded “don't shoot” faster for unarmed high-SES White suspects than unarmed high-SES Black suspects. No race differences appeared in the low-SES conditions — responses resembled high-SES Black suspect. Signal detection, misses, and false alarm analyses revealed participants erred toward not shooting high-SES White suspects. The current studies draw attention to considering both race and SES during shooting decisions.
Homicides in Mexico and the expiration of the U.S. federal assault weapons ban: A difference-in-discontinuities approach
Journal of Economic Geography, July 2017, Pages 825–856
The year following the expiration of the U.S. Assault Weapons Ban (AWB), the homicide rate in Mexico increased for the first time in a decade. A difference-in-discontinuities model and a unique dataset are used to compare discontinuities generated by close mayoral elections on either side of the AWB expiration. The model finds a statistically significant increase in the firearm homicide rate following the expiration of the AWB. This effect is larger closer to the U.S.–Mexico border, is isolated to the timing of the expiration, and there is no evidence of a concurrent increase in non-firearm homicides or other violent crime.
Time-Series Analyses of the Impact of Sex Offender Registration and Notification Law Implementation and Subsequent Modifications on Rates of Sexual Offenses
Jeff Bouffard & LaQuana Askew
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming
Sex offender registration and notification (SORN) laws were implemented to protect communities by increasing public awareness, and these laws have expanded over time to include registration by more types of offenders. Despite widespread implementation, research provides only inconsistent support for the impact of SORN laws on incidence of sexual offending. Using data from a large metropolitan area in Texas over the time period 1977 to 2012, and employing a number of time-series analyses, we examine the impact of the initial SORN implementation and two enhancements to the law. Results reveal no effect of SORN, or its subsequent modifications, on all sexual offenses or any of several specific offenses measures (e.g., crimes by repeat offenders). Implications for effective policy and future research are presented.
Juvenile Punishment, High School Graduation and Adult Crime: Evidence from Idiosyncratic Judge Harshness
Ozkan Eren & Naci Mocan
NBER Working Paper, July 2017
This paper contributes to the debate on the impact of juvenile punishment on adult criminal recidivism and high school completion. We link the universe of case files of those who were convicted of a crime as a juvenile between 1996 and 2012 in a southern U.S. state to the public school administrative records and to adult criminal records. The detail of the data allows us to utilize information on the exact types of crimes committed, as well as the type and duration of punishment imposed, both as a juvenile and as an adult. We exploit random assignment of cases to judges and use idiosyncratic judge stringency in imprisonment to estimate the causal effect of incarceration on adult crime and on high school completion. Incarceration has a detrimental impact on high school completion for earlier cohorts, but it has no impact on later cohorts, arguably because of the school reform implemented in the state in the late 1990s. We find that incarceration as a juvenile has no impact on future violent crime, but it lowers the propensity to commit property crime. Juvenile incarceration increases the propensity of being convicted for a drug offense in adulthood, but this effect is largely driven by time spent in prison as a juvenile. Specifically, juvenile incarceration has no statistically significant impact on adult drug offenses if time spent in prison is less than the median, but longer incarceration increases adult drug conviction, arguably because longer prison stays intensify emotional stress, leading to drug use.
A room with a view: Setting influences information disclosure in investigative interviews
Evan Dawson et al.
Law and Human Behavior, August 2017, Pages 333-343
Research on embodied cognition and priming show that human behavior is influenced nonconsciously by the environment in metaphoric ways. Previous research has shown that conceptual priming can lead people to disclose sensitive information (Davis, Soref, Villalobos, & Mikulincer, 2016; Dawson, Hartwig, & Brimbal, 2015). Here, we sought to examine whether concepts of openness can be activated to promote disclosure within the interview itself, through the physical setting. In two laboratory studies, participants were exposed to details of a mock environmental terrorism conspiracy through a courier task, which they were subsequently interviewed about in different settings. In Study 1, participants were interviewed in either a room designed to activate openness, or a prototypically enclosed, bare custodial interview room. In Study 2, we manipulated both architectural and interior features of both rooms. Challenging the status quo that a small room is optimal for investigative interviewing, our findings offer compelling evidence that the spaciousness of an interview room can influence a person’s tendency to be “open” with or “closed” about information.
The Association Between Urban Tree Cover and Gun Assault: A Case-Control and Case-Crossover Study
Michelle Kondo et al.
American Journal of Epidemiology, 1 August 2017, Pages 289–296
Green space and vegetation may play a protective role against urban violence. We investigated whether being near urban tree cover during outdoor activities was related to being assaulted with a gun. We conducted geographic information systems–assisted interviews with boys and men aged 10–24 years in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, including 135 patients who had been shot with a firearm and 274 community controls, during 2008–2011. Each subject reported a step-by-step mapped account of where and with whom they traveled over a full day from waking until being assaulted or going to bed. Geocoded path points were overlaid on mapped layers representing tree locations and place-specific characteristics. Conditional logistic regressions were used to compare case subjects versus controls (case-control) and case subjects at the time of injury versus times earlier that day (case-crossover). When comparing cases at the time of assault to controls matched at the same time of day, being under tree cover was inversely associated with gunshot assault (odds ratio (OR) = 0.70, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.55, 0.88), especially in low-income areas (OR = 0.69, 95% CI: 0.54, 0.87). Case-crossover models confirmed this inverse association overall (OR = 0.55, 95% CI: 0.34, 0.89) and in low-income areas (OR = 0.54, 95% CI: 0.33, 0.88). Urban greening and tree cover may hold promise as proactive strategies to decrease urban violence.
The Risks of Operational Militarization: Increased Conflict Against Militarized Police
Kevin Carriere & William Encinosa
Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy, August 2017
The current state of race relations in the United States have brought to light the issue of the militarization of local police, where officers are being provided with unused equipment from the government’s war chest through the 1033 Program. But, is this increase in militarization beneficial, or does it harm relations between citizens and police? Using data on purchases provided by the Defense Logistics Agency, this paper analyzes effects of military purchases on assaults on police officers. Fixed effects negative binomial regressions on state-month level data show that stockpiling of material militarization equipment (guns, armor, and clothing) exhibits a statistically significant decrease in assaults, with guns showing no significant relation on assaults. However, operational militarization purchases (surveillance, sonar, and radar) lead to an increase of assaults, suggesting that there may be unforeseen consequences of increased militarization due to a change of structure and information gathering.
Violence and Vigilance: The Acute Effects of Community Violent Crime on Sleep and Cortisol
Jennifer Heissel et al.
Child Development, forthcoming
The data combine objectively measured sleep and thrice-daily salivary cortisol collected from a 4-day diary study in a large Midwestern city with location data on all violent crimes recorded during the same time period for N = 82 children (Mage = 14.90, range = 11.27–18.11). The primary empirical strategy uses a within-person design to measure the change in sleep and cortisol from the person's typical pattern on the night/day immediately following a local violent crime. On the night following a violent crime, children have later bedtimes. Children also have disrupted cortisol patterns the following morning. Supplementary analyses using varying distances of the crime to the child's home address confirm more proximate crimes correspond to later bedtimes.
Stress, Genes, and Generalizability across Gender: Effects of MAOA and Stress Sensitivity on Crime and Delinquency
Jessica Wells et al.
Criminology, August 2017, Pages 548–574
In the current study, we extend the gene-by-environment interaction (cGxE) literature by examining how a widely studied polymorphism, the MAOA upstream variable number tandem repeat (MAOA-uVNTR) interacts with distal and proximal stressors to explain variation in crime and delinquency. Prior research findings have revealed that MAOA-uVNTR interacts with single indicators of environmental adversity to explain criminal behavior in general-population and incarcerated samples. Nevertheless, the genetically moderated stress sensitivity hypothesis suggests that increased risk for criminal behavior associated with variation in the MAOA-uVNTR can be best understood in the context of both distal stress during childhood and proximal stress in adulthood. Therefore, we employed Tobit regression analyses to examine a gene–distal–proximal environment (CGxExE) interaction across gender in a sample of university students (n = 267) and with data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health; n = 1,294). The results across both sets of analyses demonstrate that variation in the MAOA-uVNTR interacts with distal and proximal stress to lead to increased risk for criminal behavior in males. Although proximal life stress is associated with an increase in crime and delinquency, this effect is more pronounced among MAOA-L allele carriers that have experienced distal stress.
Prison Crowding and Violent Misconduct
University of California Working Paper, June 2017
In recent years justice reform has been a popular bipartisan topic in U.S. politics, with reducing the burgeoning U.S. prison population as one of the primary goals. The first objective of this research is to estimate the causal relationship between prison crowdedness and prison violence that is essential to understanding the impacts of having severely overcrowded prisons as well as efforts to reduce such crowding. I exploit exogenous variation in California prison populations, resulting from a Supreme Court mandate to reduce prison crowding, to estimate this relationship. Using both difference-in-difference and instrumental variable identification strategies, I identify a significant positive effect robust to a variety of model specifications. The estimates suggest that reducing prison crowding by 10 percentage points leads to a reduction in the rates of assaults and batteries by 15% or more. These estimates of the relationship between prison crowding and violent misconduct are, to my knowledge, the first in the literature with a justifiable argument for causality.
Comparing Public Safety Outcomes for Traditional Probation vs Specialty Mental Health Probation
Jennifer Skeem, Sarah Manchak & Lina Montoya
JAMA Psychiatry, forthcoming
Design, Setting, and Participants: A longitudinal observational study with group matching on age, sex, race/ethnicity, probation time, and offense at 2 urban agencies that exemplify specialty and traditional probation. Enrollment began October 19, 2005; follow-up data were complete January 26, 2013. Participants were 359 diverse probationers with serious mental health problems and functional impairment. Probationers and officers were assessed 3 times (for probationers, 6-month retention, 315 of 359 [88%]; 12-month retention 304 of 359 [85%]) and follow-up records were obtained. Machine learning algorithms were combined with a targeted maximum likelihood estimation, a double robust estimator that accounts for associations between confounders and both treatment assignment and outcomes. Statistical analysis was conducted from January 1, 2016 to May 5, 2017.
Interventions: Specialty probationers were assigned to small, homogeneous caseloads supervised by experts. Prior data indicate that specialty officers had better relationships with probationers, participated more in probationers’ treatment, and relied more on positive compliance strategies than traditional officers.
Results: Participants were 183 specialty (73.8% of 248 eligible) and 176 traditional (56.6% of 311 eligible) probationers (205 men and 154 women; mean [SD] age, 36.9 [10.6]). Although specialty probation had no significant effect on violence (odds ratio, 0.97; 95% CI, 0.69-1.36), the odds of rearrest were 2.68 times higher for traditional probationers than for specialty probationers (95% CI, 1.86-3.84; P < .001). At 2 years, estimated probabilities of rearrest were 28.6% for specialty probationers and 51.8% for traditional probationers. Survival analyses indicate that arrest effects endured up to 5 years.
Conclusions and Relevance: Although it did not specifically reduce violence, well-implemented specialty probation appears to be effective in reducing general recidivism. Reform efforts for people with mental illness could leverage probation — a ubiquitous and revitalized node of the justice system.
The Gains of Greater Granularity: The Presence and Persistence of Problem Properties in Urban Neighborhoods
Daniel Tumminelli O’Brien & Christopher Winship
Journal of Quantitative Criminology, September 2017, Pages 649–674
Methods: We used over 2,000,000 geocoded emergency and non-emergency requests received by the City of Boston’s 911 and 311 systems from 2011–2013 to calculate six indices of violent crime, physical disorder, and social disorder for all addresses (n = 123,265). We linked addresses to their street segment (n = 13,767) and census tract (n = 178), creating a three-level hierarchy that enabled a series of multilevel Poisson hierarchical models.
Results: Less than 1% of addresses generated 25% of reports of crime and disorder. Across indices, 95–99% of variance was at the address level, though there was significant clustering at the street segment and neighborhood levels. Models with lag predictors found that levels of crime and disorder persisted across years for all outcomes at all three geographic levels, with stronger effects at higher geographic levels. Distinctively, ~15% of addresses generated crime or disorder in one year and not in the other.
Change in the Perceived Certainty of Punishment as an Inhibitor of Post-Juvenile Offending in Serious Delinquents: Deterrence at the Adult Transition
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming
The purpose of this study was to determine whether growth in perceived certainty of punishment explained the right leg of the age–crime curve. Using longitudinal data from the Pathways to Desistance study (N = 1,354), it was determined that offense variety achieved its steepest decline between the ages of 17 and 18, and offense frequency displayed its steepest decline between the ages of 19 and 20. Further analysis revealed that perceived certainty of punishment predicted the variety and frequency of offending from the periods of steepest decline but not during periods of offense growth or less optimal decline. These results provide preliminary support for the presence of sensitive periods in emerging adulthood whereby increased perceived certainty may inhibit future offending.
Public Order and Private Payments: Evidence from the Swedish Soccer League
Sten Nyberg & Mikael Priks
Journal of Public Economics, September 2017, Pages 1-8
Should organizers of events share the associated costs of maintaining public order? We address this question by using unique data from the Swedish soccer league where co-payment for police were introduced for some clubs only. The difference-in-differences analysis shows that co-payments increased private guards by 40 percent and suggests a reduction of unruly behavior by 20 percent. The results are consistent with our model, where co-payments alleviate under-provision in efforts by organizers to combat problems such as hooliganism due to exernalities and free-riding on police services. The model also sheds light on the critique that co-payments could lead financially constrained organizers to provide less security.
Professional sports facilities, teams and property values: Evidence from NBA team departures
Brad Humphreys & Adam Nowak
Regional Science and Urban Economics, September 2017, Pages 39–51
Professional sports teams and facilities can generate negative or positive amenities to be capitalized into nearby property prices. We investigate the effect of the departure of two National Basketball Association teams in Seattle and Charlotte on nearby residential property values. Both arenas continued to operate after the teams left, so these departures represents a natural experiment to identify the net effects of a sports team separately from the effect of a facility and other events that take place in the facility. Results from a repeat sale regression model and hedonic price model indicate that the departure of the teams was associated with excess appreciation of condo prices near Key Arena and single family home prices near the Charlotte Arena, suggesting that the teams generated disamenities in these markets.
Reducing excessive police incidents: Do notices to owners work?
Security Journal, July 2017, Pages 922–939
Many municipalities throughout the United States have enacted ordinances that allow cities to charge property owners fees or fines for excessive police calls for service to the property. However, there are few studies of the outcomes of such ordinances. This study examines the impact on the count of police incidents of a notice of potential future fees or fines to property owners in Anchorage, Alaska and Green Bay, Wisconsin. It was found that police incidents are reduced by 24–28 per cent after a notice of potential fines, with two-thirds of properties experiencing a decline in police incidents post-notice. The implications for policy and practice are discussed.