The Crisis of Social Institutions and Police Homicides: The Adverse Effects of Low Institutional Control
Kamali'ilani Wetherell & Terance Miethe
Homicide Studies, forthcoming
Using U.S. census data and a multi-source database on officer-involved killings, the current study extends previous research by exploring the influence of measures of weak social control in economic, educational, and familial institutions on state rates of police homicide. States with lower levels of institutional control are found to have higher overall rates of police homicides and police killings involving Black, Hispanic, and White decedents. The significant effects of institutional control on these police homicide rates are generally found to exhibit contextual invariance across different levels of various control variables (e.g., comparisons of states with low or high violent crime rates, low vs high economic inequality, low vs high levels of urbanization). These results and the limitations of this study are discussed in terms of implications for future research and public policy on police homicides and the role of social institutions in minimizing the occurrence of these incidents.
Self-Help and Black Firearm Crime
Candice Ammons-Blanfort, Stewart D’Alessio & Lisa Stolzenberg
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming
Self-help theory posits that a negative perception of police engenders firearm violence rather than simply amplifying individuals’ ownership of firearms for self-defense. A racially diverse police force may help decrease firearm use among Black citizens because marginalized groups in society often view a governmental institution as legitimate and impartial when the racial composition of the institution mirrors the population it represents. Analyses using multilevel data show that as the racial diversity of a city’s police department increases, Black criminal offenders are much less likely to use a firearm in an aggravated assault and in a violent crime. These findings buttress the claim that the institutional legitimacy of a police agency can be enhanced by descriptive racial representation.
The Opinion-Mobilizing Effect of Social Protest against Police Violence: Evidence from the 2020 George Floyd Protests
Tyler Reny & Benjamin Newman
American Political Science Review, forthcoming
Does social protest following the police killing of unarmed Black civilians have a widespread “opinion-mobilizing” effect against the police? Or, does the racialized nature of these events polarize mass opinion based on standing racial and political orientations? To answer these questions, we use a large dataset comprised of weekly cross sections of the American public and employ a regression discontinuity in time (RDiT) approach leveraging the random timing of the police killing of George Floyd and ensuing nationwide protests. We find that the Floyd protests swiftly decreased favorability toward the police and increased perceived anti-Black discrimination among low-prejudice and politically liberal Americans. However, attitudes among high-prejudice and politically conservative Americans either remained unchanged or evinced only small and ephemeral shifts. Our evidence suggests that the Floyd protests served to further racialize and politicize attitudes within the domain of race and law enforcement in the U.S.
Do Female Officers Police Differently? Evidence from Traffic Stops
Kelsey Shoub, Katelyn Stauffer & Miyeon Song
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming
Political scientists have increasingly begun to study how citizen characteristics shape whether — and how — they interact with the police. Less is known about how officer characteristics shape these interactions. In this article, we examine how one officer characteristic — officer sex — shapes the nature of police-initiated contact with citizens. Drawing on literature from multiple fields, we develop and test a set of competing expectations. Using over four million traffic stops made by the Florida State Highway Patrol and Charlotte (North Carolina) Police Department, we find that female officers are less likely to search drivers than men on the force. Despite these lower search rates, when female officers do conduct a search, they are more likely to find contraband and they confiscate the same net amount of contraband as male officers. These results indicate that female officers are able to minimize the number of negative interactions with citizens without losses in effectiveness.
The Effect of Adult Entertainment Establishments on Sex Crime: Evidence from New York City
Riccardo Ciacci & Maria Micaela Sviatschi
Economic Journal, forthcoming
This paper studies how the presence of adult entertainment establishments affects the incidence of sex crimes. We build a high frequency daily and weekly panel that combines the exact location of not-self-reported sex crimes with the day of opening and exact location of adult entertainment establishments in New York City. We find that these businesses decrease sex crime by 13% per police precinct one week after the opening, and have no effect on other types of crimes. The results suggest that the reduction is mostly driven by potential sex offenders frequenting these establishments rather than committing crimes.
A Tale of Force: Examining Policy Proposals to Address Police Violence
Kayla Preito-Hodge & Donald Tomaskovic-Devey
Social Currents, forthcoming
We develop an explicitly organizational and relational approach to examine the problem of police violence, focusing empirically on prominent policy recommendations to increase officer demographic diversity, raise educational requirements for new officers, and implement community policing strategies. We first review prior research on these proposals, which is surprisingly thin and non-supportive of the proposals. To examine the baseline plausibility of these recommendations, we estimate cross-sectional negative binomial models, regressing counts of police department use of force on indicators of community policing, officer education, and officer racial and gender diversity. We find that police organizations with more college-educated officers are less violent toward citizens, but that the race and sex composition of law enforcement organizations are not associated with lower levels of police violence. After unpacking the community police philosophy into component practices, we find that practices that encourage proactive policing are associated with higher levels of police violence, while those that encourage the formation of relationships with citizens may reduce police violence. In conclusion, we advocate for better data collection on police violence, increased theorizing of police violence as an organizational accomplishment, and future policy interventions that approach police forces as potentially violent and racialized organizations.
The evolution of norms within a society of captives
Chad Seagren & David Skarbek
Journal of Economic Interaction and Coordination, July 2021, Pages 529–556
How do norms evolve when people have no choice to opt out of social interactions? One example of such a setting is prison. Past research usually relies on ethnographic work to understand the emergence and maintenance of norms among prisoners. We instead use this rich qualitative literature to inform an agent-based model to demonstrate how norms evolve in response to demographic changes in prison. In the model, agents play a one-shot, though possibly repeated, prisoner’s dilemma with other agents. Agents lack the ability to decline to play with their selected opponent. We consider tag-mediated play and norm enforcement as mechanisms to facilitate prisoner cooperation and to examine the effects of increasing prison populations and increasing ethnic heterogeneity on the maintenance of cooperative norms. We also calibrate the model with empirical data from the California prison system. Parameters of the model correspond to demographic changes between 1951 and 2016, where the size of the prison population increased 14-fold and ethnic heterogeneity by 30%. Simulation results show that such changes dramatically decrease levels of cooperation and compliance. These results are consistent with the actual observed breakdown of the cooperative norms in California prisons.
Measuring Sex Trafficking: A National-Level Victimization Survey of an at-Risk Sample
Justice Quarterly, forthcoming
The current study administered a self-report survey with behaviorally specific questions to a stratified sample of non-college educated women, aged 18 to 29, in the general population (N = 996). Notably, the women were classified as being trafficked as adults only (3.8%), minors only (9.6%), or as both adults and minors (9.3%) using the federal legal definition. More than 1 in 5 (22.7%) women in the sample met the criteria for sex trafficking victimization at some point in their lives. However, only 39.6% of the respondents who experienced trafficking as an adult reported these events to police -- further contributing to the “hidden figure” of crime. Guided by victimological theories, vulnerabilities, individual characteristics, and lifestyle factors increased the odds of being trafficked but varied depending on the type of exploitation. The implications of these findings are reviewed, including the utility of studying trafficking using behaviorally worded self-report surveys.
Confounding Bias in the Relationship Between Problem Gambling and Crime
Christopher Dennison, Jessica Finkeldey & Gregory Rocheleau
Journal of Gambling Studies, June 2021, Pages 427–444
Although the relationship between problem gambling and criminal behavior has been widely researched, concerns over the causal nature of this association remain. Some argue that problem gambling does not lead to crime; instead, the same background characteristics that predict problem gambling also predict criminal behavior. Yet, studies suggestive of a spurious association often rely on small, non-random, and cross-sectional samples; thus, the extent to which the findings are generalizable to the broader population is unknown. With this in mind, the present study uses data from The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health and a series of propensity score weighting and matching techniques to examine the role of confounding bias in the relationship between problem gambling and criminal behavior in young adulthood. On the surface, results show a positive and significant relationship between problem gambling and a range of criminal behaviors. However, after statistically balancing differences in several background measures between problem gamblers and non-problem gamblers, such as low self-control, past substance use, and juvenile delinquency, we find no significant relationship between problem gambling and crime. These patterns are consistent across several propensity score weighting and matching algorithms. Our results therefore parallel those in support of the “generality of deviance” framework, whereby a similar set of covariates known to be associated with criminal behavior also predict problem gambling.
Body-worn cameras and arrest: Zooming in on disaggregated metrics and possible unintended consequences
William McCarty et al.
Journal of Criminal Justice, forthcoming
Purpose: This study sought to assess the effects of body-worn cameras (BWCs) on arrest in the Chicago Police Department (CPD). It builds on the small number of studies that have explored the BWC-arrest nexus through its focus on outcome measures disaggregated by initial arrest category to see if there is additional specificity to the relationship.
Methods: This study uses a quasi-experimental design and propensity score matching (PSM) to compare similar groups of spatial units — police patrol districts – in the CPD over a 30-month study period. It also uses multivariate methods to assess whether difference scores in various types of arrest changed significantly over time after the introduction of BWCs.
Results: The results showed that in the BWC districts, arrests for misdemeanor marijuana possession increased as time increased (i.e. the difference scores became less negative). This tendency did not appear in a control group of districts. For all other categories of arrest, change occurred at similar rates in the BWC- and control-districts.
Deterrence Effects of Enforcement Schemes: An Experimental Study
Marina Agranov & Anastasia Buyalskaya
Management Science, forthcoming
Private and public organizations are interested in finding effective ways to reduce crime and promote ethical behavior without investing heavy resources into monitoring and compliance. In this paper, we experimentally study how revealing different information about a fine distribution affects deterrence of an undesirable behavior. We use a novel incentive-compatible elicitation method to observe subjects lying (the undesirable behavior) and quantify the extent to which this behavior responds to information structures. We find that punishment schemes that communicate only partial information (the minimum fine in particular) are more effective than full information schemes at deterring lying. We explore the mechanism driving this result and link it to subjects’ beliefs about their own versus the average expected fine in treatments with partial information.