Crime and Justice

Kevin Lewis

March 16, 2010

The organizational structure of international drug smuggling

Jana Benson & Scott Decker
Journal of Criminal Justice, forthcoming

While most group offending is not well organized, it is generally assumed that high levels of organization can be found in group offending that generates revenue, such as white-collar crime, drug sales, and smuggling drugs or humans. The organizational structure of international drug smuggling has typically been viewed as highly rational and formally structured. Employing interviews with thirty-four federal prisoners convicted of smuggling large volumes of cocaine into the United States, this study explored the organizational structure of high level international drug smuggling. The subjects described a general lack of formal structure and depicted the drug smuggling operations as composed of isolated work groups without formal connections among each other. These findings bring into question the idea that these groups are rationally organized around pursuing efficiency and support recent research that suggests network security or minimizing risk are key organizing principles of drug trading organizations.


Lost in the Mail: A Field Experiment on Crime

Marco Castillo, Ragan Petrie, Maximo Torero & Angelino Viceisza
George Mason University Working Paper, January 2009

"We send identical envelopes to different households in Lima, Peru from two American cities and record arrivals. The experiment includes a large population of volunteer households across neighborhoods of different socio-economic backgrounds. To better understand the motivation behind the commission of crime, we manipulated the contents, the sender of the mail and the gender of the recipient. In particular, every household was sent four envelopes over the course of a year. Two envelopes had a sender with a foreign name and two had the last name of the sender and recipient matched. Finally, one of each of the two envelopes contained something inside the enclosed card (a small amount of money) that could not be easily detected without careful attention. The other envelope just contained the enclosed card. All these modifications were as subtle as possible and the order in which each different envelope was sent was random. The experiments show first that the mail service in Peru is highly inefficient. The overall rate of mail lost is 18%. The loss rate, however, hides the fact that mail containing money is lost 21% of the time while mail containing no money is lost 15% of the time. That is, we find evidence of shirking as well as crime. Also, the quality of service is not independent of socioeconomic status. Mail is lost at the same rate (roughly 18%), whether it contains money or not, when sent to a poor neighborhood. When sent to a rich neighborhood, however, mail without money is lost only 10% of the time and mail with money is lost 17% of the time."


The Adam Walsh Act: A False Sense of Security or an Effective Public Policy Initiative?

Naomi Freeman & Jeffrey Sandler
Criminal Justice Policy Review, March 2010, Pages 31-49

With the enactment of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act (AWA), states are required to standardize their registration and community notification practices by categorizing sex offenders into three-tier levels in the interest of increasing public safety. No empirical research, however, has investigated whether implementation of the AWA is likely to increase public safety. Using a sample of registered sex offenders in New York State, the current study examined the effectiveness of the Adam Walsh-tier system to classify offenders by likelihood of recidivism. Results indicated that the AWA falls short of increasing public safety. In fact, registered sex offenders classified by AWA as Tier 1 (lowest risk) were rearrested for both nonsexual and sexual offenses more than sex offenders in Tier 2 (moderate risk) or Tier 3 (highest risk).


Catholic Schools and Broken Windows

Margaret Brinig & Nicole Stelle Garnett
Notre Dame Working Paper, March 2010

This paper represents the second stage of an effort to test previously unstudied implications of a dramatic shift in the American educational landscape, namely, the rapid disappearance of Catholic schools from urban neighborhoods. In a previous study, we used data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods to measure how Catholic school closures affected perceived levels of disorder and social cohesion in Chicago neighborhoods. In this paper, we use data provided by the Chicago Police Department to test two related hypotheses about the effects of Catholic school closures on violent crime rates. The first is that Catholic school closures will lead, in relatively short order, to increased crime in a neighborhood. The second is that that crime will increase most dramatically in those police beats where previous school closures led to elevated levels of physical and social disorder and suppressed levels of social cohesion in 1995. We find that Catholic school closures are linked to increase in violent crimes, and that the most significant increases occur in police beats with the highest levels of school-closure-related disorder and -suppressed social cohesion in 1995. Our study contributes in unique ways to two critical legal-policy debates about policing and education policy. First, and most significantly, our data provides a novel means of testing the broken windows hypothesis. We know, from our previous investigation, where school closures have elevated disorder and suppressed social cohesion, and, using a 3SLS analysis to solve simultaneous equations, we are able to link these findings with subsequent elevated levels of serious crimes. These findings suggest a connection between disorder and serious crime, even if not the direct one posited by Wilson and Kelling. Second, the study contributes new and important evidence to debates about school choice, especially in light of the very real possibility that urban Catholic schools will continue to disappear unless new sources of tuition assistance become available to the students that they serve.


The Social Sources of Americans' Punitiveness: A Test of Three Competing Models

James Unnever & Francis Cullen
Criminology, February 2010, Pages 99-129

The sustained movement to "get tough" on crime, especially through mass imprisonment, has prompted several prominent efforts to explain the public's harshness toward crime. From the extant literature, we demarcate the following three competing theories of public punitiveness: the escalating crime-distrust model, the moral decline model, and the racial animus model. Controlling for other known predictors of crime-related opinions, we test the explanatory power of these perspectives to account for support for the death penalty and for a punitive crime-control approach. Our analysis of a national sample of respondents surveyed in the 2000 National Election Study reveals partial support for each model. Racial animus, however, seems to exert the most consistent effect on public sentiments. This finding suggests that racial resentments are inextricably entwined in public punitiveness and thus should be incorporated into any complete theory of this phenomenon.


Interracial contact and fear of crime

Daniel Mears & Eric Stewart
Journal of Criminal Justice, January-February 2010, Pages 34-41

Despite a large literature on public views about crime, the racialization of crime, and the contact hypothesis, surprisingly little is known about how interracial friendships may influence Whites' fear of crime. At the same time, and perhaps because no counterpart stereotype to that of "Blacks as criminals" exists, there has been little exploration of how such contact may influence Blacks' fear of crime. To address these research gaps, this study built on prior theory and research and used data from an ABC News and Washington Post poll to test competing hypotheses about the effect of interracial contact on Whites' and Blacks' fear of crime, respectively. The analyses revealed that close interracial friendships are associated with increased fear of crime among Whites, decreased fear of crime among lower-income Blacks, and increased fear among higher-income Blacks. The implications for theory and research are discussed.


Predicting Abolition: A Cross-National Survival Analysis of the Social and Political Determinants of Death Penalty Statutes

Stephanie Kent
International Criminal Justice Review, March 2010, Pages 56-72

Cross-national research on the determinants of criminal penalties has generally recognized that the amount of crime is an insufficient explanation for the use of punishment. Some research supports conflict explanations, reporting that economic inequality and the presence of ethnic minorities threatens elites who respond by advocating increased punishments largely aimed at minority groups. Other research reports that democratized nations in which citizens enjoy many civil liberties have lower levels of punishment. This study uses event history and logistic analyses to identify the social and political factors that shape the existence of the death penalty in 92 nations over a 23-year period. The results largely support conflict explanations for the existence of this punishment by finding that nations with high-income inequality and large ethnic minority populations have the lowest likelihood of abolition.


Criminal Beware: A Social Norms Perspective on Posting Public Warning Signs

Wesley Schultz & Jennifer Tabanico
Criminology, November 2009, Pages 1201-1222

Recent studies have suggested that crime-prevention strategies tend to interact with characteristics of the community in such a way that what works in one community might not work in another. In this article, we extend this finding to fear of crime and residents' perceptions of crime using a Focus Theory of Normative Conduct framework. Data are reported from three experiments that examine the impact of publicly posted Neighborhood Watch signs on perceived crime rates and worry about victimization. The studies used a virtual community tour to assess the causal impact of Neighborhood Watch sign presence and content. Across the experiments, we consistently find the potential for publicly posted Neighborhood Watch signs to produce unintended consequences such as increased fear of crime and worry about victimization. Moreover, the outcomes associated with posting the signs are influenced not only by the information printed on the sign but also by an interaction between the signs themselves and the environmental context in which they are posted.


Juvenile Jails: A Path to the Straight and Narrow or to Hardened Criminality?

Randi Hjalmarsson
Journal of Law and Economics, November 2009, Pages 779-809

Juvenile justice systems throughout the United States have become increasingly punitive since the 1970s. Most states have passed legislation making it easier to transfer juveniles to the criminal courts. Supporters of this "get tough" movement argue, in part, that juvenile courts are ineffective in deterring young offenders. This claim, however, is based primarily on poorly designed evaluations that do not account for the nonrandom nature of sentencing. This paper demonstrates how the institutional features of the justice system can be exploited to identify causality when true random assignment is not feasible. In particular, I capitalize on discontinuities in punishment that arise in Washington State's juvenile sentencing guidelines to identify the effect of incarceration on the postrelease criminal behavior of juveniles. The results indicate that incarcerated individuals have lower propensities to be reconvicted of a crime. This deterrent effect is also observed for older, criminally experienced, and/or violent youths.


Falling Kidnapping Rates and the Expansion of Mobile Phones in Colombia

Santiago Montenegro & Álvaro Enrique Pedraza
Universidad de los Andes Working Paper, November 2009

This paper tries to explain why kidnapping has fallen so dramatically in Colombia during the period 2000-2008. The widely held belief is that the falling kidnapping rates can basically be explained as a consequence of the success of President Alvaro Uribe's democratic security policy. Without providing conclusive alternative explanations, some academic papers have expressed doubts about Uribe's security policy being the main cause of this phenomenon. While we consider the democratic security policy as constituting a necessary condition behind Colombia's falling kidnapping rates, we argue in this paper that a complementary condition underlying this phenomenon has been the significant increase during this period in the speed and quality of communications between potential victims and public security forces. In this sense, the expansion of the mobile phone industry in Colombia implies that there has been a substantial reduction in information asymmetries between kidnappers and targeted citizens. This has led to a higher level of deterrence as well as to higher costs for perpetrating this type of crime. This has resulted in a virtuous circle: Improved security allows higher investments in telecommunications around the country, which in turn lead to faster communications between citizens and security forces, which consequently leads to greater security. We introduce a Becker-Ehrlich type supply and demand model for kidnappings. Using regional and departmental data on kidnapping, the police and mobile phones, we show that mobile phone network expansion has expanded the effective coverage of public protection; this, in turn, has led to a spectacular reduction in kidnapping rates.


Breaking the law when others do: A model of law enforcement with neighborhood externalities

Rosa Ferrer
European Economic Review, February 2010, Pages 163-180

A standard assumption in the economics of law enforcement is that the probability of a violator being punished depends only on the resources devoted to enforcement. However, it is often true that the productivity of enforcement resources decreases with the number of violators. In this paper, an individual who violates the law provides a positive externality for other offenders because the probability of being punished decreases with the number of individuals violating the law. This externality explains the existence of correlation between individuals' decisions to break a law. The model evaluates the implications when determining the socially optimal enforcement expenditure, focusing specifically on the case of neighborhood crime. In particular, using a parametrized functional form, I show that neighborhood externalities will enhance or impede enforcement, depending on the crime rate.


Testing Incapacitation Theory: Youth Crime and Incarceration in California

Christina Stahlkopf, Mike Males & Daniel Macallair
Crime & Delinquency, April 2010, Pages 253-268

Under incapacitation theory, higher incarceration rates are expected to correlate with accelerated reductions in crime. California's contemporary incarceration patterns offer an opportunity to analyze the validity of this theory, particularly as it applies to young people. This study focuses on California's juvenile incarceration and crime trends during the past half century. The findings of this study fail to demonstrate reduced crime rates through higher levels of juvenile incarceration, calling deterrence and incapacitation theories into serious question as effective youth crime reduction strategies and demonstrating the urgent need for California policy makers and legislators to consider alternative theories in response to crime and sentencing.


Do Good Recruits Make Good Cops? Problems Predicting and Measuring Academy and Street-Level Success

Billy Henson, Bradford Reyns, Charles Klahm & James Frank
Police Quarterly, March 2010, Pages 5-26

The purpose of this study is to extend White's analysis predicting successful police recruit performance during academy training. Using police personnel data collected on 486 officers hired between 1996 and 2006 by a Midwestern police department, the authors examine characteristics related to academy success as well as active police service. The results show that most demographic and experience variables did not predict academy or active service success. However, White recruits and those scoring higher on the civil service exam consistently performed better on multiple academy outcome measures than their counterparts. In addition, those scoring higher on the overall academy success measure generally received better evaluations from their superiors. The results also show that higher education is not related to any of the measures of academy or on the job success used in these analyses.


Retributive versus compensatory justice: Observers' preference for punishing in response to criminal offenses

Jan-Willem van Prooijen
European Journal of Social Psychology, February 2010, Pages 72-85

In the current paper, the author examines whether independent observers of criminal offenses have a relative preference for either retributive justice (i.e., punishing the offender) or compensatory justice (i.e., compensating the victim for the harm done). In Study 1, results revealed that participants recommended higher sums of money if a financial transaction was framed as offender punishment (i.e., the offender would pay money to the victim) than if it was framed as victim compensation (i.e., the victim would receive money from the offender). In Study 2, participants were asked to gather information about court trials following three severe offenses to evaluate whether justice had been done in these cases. Results revealed that participants gathered more information about offender punishment than about victim compensation. In Study 3 these findings were extended by investigating whether observers' relative preference for punishing is moderated by emotional proximity to the victim. Results revealed that the relative preference for punishing only occurred among participants who did not experience emotional proximity to the victim. It is concluded that observers prefer retributive over compensatory justice, provided that they do not feel emotionally close to the victim.

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