Kevin Lewis

October 02, 2015

Property Crime: Investigating Career Patterns and Earnings

Geoffrey Fain Williams
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, November 2015, Pages 124–138

I investigate self-reported theft data in the NLSY 1997 Cohort for the years 1997-2011. Several striking patterns emerge. First, individuals appear to be active thieves for extremely short periods - in most cases in only one year, and fewer than 5% of thieves for more than three years out of the 15 years of data. Second, self-reported earnings from theft are generally very low and there is little evidence of “successful” criminals or consistent earnings from theft. Third, measures that proxy impatience (smoking, for example) are highly correlated with theft. Fourthly, thieves and non-thieves have similar earnings during the years of peak theft activity, but thieves have lower earnings in their late 20s (after most have long since stopped committing theft). Attrition of survey respondents, underreporting and incapacitation effects do not appear to explain this. There may be “professional thieves” too rare to show up in even large samples such as the NLSY. Theft in the United States thus appears to be substantially a phenomenon of individuals entering a temporary period of intensified risk-taking in adolescence.


Deployments, Combat Exposure, and Crime

Mark Anderson & Daniel Rees
Journal of Law and Economics, February 2015, Pages 235-267

During the period 2001–9, four combat brigades and the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment were based at Fort Carson, Colorado. These units were repeatedly deployed during the Iraq War, which allows us to measure the effect of arguably exogenous changes in troop levels on violent crime in El Paso County, where Fort Carson is located. We find that never-deployed units contributed to community violence in the form of assaults, murders, rapes, and robberies. In contrast, estimates of the relationship between previously deployed units and violent crime are generally small and statistically insignificant at conventional levels. We interpret this pattern of results as evidence that never-deployed units represent a greater threat to public safety than units recently returned from combat.


Changing the Street Dynamic: Evaluating Chicago's Group Violence Reduction Strategy

Andrew Papachristos & David Kirk
Criminology & Public Policy, August 2015, Pages 525–558

This study uses a quasi-experimental design to evaluate the efficacy of Chicago's Group Violence Reduction Strategy (VRS), a gun violence reduction program that delivers a focused-deterrence and legitimacy-based message to gang factions through a series of hour-long “call-ins.” The results suggest that those gang factions who attend a VRS call-in experience a 23% reduction in overall shooting behavior and a 32% reduction in gunshot victimization in the year after treatment compared with similar factions.


Concealed Handgun Licensing and Crime in Four States

Charles Phillips et al.
Journal of Criminology, 2015

Firearm policy in the United States has long been a serious policy issue. Much of the previous research on crime and firearms focused on the effects of states’ passage of concealed handgun licensing (CHL) legislation. Today, given the proliferation of CHL legislation and growing strength of the “pro-gun” movement, the primary policy focus has changed. State legislators now face issues concerning whether and how to increase access to CHLs. Because of this transformation, this research moves away from the research tradition focused on the effect of a legislative change allowing CHLs. Instead, we consider two issues more policy relevant in the current era: What are the dynamics behind CHL licensing? Do increases in concealed handgun licensing affect crime rates? Using county-level data, we found that the density of gun dealers and other contextual variables, rather than changing crime rates, had a significant effect on increases of the rates at which CHLs were issued. We also found no significant effect of CHL increases on changes in crime rates. This research suggests that the rate at which CHLs are issued and crime rates are independent of one another — crime does not drive CHLs; CHLs do not drive crime.


Firearm Prevalence and Homicides of Law Enforcement Officers in the United States

David Swedler et al.
American Journal of Public Health, October 2015, Pages 2042-2048

Objectives: In the United States, state firearm ownership has been correlated with homicide rates. More than 90% of homicides of law enforcement officers (LEOs) are committed with firearms. We examined the relationship between state firearm ownership rates and LEO occupational homicide rates.

Methods: We obtained the number LEOs killed from 1996 to 2010 from a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) database. We calculated homicide rates per state as the number of officers killed per number of LEOs per state, obtained from another FBI database. We obtained the mean household firearm ownership for each state from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Results: Using Poisson regression and controlling for factors known to affect homicide rates, we associated firearm ownership with the homicide rates for LEOs (incidence rate ratio = 1.044; P = .005); our results were supported by cross-sectional and longitudinal sensitivity analyses. LEO homicide rates were 3 times higher in states with high firearm ownership compared with states with low firearm ownership.

Conclusions: High public gun ownership is a risk for occupational mortality for LEOs in the United States. States could consider methods for reducing firearm ownership as a way to reduce occupational deaths of LEOs.


Homelessness and crime: Do your friends matter?

Lucia Corno
Economic Journal, forthcoming

This paper investigates the influence of friends on crime, using data I collected among the homeless. To estimate the causal effects of friends and of the share of criminal friends on crime, I rely on two instruments. The first is the share of rainy days during one's first year as homeless: rainfall fosters homeless’ concentration in sheltered places and increases the probability of interactions. The second is the share of inmates released during one's first year as homeless, which affects the supply of criminal friends. I find that one additional friend decreases the probability of incarceration but criminal friends increases it.


Patterns of local segregation: Do they matter for neighborhood crime?

Lauren Krivo et al.
Social Science Research, November 2015, Pages 303–318

In this paper, we extend recent research on the spatial measurement of segregation and the spatial dynamics of urban crime by conceptualizing, measuring, and describing local segregation by race-ethnicity and economic status, and examining the linkages of these conditions with levels of neighborhood violent and property crime. The analyses are based on all 8,895 census tracts within a sample of 86 large U.S. cities. We fit multilevel models of crime that incorporate measures of local segregation. The results reveal that, net of city-level and neighborhood characteristics, White-Black local segregation is associated with lower violent and property crime. In contrast, local segregation of low income from high income households is connected with higher crime, particularly neighborhood violence.


It's all relative: Concentrated disadvantage within and across neighborhoods and communities, and the consequences for neighborhood crime

Alyssa Chamberlain & John Hipp
Journal of Criminal Justice, November–December 2015, Pages 431–443

Purpose: Prior studies have largely been unable to account for how variations in inequality across larger areas might impact crime rates in neighborhoods. We examine this broader context both in terms of the spatial area surrounding neighborhoods as well as the larger, city-level context. Although social disorganization, opportunity and relative deprivation theories are typically used to explain variations in neighborhood crime, these theories make differing predictions about crime when the broader areas that neighborhoods are embedded in are taken into account.

Methods: We use data from the National Neighborhood Crime Study for 7956 neighborhoods in 79 cities. Multi-level models with spatial effects are estimated to explain the relationship between crime and city and neighborhood social and economic resources.

Results: Disadvantage in the focal neighborhood and nearby neighborhoods increase neighborhood violent crime, consistent with social disorganization theory. However, relative deprivation provides a more robust explanation for understanding variation in property crime, as the difference in disadvantage between a neighborhood and nearby neighborhoods (or the broader community) explains higher levels of property crime.

Conclusions: Criminologists need to account for the larger context of nearby neighborhoods, as well as the broader city, when understanding the effect of relative deprivation on neighborhood-level property crime rates.


Sources of guns to dangerous people: What we learn by asking them

Philip Cook, Susan Parker & Harold Pollack
Preventive Medicine, October 2015, Pages 28–36

Gun violence exacts a lethal toll on public health. This paper focuses on reducing access to firearms by dangerous offenders, contributing original empirical data on the gun transactions that arm offenders in Chicago. Conducted in the fall of 2013, analysis of an open-ended survey of 99 inmates of Cook County Jail focuses on a subset of violence-prone individuals with the goal of improving law enforcement actions. Among our principal findings: *Our respondents (adult offenders living in Chicago or nearby) obtain most of their guns from their social network of personal connections. Rarely is the proximate source either direct purchase from a gun store, or theft. *Only about 60% of guns in the possession of respondents were obtained by purchase or trade. Other common arrangements include sharing guns and holding guns for others. *About one in seven respondents report selling guns, but in only a few cases as a regular source of income. *Gangs continue to play some role in Chicago in organizing gun buys and in distributing guns to members as needed. *The Chicago Police Department has a considerable effect on the workings of the underground gun market through deterrence. Transactions with strangers and less-trusted associates are limited by concerns over arrest risk (if the buyer should happen to be an undercover officer or a snitch), and about being caught with a “dirty” gun (one that has been fired in a crime).


Slipping Through the Cracks: Is Mental Illness Appropriately Identified Among Latino Offenders?

Elijah Ricks & Jennifer Eno Louden
Criminal Justice and Behavior, forthcoming

Among U.S. offenders, both ethnic minorities and persons with mental illness are overrepresented. In communities, ethnic minorities are less likely than European Americans to receive mental health treatment, despite having similar need. Many barriers to treatment (e.g., financial and transportation) are removed in prisons; therefore, we sought to understand whether and how ethnicity relates to identification of mental illness (a proxy for treatment receipt) among prisoners. Due to the growth of the Latino population, we focused on Latino offenders. We examined records from two states with high proportions of Latino offenders to determine whether the likelihood of being identified with a mental illness differed by ethnicity. Offenders who had a mental disorder were disproportionately likely to be European American or African American and less likely to be Latino. We offer suggestions for future research on ethnic disparities in correctional mental health to promote best practices with vulnerable offenders.


Calling time on ‘alcohol-related’ crime? Examining the impact of court-mandated alcohol treatment on offending using propensity score matching

Tim McSweeney
Criminology and Criminal Justice, September 2015, Pages 464-483

This article sought to assess what impact exposure to a court-mandated alcohol treatment requirement (ATR) had on offending. Recidivism risk factors were also investigated. The comparative design involved secondary analysis of three linked administrative datasets which focused upon an experimental group of 112 probationers exposed to the ATR and a comparison group of equal size supervised by the same probation area prior to their introduction. Both groups were selected from a larger pool of cases (N = 476) that were found to be significantly different on a number of key variables. Propensity score matching was used to deal with this non-equivalence. The outcome measures examined were the rate and volume of reoffending, and the time to first reoffence. The results showed no association between exposure to the ATR and the rate of reconviction at 12 months (59.8 per cent vs 63.4 per cent), the time to first reoffence (70.7 vs 81.5 days) and the number of proven reoffences (mean 2.4 vs 2.3). The factor with the largest effect on risk of recidivism was supervision completion status. These findings provide indicative evidence to inform discussions about a future programme of research in this area and potential strategies for enhancing the crime prevention impact of court-mandated alcohol treatment.


Residential Foreclosure Rates and Calls for Service for Domestic Disputes: An Exploratory Analysis

Kim Lersch, Christine Sellers & Paul Cromwell
American Journal of Criminal Justice, September 2015, Pages 579-592

Over the past 10 years the U.S. has experienced a sharp increase in the number of foreclosures. The problem has been particularly severe in a number of states, including Florida. The purpose of this article is to explore the relationship between foreclosure rates and calls for service for domestic disturbances reported to the City of Tampa, Florida Police Department in 2008. The results suggest that even when controlling for a number of socioeconomic variables, the foreclosure rate remained a significant predictor of domestic disturbance calls for service.


The National Felon League?: A comparison of NFL arrests to general population arrests

Wanda Leal, Marc Gertz & Alex Piquero
Journal of Criminal Justice, September–October 2015, Pages 397–403

Purpose: In the past few years, media attention to crime and violence committed by NFL players has increased. This paper compares NFL arrest rates to U.S. general population arrest rates from 2000 to 2013.

Methods: The current study uses online databases that contain information of NFL player arrests and UCR arrest data to calculate rates of arrest for violent crimes, property crimes, and public order crimes, for both the NFL and general population. Two-sample test of proportions are used to assess differences between the arrest rates for NFL players and the general population.

Results: Findings indicate that the general population has higher rates of arrests than the NFL population for property crimes and public order crimes, but NFL arrest rates for violent crimes are higher than for the general population in six of the fourteen yearly comparisons.

Conclusion: This study provides data on crime in the NFL. It offers some but not strong or consistent support to those that are concerned about violence among NFL players, but it does not support the claim that NFL players are more criminal than the general population.


Perverse Politics: The Persistence of Mass Imprisonment in the Twenty-first Century

Rebecca Thorpe
Perspectives on Politics, September 2015, Pages 618-637

I examine the political consequences of prison development in the United States. I theorize that the prison apparatus not only upholds a system of racial hierarchy and class stratification, but also links the economic stability of lower-class, rural whites to the continued penal confinement of poor, urban minorities. Analysis of an original dataset suggests that local reliance on existing prison infrastructure throughout many economically-depressed rural communities strengthens political support for harsh criminal punishments and militates against reform efforts. Political representatives have powerful interests in protecting rural prison investments, regardless of their actual economic impact in host communities. The evidence indicates that rural prison development contributes to the perceived economic viability and political power of rural areas, while reinforcing forms of punishment that destabilize poor urban neighborhoods and harm politically marginalized populations.


The impact of the death penalty and executions on state-level murder rates: 1980–2011

Mark Gius
Applied Economics Letters, forthcoming

The purpose of the present study is to determine the effect of capital punishment on state-level murder rates. Using a large current data-set and a two-stage fixed effects model, results of the present study suggest that states with death penalties and at least one execution in a given year had 28% lower murder rates than other states. These results hold regardless of the functional form used.


Messing Up Texas?: A Re-Analysis of the Effects of Executions on Homicides

Patrick Brandt & Tomislav Kovandzic
PLoS ONE, September 2015

Executions in Texas from 1994–2005 do not deter homicides, contrary to the results of Land et al. (2009). We find that using different models — based on pre-tests for unit roots that correct for earlier model misspecifications — one cannot reject the null hypothesis that executions do not lead to a change in homicides in Texas over this period. Using additional control variables, we show that variables such as the number of prisoners in Texas may drive the main drop in homicides over this period. Such conclusions however are highly sensitive to model specification decisions, calling into question the assumptions about fixed parameters and constant structural relationships. This means that using dynamic regressions to account for policy changes that may affect homicides need to be done with significant care and attention.


Racial Disparity in Probationers’ Views about Probation

Julie Siddique & Scott Belshaw
Race and Justice, forthcoming

The current study examined racial disparity in probationers’ views about probation services using survey data from 1,896 probationers in a large county in north Texas. Two multivariate logistic regression models predicting probationers’ views about the helpfulness of the probation department and optimism that their time on probation would help them stay out of trouble were estimated using racial identification and a number of controls as predictors. Racial identification was a significant predictor in both models even after controlling for probationers’ evaluations of probation administration and their relationships with their probation officers. Black probationers were significantly more likely to be dissatisfied with probation services, whereas Hispanic probationers were significantly more likely to be optimistic that their time on probation would help them stay out of trouble, as compared to White probationers. Results from mean tests did not indicate that probationers of different racial identifications differed significantly in their evaluations of probation administration or their relationships with probation officers. Racial disparity in probationers’ views, therefore, was less likely to be related to perceived differential treatment by the probation department and more likely to be related to other factors.


Gaze patterns to child figures reflect deviant sexual preference in child sex offenders — a first glance

Charlotte Hall, Todd Hogue & Kun Guo
Journal of Sexual Aggression, Fall 2015, Pages 303-317

Research on non-offending heterosexual participants has indicated that men's gaze allocation reflects their sexual preference. In this exploratory pilot study we investigated whether naturalistic gaze behaviour is sensitive to deviant sexual preferences. We compared gaze patterns of convicted heterosexual child sex offenders (CSOs; n = 13) with female victims to heterosexual non-offending men (n = 13) in a task of free-viewing images of clothed male and female figures aged 10, 20 and 40 years. CSOs dedicated more fixations to the upper body of the female child than male child figures. The pattern was different for the control sample, whose gaze pattern to male and female figures could only be differentiated when viewing adult figures. CSOs showed significantly greater difference in their gaze towards the upper body of male and female children than non-offenders. Our findings provide preliminary evidence for eye-tracking as a potential method of assessing deviant sexual interest.


Effectiveness of Using Incentives to Improve Parolee Admission and Attendance in Community Addiction Treatment

Michael Prendergast et al.
Criminal Justice and Behavior, October 2015, Pages 1008-1031

This study is a randomized effectiveness trial of the use of incentives to improve treatment utilization among parolees in community treatment. In prison, Admission Phase parolees were randomized to either Admission Incentive (n = 31) or Education (n = 29). Attendance Phase parolees entering community treatment were randomized to Attendance Incentive (n = 104) or Education (n = 98). In the Attendance Phase, study participants received a monetary incentive for each day that they remained in treatment (up to 22 weeks). There was no main effect for incentives in either phase of the study (Admission to community treatment, Incentive 60% and Education 64%, p = .74; Intervention completion, Incentive 22% and Education 27%, p = .46). Using Cox regression, age, first arrest age, and type of parole status predicted time-in-treatment (p < .05), but treatment group did not. Providing incentives did not increase the likelihood that parolees enrolled in or stayed in community treatment. In light of other studies with similar outcomes, criminal justice practitioners who are considering the use of incentives should be aware that they may not produce the desired outcomes.


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