Defense versus Offense

Kevin Lewis

December 01, 2023

The Long-Term Incarceration Consequences of Coming-of-Age in a Crime Boom
David Bjerk & Shawn Bushway
Journal of Quantitative Criminology, December 2023, Pages 1003-1025

Methods: We employ a cross state panel data regression design to assess how the crime conditions state/birth-year cohort members experienced from adolescence through their twenties impacts their incarceration rates in their early thirties.

Results: Birth-year cohorts who experienced higher crime during adolescence had substantially higher incarceration rates in their early thirties than birth-year cohorts in the same state who experienced lower crime during adolescence. By contrast, the crime rates state/birth-year cohorts experienced during their late teens and early twenties have little systematic relationship with their incarceration rates in their thirties.

When Reality TV Creates Reality: How “Copaganda” Affects Police, Communities, and Viewers
Emma Rackstraw
Harvard Working Paper, November 2023


Television shows with police officer protagonists are ubiquitous on American television. Both fictional shows and reality shows portray a world where criminals are nearly always apprehended. However, this is a distortion of reality, as crimes mostly go unsolved and police officers infrequently make arrests. What does the omnipresence of this genre mean for the general public's conception of police, for the practice of policing, and for the communities being policed? I use department-level and officer-level arrest data to find that arrests for low-level, victimless crimes increase by 20 percent while departments film with reality television shows, concentrated in the officers actively followed by cameras. These arrests do not meaningfully improve public safety and come at the cost of the local public's confidence. I then document quasi-experimentally and experimentally that these shows -- particularly their overrepresentation of arrests -- improve non-constituent viewer attitudes towards and beliefs about the police. The results are consistent with "copaganda" shows inflating trust in police nationally while subjecting some to harsher but not more effective enforcement. I consider the implications for police reform.

Racial Polarization in Attitudes towards the Criminal Legal System
Karen Hanhee Lee, Carmen Gutierrez & Becky Pettit
Social Problems, forthcoming


Existing research often views attitudes toward the U.S. criminal legal system as reflections of punitive sentiment, overlooking racial differences in how people respond to questions related to crime and punishment. Using over four decades of nationally representative survey data from the General Social Survey, we employ latent class analysis to examine racial variation in attitudes about the U.S. criminal legal system across time. We find that among White Americans, support for increased spending to combat crime corresponds with support for harsher courts and the death penalty. In contrast, many Black Americans support increased spending on crime but oppose harsher courts and the death penalty, indicating simultaneous concern about crime and a more punitive criminal legal system. Although aggregate trends in punitiveness change similarly across race and time, we show that while preferences for punitive policies remain high among White Americans, the proportion of Black Americans who are simultaneously concerned about crime and a punitive criminal legal system rose from 14 percent in 1994 to 56 percent in 2018. These results highlight the salience of race in shaping how people evaluate the criminal legal system and draw attention to racial polarization in views on punishment and justice.

Before and after George Floyd and Breonna Taylor: Citizen perceptions of a ‘Reasonable Officer’
Kimberley McClure, Dawn Sweet & Dominick Atkinson
Psychology, Crime & Law, forthcoming 


The extent to which the American ‘Black criminal’ stereotype and nonverbal cues of aggression influences community perceptions of citizen-officer interactions was examined. In three experiments, using a between-subjects, vignette-methodology depicting a domestic violence situation, participants (N = 838) read about a Black or White man displaying aggressive or nonaggressive nonverbal cues with a police officer. Participants rated aggression, subject and officer actions, and familiarity with cases involving Black Americans. Experiment 3 was conducted in July 2020 after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor amid protests against police brutality. Aggressive displays by the vignette subject increased expectations of interpersonal violence between the subject and officer. The White man was perceived as more likely to aggress than the Black man (Exp 2 & 3). Case familiarity did not moderate perceptions (Exp 1 & 2); however, familiarity with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (Exp 3) modified perceptions of the subject-officer interaction. Increased familiarity led to perceptions that the Black man was less of a threat than the White counterpart. Perceptions of a ‘reasonable officer’ are more complex and culturally driven than can be accounted for via stereotype activation. Implications for public perceptions of law enforcement and the justice system are considered.

Complaints about police misconduct have adverse effects for Black civilians
Patrick Kraft & Benjamin Newman
Political Science Research and Methods, forthcoming 


Existing literature examines the effectiveness of civilian oversight in reducing police misconduct. However, little-to-no quantitative research explores possible adverse consequences of this accountability mechanism. Utilizing time series analysis of administrative data on aggregate monthly civilian complaints and police behavior in the largest American city, this article offers evidence of racial inequality in police response to civilian complaints. For White civilians, complaint against the police abates subsequent police stops. For Black civilians, complaint is associated with subsequent intensification of police stops. This intensification only follows complaints against White officers, is conditional upon officer knowledge of the complaint, is confined to stops involving greater officer discretion to perform the stop, and is only observed in police precincts with large Black populations.

Detection of Alcohol Intoxication Using Voice Features: A Controlled Laboratory Study
Brian Suffoletto et al.
Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, November 2023, Pages 808–813 

Method: A total of 18 participants (72% male, ages 21–62 years) read a randomly assigned tongue twister before drinking and each hour for up to 7 hours after drinking a weight-based dose of alcohol. Vocal segments were cleaned and split into 1-second windows. We built support vector machine models for detecting alcohol intoxication, defined as breath alcohol concentration > .08%, comparing the baseline voice spectrographic signature to each subsequent timepoint and examined accuracy with 95% confidence intervals (CIs).

Results: Alcohol intoxication was predicted with an accuracy of 98% (95% CI [97.1, 98.6]); mean sensitivity = .98; specificity = .97; positive predictive value = .97; and negative predictive value = .98.

Association Between the New York SAFE Act and Firearm Suicide and Homicide: An Analysis of Synthetic Controls, New York State, 1999‒2019
Ibraheem Karaye, Gaia Knight & Corinne Kyriacou
American Journal of Public Health, December 2023, Pages 1309-1317 

Objectives: To assess the association between the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (NY SAFE Act) and firearm suicide and homicide rates.

Methods: We employed a synthetic controls approach to investigate the impact of the NY SAFE Act on firearm suicide and firearm homicide rates. We collected state-level data on firearm mortality from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER) database for the period 1999–2019. We derived statistical inference by using a permutation-based in-place placebo test.

Results: The implementation of the NY SAFE Act was associated with a significant reduction in firearm homicide rates, demonstrating a decrease of 63%. This decrease corresponds to an estimated prevention of 1697 deaths between 2013 and 2019. However, there was no association between the NY SAFE Act and firearm suicide rates.

The impact of sodomy law repeals on crime
Riccardo Ciacci & Dario Sansone
Journal of Population Economics, October 2023, Pages 2519–2548 


We exploit variations in the timing of decriminalization of same-sex sexual intercourse across US states to estimate the impact of these law changes on crime through difference-in-differences and event study models. We provide the first evidence that sodomy law repeals led to a decline in the number of arrests for disorderly conduct, prostitution, and other sex offenses. Moreover, in line with the hypothesis that sodomy law repeals enhanced mental health and lessened minority stress, we show that these repeals led to a reduction in arrests for drug and alcohol consumption.

Housing Instability Following Felony Conviction and Incarceration: Disentangling Being Marked from Being Locked Up
Brielle Bryan
Journal of Quantitative Criminology, December 2023, Pages 833-874 

Methods: I use National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 data and restricted comparison group, individual fixed effects, and sibling fixed effects models to examine residential mobility and temporary housing residence during early adulthood.

Results: I find robust evidence that never-incarcerated individuals with felony convictions experience elevated risk of housing instability and residential mobility, even after adjusting for important mediators like financial resources and relationships. The evidence that incarceration has an additional, independent effect on housing instability is weaker, however, suggesting that the association between incarceration and housing instability found in prior studies may largely be driven by conviction status.

Does the Rapid Deployment of Information to Police Improve Crime Solvability? A Quasi-Experimental Impact Evaluation of Real-Time Crime Center (RTCC) Technologies on Violent Crime Incident Outcomes
Rob Guerette & Kimberly Przeszlowski
Justice Quarterly, forthcoming 


Despite advances in police practices, national case clearance rates of violent crimes are at an all-time low. One recent trend in American policing involves the rapid deployment of various technology-derived information sources to police prior to, during, and immediately after their initial response to crime incidents. Housed within centralized local-level police department units, these often called “real-time crime centers” (RTCCs) have capitalized on technological innovations to harness a host of information with the intention of improving the ability of police to manage crime. To date, however, very little is known about their ability to improve police practice or their impact on crime solvability. This study entails the first to assess the impact of RTCC technologies on violent crime incident case clearances and time-to-clearance using a multi-method, quasi-experimental design. Results indicated after controlling for neighborhood, crime type, and case-level characteristics, RTCC-assisted cases had 66% better odds of being cleared compared to a randomly drawn control sample of cases not receiving RTCC support. Further, after controlling for case-level characteristics, no significant differences were found between the clearance times of RTCC-assisted and control sample cases. Implications for police practice are discussed.

Effects of Restricting Alcohol Sales on Fatal Violence: Evidence from Sunday Sales Bans
Nancy Nicosia, Rosanna Smart & Terry Schell
Drug and Alcohol Dependence, December 2023 

Methods: We constructed total and firearm-related homicide and suicide counts by state, year, and day-of-week from the Multiple Cause of Death Micro-data 1990-2019. Repeals of Sunday bans were taken from the Alcohol Policy Information System. Two-way fixed effects Poisson models with standard errors clustered at state-level and population offset control for state, year and day-of-the-week fixed effects and state time-varying covariates.

Results: Repealing Sunday bans is associated with an increase in homicides (IRR=1.125; 95% confidence interval [CI]:1.02-1.24) and firearm homicides (IRR=1.17; 95% CI:1.03-1.33). Analyses by day-of-the-week show significant associations with homicides not only on Sundays, but also other days, consistent with delays in death. There was no significant relationship for suicides.


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