Kevin Lewis

January 10, 2020

Dispatch Priming and the Police Decision to Use Deadly Force
Paul Taylor
Police Quarterly, forthcoming


Police shootings have become one of the most “visible and controversial” aspects of the criminal justice system. Yet, very little empirical effort has been devoted to understanding the underlying systemic vulnerabilities that likely contribute to these tragic outcomes. Using a randomized controlled experiment that incorporated a police firearms simulator and 306 active law enforcement officers, this study examined the effects of dispatch priming on an officer’s decision to use deadly force. The findings suggest that officers rely heavily on dispatched information in making the decision to pull the trigger when confronted with an ambiguously armed subject in a simulated environment. When the dispatched information was erroneous, it contributed to a significant increase in shooting errors. The results contribute to a broader understanding of officer decision-making within the context of police shootings and introduce the theoretical concepts of cognitive heuristics and human error to the research on police use of deadly force.

Police Presence, Rapid Response Rates, and Crime Prevention
Sarit Weisburd
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming


This paper estimates the impact of police presence on crime using a unique database that tracks the exact location of Dallas Police Department patrol cars throughout 2009. To address the concern that officer location is often driven by crime, my instrument exploits police responses to calls outside of their allocated coverage beat. This variable provides a plausible shift in police presence within the abandoned beat that is driven by the police goal of minimizing response times. I find that a 10 percent decrease in police presence at that location results in a 7 percent increase in crime. This result sheds light on the black box of policing and crime and suggests that routine changes in police patrol can significantly impact criminal behavior.

An Empirical Characterization of the Dynamic Effects of Police Spending on Violent and Property Crime
Bebonchu Atems
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming


The study estimates the dynamic effects of shocks to police expenditures on measures of violent and property crime rates using annual U.S. state‐level data for the period 1960–2015. We employ a structural panel VAR model and achieve identification by imposing the restriction that police spending responds to structural shocks to crime with at least a lag of 1 year. Results indicate that a shock to police spending leads to (a) persistent and significant decreases in violent and property crime rates and (b) significant and persistent negative impacts on crime rates in periods of high crime but little impacts in periods of low crime. Variance decompositions show that shocks to police spending account for moderate to large proportions of the variability of U.S. state‐level crime rates. Our findings are robust across separate measures of violent and property crime rates, as well as to the inclusion of additional variables to the baseline panel VAR model.

Solitary Confinement and the U.S. Prison Boom
Ryan Sakoda & Jessica Simes
Criminal Justice Policy Review, forthcoming


Solitary confinement is a harsh form of custody involving isolation from the general prison population and highly restricted access to visitation and programs. Using detailed prison records covering three decades of confinement practices in Kansas, we find solitary confinement is a normal event during imprisonment. Long stays in solitary confinement were rare in the late 1980s with no detectable racial disparities, but a sharp increase in capacity after a new prison opening began an era of long-term isolation most heavily affecting Black young adults. A decomposition analysis indicates that increases in the length of stay in solitary confinement almost entirely explain growth in the proportion of people held in solitary confinement. Our results provide new evidence of increasingly harsh prison conditions and disparities that unfolded during the prison boom.

Extending Research on the “War on Cops”: The Effects of Ferguson on Nonfatal Assaults Against U.S. Police Officers
John Shjarback & Edward Maguire
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming


This study tests whether violence directed toward American law enforcement has increased in the wake of events in Ferguson, Missouri, in summer 2014. Using monthly data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) reports (2010–2016), we carried out time-series analyses to examine trends in nonfatal assaults on police officers in a sample of 4,921 agencies. Neither injurious nor noninjurious assaults on officers increased following Michael Brown’s death in August 2014. The findings are robust across a variety of model specifications and estimation techniques, providing little evidence of a “War on Cops” through 2016. The study adds empirical rigor to an ongoing national debate based largely on speculation/anecdotes. The impact and potential consequences of the current climate for officers’ perceptions of safety/risk are discussed.

Craigslist Reduced Violence Against Women
Scott Cunningham, Gregory DeAngelo & John Tripp
Baylor University Working Paper, February 2019


Black market participants face considerable risks when providing illegal services, but sex workers are perhaps the most vulnerable due to serious threats of deadly violence. Investigative journalism and anecdotal evidence have reported that sex workers perceived significant safety benefits from advertising and screening customers using Craigslist’s “erotic services” (ERS) section, which was used almost exclusively by sex workers offering illegal sex services. Protected by the Communications Decency Act, Craigslist expanded ERS from 2002 to 2010, ultimately providing the service in every market that Craigslist served. Using the geographically-staggered rollout of ERS, we estimate that ERS reduced the female homicide rate by 10-17 percent, with the reduction driven by street prostitution moving indoors and by helping sex workers to screen out the most dangerous clients. These results suggest that there may be adverse safety consequences that result from the 2018 passage of the “Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” (FOSTA), which led to the closure of almost all websites that US sex workers had previously used for online solicitation and safety screening.

Including Illegal Activity in the U.S. National Economic Accounts
Rachel Soloveichik
U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis Working Paper, December 2019


The internationally agreed guidelines for national economic accounts, System of National Accounts 2008 (hereafter referred to as SNA 2008) (United Nations Statistics Division 2008), explicitly recommend that illegal market activity should be included in the measured economy. This recommendation is not currently implemented by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) because of challenges inherent in identifying suitable source data and differences in conceptual traditions (Carson 1984a and 1984b). This paper explores how tracking illegal activity in the U.S. national economic accounts might impact measured nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP), measured real GDP, measured productivity, and other economic statistics. In 2017, the level of nominal GDP rises by more than 1 percent when illegal activity is tracked in the U.S. National Income and Product Accounts (NIPAs). By category, illegal drugs add $111 billion to measured nominal GDP in 2017, illegal prostitution adds $10 billion, illegal gambling adds $4 billion, and theft from businesses adds $109 billion. Real GDP and productivity growth also change. Real illegal output grew faster than overall GDP during the 1970s. As a result, tracking illegal activity ameliorates the 1970s slowdown in measured productivity growth and partially ameliorates the post-2008 slowdown in measured productivity growth.

Patterns and prevalence of lethal mass violence
Grant Duwe
Criminology & Public Policy, forthcoming


Mass shootings have been identified as a novel American crime problem. The term is merely a new name, however, for an older crime problem—mass murder. The social construction of the mass shooting and mass murder problems have both been driven by “mass public shootings” — incidents that occur in the absence of other criminal activity (e.g., robberies, drug deals, and gang “turf wars”) in which a gun was used to kill four or more victims at a public location within a 24‐hour period. Using data on 845 mass shootings, including 158 mass public shootings, which occurred in the United States between 1976 and 2018, in this study, I analyze trends in their prevalence and severity (i.e., number of victims killed and wounded). After controlling for growth in the U.S. population, the results show the late 1980s and early 1990s had the highest incidence of mass shootings. Both the incidence and severity of mass public shootings, on the other hand, have increased over the last decade. I also describe the patterns of mass public shootings by reporting incident and offender characteristics.

Security Governance: Mafia Control over Ordinary Crimes
Alberto Aziani, Serena Favarin & Gian Maria Campedelli
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, forthcoming

Method: To understand whether mafias’ territorial control is associated with lower levels of ordinary criminality, we conduct a panel data analysis on 110 Italian provinces (2004 to 2015). System generalized method of moment and Driscoll–Kraay standard errors are performed to test our hypothesis. This study exploits an aggregated measure of thefts, robberies, and assaults as dependent variable. A standardized index derived from the number of active mafia groups in a province is our proxy of mafia control.

Results: The article statistically shows that mafias limit ordinary criminality, whereas less stable and unstructured criminal groups do not.

The propensity for aggressive behavior and lifetime incarceration risk: A test for gene-environment interaction (G × E) using whole-genome data
J.C. Barnes et al.
Aggression and Violent Behavior, forthcoming


Incarceration is a disruptive event that is experienced by a considerable proportion of the United States population. Research has identified social factors that predict incarceration risk, but scholars have called for a focus on the ways that individual differences combine with social factors to affect incarceration risk. Our study is an initial attempt to heed this call using whole-genome data. We use data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) (N = 6716) to construct a genome-wide measure of genetic propensity for aggressive behavior and use it to predict lifetime incarceration risk. We find that participants with a higher genetic propensity for aggression are more likely to experience incarceration, but the effect is stronger for males than females. Importantly, we identify a gene-environment interaction (G × E) — genetic propensity is reduced, substantively and statistically, to a non-significant predictor for males raised in homes where at least one parent graduated high school. We close by placing these findings in the broader context of concerns that have been raised about genetics research in criminology.

Examining the Paradox of Crime Reporting: Are Disadvantaged Victims More Likely to Report to the Police?
Heather Zaykowski, Erin Cournoyer Allain & Lena Campagna
Law & Society Review, December 2019, Pages 1305-1340


This study uses an intersectional approach to examine the “paradox” that disadvantaged victims often mobilize the police, despite their distrust and lack of confidence in the law. Data from the National Crime Victimization Survey (1994–2016) were analyzed using logistic regression to model the predicted probabilities of police notification by victims of crime. Economic disadvantage, as measured by family poverty and lack of a high school education, increased the probability that females reported their victimization to the police, but decreased the likelihood that males did so. Economically disadvantaged black females had the highest probability of reporting, while economically disadvantaged black and Hispanic males had the lowest. Examining the intersectional differences across social groups shows that reporting behavior is not just a function of one attribute but rather is a function of multiple identities and structural inequalities.

Detecting smugglers: Identifying strategies and behaviours in individuals in possession of illicit objects
Samantha Mann et al.
Applied Cognitive Psychology, forthcoming


Behaviour Detection Officers’ task is to spot potential criminals in public spaces, but scientific research concerning what to look for is scarce. In two experiments, 52 (Experiment 1A) and 60 (Experiment 2A) participants carried out a mission involving a ferry‐crossing. Half were asked to smuggle an object; the other half were non‐smugglers. In Experiment 2A, two confederates appeared to approach as if looking for someone on the ferry. Smugglers, more than non‐smugglers, reported afterwards to have felt nervous, self‐conscious and conspicuous and to attempt behavioural control during the ferry‐crossing. The secretly videotaped ferry‐crossings were shown to 104 (Experiment 1B) and 120 (Experiment 2B) observers, tasked to identify the smugglers. Although they reported paying attention mostly to signs of nervousness, lie detection accuracy rate was poor (48% in Experiment 1 and 39.2% in Experiment 2), because their perceptions of nervousness did not match the experiences of nervousness reported by the (non)smugglers.


from the


A weekly newsletter with free essays from past issues of National Affairs and The Public Interest that shed light on the week's pressing issues.


to your National Affairs subscriber account.

Already a subscriber? Activate your account.


Unlimited access to intelligent essays on the nation’s affairs.

Subscribe to National Affairs.