Crimes in Progress

Kevin Lewis

March 26, 2021

Exploring Officer-Involved Shootings With Interaction Effects: A Deeper Understanding of How Race/Ethnicity Interacts With Other Factors in the Use of Deadly Force
Scott Phillips & Dae-Young Kim
Criminal Justice and Behavior, forthcoming


There has been a substantial body of research examining the reasons behind the police officers’ use of deadly force. Little research has been done to examine how race and ethnicity interact with other factors in the use of deadly force. With data collected in Dallas, Texas, the present study examines the influence of individual, situational, and neighborhood characteristics on officers’ decision to use deadly force. The present study also provides an alternative approach to logistic regression models by estimating predictive probabilities of officers shooting at citizens. The results show that when officers make decisions to shoot at citizens, situational factors are more important than demographic and neighborhood factors. Interactive effects constructed based on the race/ethnicity of the police officer and citizen showed almost no influence on the decision to shoot at a citizen. Finally, the present study concludes with a discussion of implications for policy development and future research.

The role of officer race and gender in police-civilian interactions in Chicago
Bocar Ba et al.
Science, 12 February 2021, Pages 696-702


Diversification is a widely proposed policing reform, but its impact is difficult to assess. We used records of millions of daily patrol assignments, determined through fixed rules and preassigned rotations that mitigate self-selection, to compare the average behavior of officers of different demographic profiles working in comparable conditions. Relative to white officers, Black and Hispanic officers make far fewer stops and arrests, and they use force less often, especially against Black civilians. These effects are largest in majority-Black areas of Chicago and stem from reduced focus on enforcing low-level offenses, with greatest impact on Black civilians. Female officers also use less force than males, a result that holds within all racial groups. These results suggest that diversity reforms can improve police treatment of minority communities.

Earned income tax credit and crime
Otto Lenhart
Contemporary Economic Policy, forthcoming


This study examines the relationship between earned income tax credit (EITC) laws and crime. Using data from 1999–2017, a period with 73 state EITC changes, I evaluate the effects of state‐level EITCs on violent and property crime. Estimating difference‐in‐differences models, I find that higher EITCs are associated with significant reductions in violent crime, while not affecting property crimes. Introducing high state EITC is associated with a 10.0% reduction in violent crimes, which corresponds to 40 fewer crimes per 100,000 individuals. Event study estimates confirm the negative association between EITC generosity and violent crime.

Escaping the long arm of the law? Racial disparities in the effect of drivers' license suspensions on offense probabilities
Siân Mughan & Joanna Carroll
Southern Economic Journal, forthcoming


This article studies the unintended consequences of failure‐to‐pay (FTP) drivers' license suspensions. Unlike other traffic enforcement papers that focus on the public benefit to increases in enforcement, we focus on the private returns. Drawing on a unique administrative data set and institutional features that result in as‐good‐as random assignment of FTP suspension, we estimate the effect of these suspensions on the probability a driver receives additional tickets. We find that financial penalties and FTP suspensions reduce the probability of reoffense for White drivers. However, among Black drivers, financial penalties have no effect and FTP suspension increases the probability of reoffense by 6‐9 percentage points. A series of additional analyses fail to produce evidence of racial differences in drivers' responses to FTP suspension, leading us to conclude that following suspension drivers make behavioral adjustments to minimize the probability of future tickets. However, these behavioral adjustments are only effective for White drivers.

Cybercrime and Punishment
Ye Hong & William Neilson
Journal of Legal Studies, June 2020, Pages 431-466


This paper models cybercrime by adding an active victim to the seminal Becker model of crime. The victim invests in security that may protect her from a cybercrime and, if the cybercrime is thwarted, generate evidence that can be used for prosecution. Successful crimes leave insufficient evidence for apprehension and conviction and, thus, cannot be punished. Results show that increased penalties for cybercriminals lead them to exert more effort and make cybercrimes more likely to succeed. Above a threshold they also lead victims to invest less in security. It may be impossible to deter cybercriminals by punishing them. Deterrence is possible, but not necessarily optimal, through punishing victims, such as data controllers or processors that fail to protect their networks.

Death Penalty Statutes and Murder Rates: Evidence from Synthetic Controls
Brett Parker
Stanford Working Paper, November 2020


Public debates over the death penalty in the U.S. have long focused on the punishment’s putative deterrent effect. Unsurprisingly, numerous scholars have sought to determine (a) whether the penalty in fact prevents murders, and (b) how many murders it prevents. However, these efforts have deployed a fairly homogeneous set of methodological techniques—primarily OLS and two-stage OLS with instrumental variables. This article breaks from that tradition by using synthetic controls to assess the deterrent capacity of capital punishment. Applying this technique using seven states that recently abolished the death penalty and twenty-nine states that retained the punishment during the same period, I find no evidence that the presence of a capital punishment statute in a state is sufficient to deter murders. These results are robust to numerous alternative specifications; they also persist when I use stranger homicides — which are theoretically more susceptible to deterrence — as the dependent variable.

Testing public policy at the frontier: The effect of the $15 minimum wage on public safety in Seattle
David Mitre‐Becerril & Aaron Chalfin
Criminology & Public Policy, forthcoming


In 2017, Seattle, Washington, became the first city in the United States to increase its minimum wage to $15 per hour, more than double the federal minimum wage. Not only was a $15 minimum wage unprecedented, but the increase was also extremely rapid, with the minimum wage rising by nearly 60% in just 2 years. Using a synthetic differences‐in‐differences estimator, we consider the impact of Seattle's landmark minimum wage legislation on public safety. Although there is speculative evidence for an increase in commercial burglaries, we find little evidence that Seattle experienced a change in its aggregate rate of violent or property offending relative to other U.S. cities. To better understand the mechanisms underlying our findings, we investigate the impacts of the local wage law on employment and earnings for Seattle's low‐skilled labor market. We detect no meaningful adverse effects on the employment rates of low‐wage workers.

How the Massachusetts Assault Weapons Ban Enforcement Notice Changed Firearm Sales
Meenakshi Balakrishna & Kenneth Wilbur
University of California Working Paper, February 2021


The Massachusetts Attorney General issued an Enforcement Notice in 2016 to announce a new interpretation of a key phrase in the state’s assault weapons ban. The Enforcement Notice increased sales of tagged assault rifles by 616% in the first 5 days, followed by a 9% decrease over the next three weeks. Sales of Handguns and Shotguns did not change significantly. Tagged assault rifle sales fell 28-30% in 2017 compared to previous years, suggesting that the Enforcement Notice reduced assault weapon sales but also that many banned weapons continued to be sold. Tagged assault rifles sold most in 2017 in zip codes with higher household incomes and proportions of white males. Overall, the results suggest that the firearm market reacts rapidly to policy changes and partially complies with firearm restrictions.

Public cooperation and the police: Do calls-for-service increase after homicides?
Jeffrey Brantingham & Craig Uchida
Journal of Criminal Justice, March-April 2021


Calls-for-service represent the most basic form of public cooperation with the police. How cooperation varies as a function of instances of police activity remains an open question. The great situational diversity of police activity in the field, matching the situational diversity of crime and disorder, makes it challenging to estimate causal effects. Here we use homicides as an indicator for the occurrence of a standardized set of highly visible, socially-intensive, acute police investigative activities and examine whether police calls-for-service change in response. We adopt a place-based difference-in-differences approach that controls for local fixed affects and common temporal trends. Estimates of the model using data from Los Angeles in 2019 shows that calls-for-service increase significantly in the week following a homicide. The effect pertains to both violent crime and quality of life calls for service. Partitioning the data by race-ethnicity shows that calls-for-service increase most when the homicide victim is Black. Partitioning the data by race-ethnicity and type of homicide shows that some types of calls are suppressed when the homicide is gang-related. The results point to opportunities for police to build trust in the immediate aftermath of homicides, when the public is reaching out for greater assistance.

“Drive and Wave”: The Response to LAPD Police Reforms After Rampart
Canice Prendergast
University of Chicago Working Paper, February 2021


We study LAPD police reforms after the Rampart scandal, when formal oversight rose discretely in 1998, and then fell in late 2002. We offer a simple model to interpret how police behavior is affected by changed accountability to the public. We show how officers responded by a practice they labeled “drive and wave”. The arrest-to-crime rate fell 40% after accountability to the public rose, then rebounded to its original level when accountability fell. For the “victimless” crimes of narcotics and prostitution, arrests fall almost 50% and then rebound. No such effects arise for the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, even for those stations surrounded by areas policed by the LAPD. We also see no effects on arrests made by other agencies within the LAPD’s jurisdiction. This impact was greatest in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods, and fell least in White communities. Other behavioral responses - use of force and street stops - tell a similar story. We argue that much of the response may be attributable to an imbalance between oversight done by suspects compared to that done by the victims of crime. We also document an impact on homicides.


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