Common Criminals

Kevin Lewis

January 07, 2022

Does racial congruence between police agencies and communities reduce racialized police killings of civilians?
Shytierra Gaston, Matthew Teti & Matheson Sanchez
Criminology & Public Policy, November 2021, Pages 665-690

In response to highly publicized, controversial police killings of Black Americans, policymakers and advocates have proposed several police reforms, including a recurrent, decades-long demand for police departments to diversify their forces to better match the racial composition of the communities they serve. We draw on a unique police agency-level dataset comprising 1,988 local police agencies and regress measures of police killings of Black, Hispanic, and White Americans from 2013 to 2018 onto racial congruence ratios and other theoretically relevant predictors. The results provide support for the hypothesis, revealing a negative association between racial congruence and police killings among Black and Hispanic victims. 

Phantom Pains: The Effect of Police Killings of Black Americans on Black British Attitudes
Ayobami Laniyonu
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

What effect does black politics in the United States have on the attitudes of black citizens in other national contexts? Literature on the black diaspora and transnationalism has characterized cultural and political linkages between black communities in North America, the Caribbean, and Europe, especially during the mid-20th century. In this article, I exploit random timing in the administration of a public attitudes survey to demonstrate that such linkages persist and that the police killing of Eric Garner in 2014 negatively affected black Londoners’ attitudes toward the Metropolitan Police. Notably, I find the effect was largely concentrated among black Londoners: estimates of an effect on white and South Asian Londoners were small and largely insignificant. The evidence presented here demonstrates that racial violence in the United States can affect racial politics in other national contexts and helps frame the emergence of Black Lives Matter chapters and protests beyond the United States. 

Violence and Voting in the United States: How School Shootings Affect Elections
Laura Garcia-Montoya, Ana Arjona & Matthew Lacombe
American Political Science Review, forthcoming

How do citizens change their voting decisions after their communities experience catastrophic violent events? The literature on the behavioral effects of violence, on the one hand, and on political behavior, on the other, suggest different answers to this question. Using a difference-in-differences approach, we investigate the influence of indiscriminate, rampage-style school shootings on both voter turnout levels and the relative electoral support for the Democratic and Republican Parties at the county level in US presidential elections (1980–2016). We find that although voter turnout does not change, the vote share of the Democratic Party increases by an average of nearly 5 percentage points in counties that experienced shootings — a remarkable shift in an age of partisan polarization and close presidential elections. These results show that school shootings do have important electoral consequences and bring to the fore the need to further examine the effects of different forms of violence on political behavior. 

Does Protest Against Police Violence Matter? Evidence from U.S. Cities, 1990 through 2019
Susan Olzak
American Sociological Review, December 2021, 1066-1099

An underlying premise of democratic politics is that protest can be an effective form of civic engagement that shapes policy changes desired by marginalized groups. But it is not certain that this premise holds up under scrutiny. This article presents a three-part argument that protest (1) signals the salience of a movement’s focal issue and expands awareness that an issue is a social problem requiring a solution, (2) empowers residents in disadvantaged communities and raises a sense of community cohesion, which together (3) raise costs and exert pressure on elites to make concessions. The empirical analysis examines the likelihood that a city will establish a civilian review board (CRB). It then compares the effects of protest and CRB presence on counts of officer-involved fatalities by race and ethnicity. Two main hypotheses about the effect of protest are supported: cities with more protest against police brutality are significantly more likely to establish a CRB, and protest against police brutality reduces officer-involved fatalities for African American and Latino (but not for White) individuals. However, the establishment of CRBs does not reduce fatalities, as some have hoped. Nonetheless, mobilizing against police brutality matters, even in the absence of civilian review boards. 

Understanding the Decline in Drinking and Driving During “The Other Great Moderation”
Darren Grant
Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, December 2021, Pages 876-907

This article seeks to explain the large decline in drinking and driving that occurred in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s. Using a simple measure of drinking and driving — the fraction of crashes involving drinking drivers — we develop a basic traffic safety model that improves estimates of drunk driving laws' effects and breaks down declines in drinking and driving into components associated with each major influence that has been identified in the literature — including unobservable “social forces.” In this decomposition, we find that the widespread enactment of seven major drunk driving laws explains only one-fifth of the reduction in drinking and driving over this period, comparable to the effects of reduced alcohol consumption and less than those of demographic shifts and changes in social attitudes. “The Other Great Moderation” is best understood as a two-decade movement of drinking and driving to a new steady state, led by social forces and cemented and extended by law.

The Effects of College in Prison and Policy Implications
Matthew Denney & Robert Tynes
Justice Quarterly, December 2021, Pages 1542-1566

Despite the policy relevance of college-in-prison, the existing research on these programs has important flaws, failing to address selection and self-selection bias. We address an important policy question: what are the effects of college-in-prison program? To do this, we provide the largest study published to-date of a single college-in-prison program. We analyze the effects of the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) in New York, a liberal arts program that has offered college courses to incarcerated students since 2001. By leveraging the BPI admissions process, we employ a design-based approach to infer the causal effect of participation in BPI. We find a large and significant reduction in recidivism rates. This reduction is consistent across racial groupings. Moreover, people with higher levels of participation recidivate at even lower rates. In light of these findings, we provide policy recommendations that support college-in-prison programs. 

Who Watches the Watchmen: Evidence of the Effect of Body-Worn Cameras on New York City Policing
Mitchell Zamoff, Brad Greenwood & Gordon Burtch
Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, March 2022, Pages 161-195

We present a multi-year study of the rollout of Body-Worn Cameras (BWCs) to the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Our study adds to the prior body of work by clarifying some of the discord within it, particularly with respect to large urban police departments. We estimate the effect of BWC deployment on precinct volumes of citizen stops, arrests, complaints against officers, and use-of-force incidents. Results indicate that BWCs drive significant increases in stops and decreases in arrests and citizen complaints. We observe no effect on use of force. We also document heterogeneity in affected stops and complaints. Our findings speak to three potential benefits of BWCs in urban law enforcement: an increase in legitimate stops made by police; a decrease in complaints alleging officers’ abuse of authority; and a reduction in arrests (which appears beneficial, regardless of whether this results from improved behavior among police or citizens). 

Racial and Class Inequality in US Incarceration in the Early Twenty-First Century
Christopher Muller & Alexander Roehrkasse
Social Forces, forthcoming

The relative importance of racial and class inequality in incarceration in the United States has recently become the subject of much debate. In this paper, we seek to give this debate a stronger empirical foundation. First, we update previous research on racial and class inequality in people’s likelihood of being imprisoned. Then, we examine racial and class inequality in people’s risk of having a family member imprisoned or living in a high-imprisonment neighborhood. We find that racial inequality in prison admissions has fallen in the twenty-first century, while class inequality has surged. However, in recent years, Black people with high levels of education and income were more likely than white people with low levels of education and income to experience the imprisonment of a family member or to live in a neighborhood with a high imprisonment rate. These seemingly contradictory conclusions can be reconciled by the fact that enduring structures of racial domination have made class boundaries among Black people more permeable than they are among white people. Imprisonment in the United States is increasingly reserved for the poor. But because Black Americans are disproportionately connected to the poor through their families and neighborhoods, racial inequality exceeds class inequality in people’s indirect experiences with imprisonment. 

Not All Black Lives Matter: Officer-Involved Deaths and the Role of Victim Characteristics in Shaping Political Interest and Voter Turnout
Traci Burch
Perspectives on Politics, forthcoming

This article presents evidence that exposure to officer-involved deaths of low-threat Black victims increases political interest and voter turnout among Black respondents under age 40 to the 2016 Collaborative Multiracial Post-Election Survey. Victim race, threat level, and visibility affect the likelihood that an officer-involved death will mobilize political interest. Political interest and voter turnout are higher among the treatment group, which was exposed to high-visibility/low-threat Black victims only before participating in the CMPS, than in the control group, which was exposed to such victims only after taking the survey. Exposing young Black respondents to all victims without accounting for threat, visibility, or race does not affect political interest or voter turnout, suggesting the importance of these factors for mobilization. The findings clarify the role that Black Lives Matter activists, journalists, and watchdog groups can play in countering the police actions that shape the visibility and framing of Black victims of police violence. 

Status-Authority Asymmetry between Professions: The Case of 911 Dispatchers and Police Officers
Arvind Karunakaran
Administrative Science Quarterly, forthcoming

Status–authority asymmetry in the workplace emerges when lower-status professionals are ascribed with the functional authority to oversee higher-status professionals and elicit compliance from them on specific processes or tasks. Eliciting such compliance is ridden with challenges. How and when can lower-status professionals with functional authority elicit compliance from higher-status professionals? To examine this question, I conducted a 24-month ethnography of 911 emergency coordination to understand how 911 dispatchers (lower-status professionals with functional authority) can elicit compliance from police officers (higher-status professionals). I identify a set of relational styles — entailing interactional practices and communication media — enacted by the dispatchers. My findings suggest that dispatchers whose relational styles involved customizing the workflow via private communications with police officers or privately escalating cases of officers’ noncompliance to supervisors did not elicit greater compliance. In contrast, dispatchers who did elicit compliance used a peer publicizing relational style: they shared news of the noncompliant behavior — generally in a bantering, humorous manner — with an officer’s immediate peers using a communication medium that all officers in the police unit could hear. Publicizing noncompliant behavior among the immediate peers triggered the officer to self-discipline, as that noncompliant officer’s trustworthiness was on the line in front of the peer group. More generally, through enrolling an alter’s peers in the compliance process, the lower-status professionals with functional authority could generate second-degree influence and elicit compliance from the higher-status professionals. 

Rewards versus Imprisonment
Murat Mungan
American Law and Economics Review, Fall 2021, Pages 432-480

This article considers the possibility of simultaneously reducing crime, prison sentences, and the tax burden of financing the criminal justice system by introducing rewards, which operate by increasing quality of life outside of prison. Specifically, it proposes a procedure wherein a part of the imprisonment budget is redirected towards financing rewards. The feasibility of this procedure depends on how effectively the marginal imprisonment sentence reduces crime, the crime rate, the effectiveness of rewards, and how accurately the government can direct rewards towards individuals who are most responsive to such policies. A related welfare analysis reveals an advantage of rewards: they operate by transferring or creating wealth, whereas imprisonment destroys wealth. Thus, the conditions under which rewards are optimal are broader than those under which they can be used to jointly reduce crime, sentences, and taxes. With an exogenous [resp. endogenous] budget for law enforcement, it is optimal to use rewards when the imprisonment elasticity of crime is small [resp. the marginal cost of public funds is not high]. These conditions hold, implying that using rewards is optimal, in numerical examples generated by using estimates for key values from the empirical literature.

Relationships Between Social Host Policies, Youth Drinking Contexts, and Age
Jennifer Price Wolf et al.
Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, November 2021, Pages 730–739

We surveyed 580 youth (ages 16-20 years; 53% male) living in 24 midsized California cities. We used mixed-effects negative binomial and logistic regression to calculate the frequency of youth drinking and heavy drinking and odds of drinking-related problems in each context (own home, friend's home, restaurant, bar, music venue, and outdoors).

There were positive associations between more comprehensive city-level social host policies and frequency of youth drinking and heavy drinking at music venues, and youth heavy drinking and drinking-related problems at restaurants. Younger youth who lived in cities with more comprehensive social host laws drank heavily less frequently in their own home than younger youth living in cities with less comprehensive social host laws. Youth ages 17 or under who lived in cities with more party patrol enforcement had higher odds of problems related to drinking outdoors in the past 12 months than those in cities with fewer party patrol operations. 

Harm Reduction Policing: An Evaluation of Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) in San Francisco
Dina Perrone, Aili Malm & Erica Jovanna Magaña
Police Quarterly, forthcoming

In 2017, San Francisco (SF) implemented Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), a program Beckett described as harm reduction policing. Through a process and outcome evaluation of LEAD SF, this paper demonstrates the positive impacts of harm reduction policing, on those who use drugs and/or engage in sex work. When law enforcement officers used their discretion to divert individuals into LEAD rather than arrest, those individuals had significantly fewer felony and misdemeanor arrests and felony cases, in comparison to a propensity score matched group. The focus group and interview data describe that the collaboration, the warm handoff, and LEAD’s harm reduction principles were mechanisms of success. However, obtaining officer buy-in was a key challenge. Despite that obstacle, LEAD SF’s harm reduction policing reduces offending, improves the wellbeing of people who use drugs and engage in sex work, and allows the police to carry out their mandate to protect and serve. 

Homicide and the Opioid Epidemic: A Longitudinal Analysis
Richard Rosenfeld, Randolph Roth & Joel Wallman
Homicide Studies, forthcoming

Recent cross-sectional research has disclosed a positive relationship between opioid-related death rates and homicide rates. The current study adds a longitudinal dimension to this research. We estimate fixed effects panel models of the temporal relationship between race-specific homicide rates and opioid-related death rates within U.S. counties and county clusters between 1999 and 2015. The results reveal a positive association between change over time in homicide and opioid-related deaths, net of multiple socioeconomic and demographic controls, in both the Non-Hispanic White and Black population. The association is stronger in the Appalachian counties, where the opioid epidemic has been particularly severe. 

Who Needs the Dark Web? Exploring the Trade in Critically Endangered Plants on eBay
Robert Todd Perdue
American Journal of Criminal Justice, December 2021, Pages 1006–1017

Stemming the illegal trade of endangered species is a critical and very difficult challenge for conservationists and law enforcement. Much effort is given to stopping the trade of “charismatic megafauna” such as tigers, elephants, and rhinoceroses. Endangered plant species, however, receive far less attention and fewer resources, resulting in devastating consequences. Plant species continue to go extinct due to illegal harvesting and selling, while just one order of plants, Orchidales, makes up more than 70% of all threatened wildlife species. This study examines the role the Internet plays in critically endangered plant transactions. Rather than focusing on the dark web for these sales, I search the e-commerce site eBay to better understand the extent to which these trades take place in plain sight. Of the 193 critically endangered plant species examined, 56 were for sale in some form on eBay during the study period. These results indicate a high degree of trading in these species, but do not necessarily indicate criminality. The complexity of the international legal frameworks regulating these transactions makes it difficult to ascertain their legality, but certain indicators point to at least a subset of these sales being unlawful. E-commerce sites like eBay must take more proactive measures to regulate sales and protect these species on the brink, for it is clear the surface web is playing an understudied and important role in fostering these cybercrimes. In sum, the dark web is unnecessary when the surface web is convenient, widely available, and scarcely policed.


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