Outside the law

Kevin Lewis

March 06, 2017

A Hunter’s Moon: The Effect of Moon Illumination on Outdoor Crime

Lisa Stolzenberg, Stewart D’Alessio & Jamie Flexon

American Journal of Criminal Justice, March 2017, Pages 188–197

We use National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) data and an AutoRegressive Integrative Moving Average (ARIMA) study design to investigate the effect of moon illumination on reported crime occurring outdoors between the hours of 10 pm to 2 am in 13 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Prior research analyzed a confounded dependent variable that amalgamated indoor and outdoor crimes. This situation is problematic in that there is little reason to speculate a relationship between moon illumination and indoor crime because artificial illumination is used within dwellings. Findings show that while moon illumination has little influence on total crime and indoor crime, the intensity of moonlight does have a substantive positive effect on outdoor criminal activity. As moon illumination intensifies, outdoor crime increases markedly. Plausible explanations for this relationship are discussed.


Peacekeeping Force: Effects of Providing Tactical Equipment to Local Law Enforcement

Matthew Harris et al.

American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, forthcoming

We provide the first local-level empirical analysis of the causal effects of providing military equipment to local police. Employing a novel combination of publicly-available county-year panel data matched to hand-collected data on citizen complaints, we investigate the effects of acquiring tactical weapons, optics, and vehicles on citizen complaints, assaults on police officers, and offender deaths. For causal identification, we exploit exogenous variation in equipment availability and cost-shifting institutional aspects of the 1033 Program. Our results indicate that these items have generally positive effects: reduced citizen complaints, reduced assaults on officers, increased drug crime arrests, and no increases in offender deaths.


Preventing the Use of Deadly Force: The Relationship between Police Agency Policies and Rates of Officer-Involved Gun Deaths

Jay Jennings & Meghan Rubado

Public Administration Review, March/April 2017, Pages 217–226

Killings of civilians by police officers have become a matter of intense public concern in the United States. High-profile deaths, especially those of black citizens, have caused outrage and sparked the Black Lives Matter movement with calls for dramatic changes in how police agencies operate. However, little systematic research exists to answer questions about which policies should be ended or put in place to reduce these deaths. The authors leverage a large data set of gun deaths by police officers in the United States, combined with agency-level policy data and community demographic data, to examine whether certain policies are associated with lower or higher rates of officer-involved gun deaths. Findings show that one policy — the requirement that officers file a report when they point their guns at people but do not fire — is associated with significantly lower rates of gun deaths.


Contracting for Privacy Precaution (and a Laffer Curve for Crime)

Ian Ayres

Journal of Legal Studies, June 2016, Pages S123-S136

While Internet consumers and retailers have incentives to contract to protect against criminal privacy invasions by third parties, externality and observability concerns may limit contractual precaution mandates. Contracting between consumers and retailers operates, however, in the shadow of government efforts to deter cybercrime — which in turn can influence the equilibrium information-sharing activity levels as well as private precaution efforts taken by consumers and retailers. This article argues that there is a criminal analog to the Laffer curve. Just as citizens’ reaction to taxation policy raises the possibility that, over some range, lower tax rates may produce higher government revenues, citizens’ reaction to penal policies raises the possibility that, over some range, higher penalties may produce more crime. Though victims and thieves may be made better off by a “higher crime–higher penalty” equilibrium, these private benefits must be measured against (among other things) the social costs of additional state effort.


Economic insecurity and the rise in gun violence at US schools

A.R. Pah et al.

Nature Human Behaviour, January 2017

Frequent school shootings are a unique US phenomenon that has defied understanding. Uncovering the aetiology of this problem is hampered by the lack of an established dataset. Here we assemble a carefully curated dataset for the period 1990–2013 that is built upon an exhaustive review of existing data and original sources. Using this dataset, we find that the rate of gun violence is time-dependent and that this rate is heightened from 2007 to 2013. We further find that periods of increased shooting rates are significantly correlated with increases in the unemployment rate across different geographic aggregation levels (national, regional and city). Consistent with the hypothesis that increasing uncertainty in the school-to-work transition contributes to school shootings, we find that multiple indicators of economic distress significantly correlate with increases in the rate of gun violence when events at both K12 and post-secondary schools are considered.


The Economics of Scams

Stan Miles & Derek Pyne

Review of Law & Economics, February 2017

This paper offers one of the first economic analyses of scams. Its major finding is that, unlike other crimes, imperfect enforcement may increase victimization by deterring only low-ability scammers whose failed attempts would otherwise alert potential victims before encounters with high-ability scammers. High-ability scammers may actually benefit from partial enforcement, which reduces their competition. These results may be reinforced when failed attempts are punished.


Secondary and 2-Year Outcomes of a Sexual Assault Resistance Program for University Women

Charlene Senn et al.

Psychology of Women Quarterly, forthcoming

We report the secondary outcomes and longevity of efficacy from a randomized controlled trial that evaluated a novel sexual assault resistance program designed for first-year women university students. Participants (N = 893) were randomly assigned to receive the Enhanced Assess, Acknowledge, Act (EAAA) program or a selection of brochures (control). Perception of personal risk, self-defense self-efficacy, and rape myth acceptance was assessed at baseline; 1-week postintervention; and 6-, 12-, 18-, and 24-month postrandomization. Risk detection was assessed at 1 week, 6 months, and 12 months. Sexual assault experience and knowledge of effective resistance strategies were assessed at all follow-ups. The EAAA program produced significant increases in women’s perception of personal risk, self-defense self-efficacy, and knowledge of effective (forceful verbal and physical) resistance strategies; the program also produced decreases in general rape myth acceptance and woman blaming over the entire 24-month follow-up period. Risk detection was significantly improved for the intervention group at post-test. The program significantly reduced the risk of completed and attempted rape, attempted coercion, and nonconsensual sexual contact over the entire follow-up period, yielding reductions between 30% and 64% at 2 years. The EAAA program produces long-lasting changes in secondary outcomes and in the incidence of sexual assault experienced by women students. Universities can reduce the harm and the negative health consequences that young women experience as a result of campus sexual assault by implementing this program.


The Impact of Police Strength and Arrest Productivity on Fear of Crime and Subjective Assessments of the Police

Will Hauser & Gary Kleck

American Journal of Criminal Justice, March 2017, Pages 86–111

We explore the effect of police strength and arrest productivity on citizens’ fear of crime and perceived risk of victimization, as well as their subjective perceptions of the police including their confidence in the police and ratings of police response time. Police strength is measured as the rate of officers per 1,000 and productivity is calculated as the average number of arrests per officer; we also controlled for the crime rate using crimes reported to the police. We use nationally representative survey data (n = 1,005) and conduct a supplemental analysis of data drawn from a representative sample of urban counties (n = 1,500). Police force size and productivity have limited and inconsistent effects on fear of crime, perceived risk, and ratings of response time and no apparent effects on confidence in the police. We also find a modest yet statistically significant negative effect of police confidence on fear of crime. Our findings indicate that it is questionable whether adding more police will reduce fear or perceived risk of victimization to any measurable degree. Consequently, we suggest that rather than hiring binges and increased arrests, the focus should be instead on making positive contacts with citizens.


Estimating the Crime Effects of Raising the Age of Majority: Evidence from Connecticut

Charles Loeffler & Aaron Chalfin

Criminology & Public Policy, February 2017, Pages 45–71

The results of recent empirical research have shown that juveniles do not achieve complete psychosocial maturity until postadolescence and that processing juveniles as adults in the criminal justice system can be associated with elevated rates of criminal recidivism. In response to these as well as other concerns, several states have recently raised their legal ages of majority in the hopes of reducing juvenile offending rates. Connecticut enacted one such law change when it raised its age of majority from 16 to 17 in 2010 and then from 17 to 18 in 2012 for all but the most serious offenses. The effect of Connecticut's policy change on juvenile crime is examined in this study. To discern between changes in juvenile offending and changes in the propensity of police to arrest youthful offenders in the aftermath of a law change, we use two methodological approaches. Synthetic control methods are used to generate triple-differences estimates of the effect of Connecticut's policy change on juvenile arrests and overall crime rates by using a weighted average of other U.S. states as a natural comparison group. Next, by analyzing National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) data for a subset of Connecticut's local jurisdictions, we examine changes in age-specific juvenile arrests and changes in age-specific juvenile offending. The resulting evidence suggests that no discernable change in juvenile offending occurred. In addition, evidence exists that in some Connecticut jurisdictions, officer, rather than juvenile, behavior was impacted by this law change.


Inequalities Regimes in Policing: Examining the Connection Between Social Exclusion and Order Maintenance Strategies

Amie Schuck & Cara Rabe-Hemp

Race and Justice, forthcoming

The purpose of this article is to evaluate how the intersection of race, class, and gender within law enforcement influences the utilization of public safety strategies grounded in the broken windows policing philosophy. Drawing from Acker’s inequality regime framework, we hypothesize that greater workplace inequalities produce institutionalized systems of social processes that increase the likelihood that organizations will implement aggressive enforcement of order maintenance offenses as a strategy for sustaining public safety. Using data collected from 1,218 U.S. police departments, the results suggest that stronger inequality regimes are associated with higher arrest rates for disorder offenses, marijuana possession, and liquor law violations. Further, the results suggest that stronger inequality regimes are related to higher arrest rates for Black community members. As many law enforcement agencies across the nation face a legitimacy crisis, prompted by concerns about how police interact with people of color, the results from this study suggest that increasing representation and reducing inequality in law enforcement should result in agencies becoming less reliant on large-scale arrest-driven order maintenance strategies by including more diverse perspectives in the decision-making process and developing alternative models for maintaining public safety.


Suspect Demeanor and Arrest: A Triggered Displacement of Aggression Explanation

Richard Johnson

American Journal of Criminal Justice, March 2017, Pages 170–187

The evidence that police arrest suspects who display a disrespectful demeanor is mixed. One explanation for these equivocal results may be triggered displaced aggression theory. This theory suggests persons who are provoked to anger internalize their aggression and unleash it later on someone or something that further agitates them. A sample of officers was primed for either a positive or negative affect, presented with a domestic disturbance vignette, and asked to rate their likelihood of making an arrest. In one vignette version the suspect displayed a hostile demeanor and in the other the suspect’s demeanor was neutral. Officers who were negatively primed and encountered the hostile demeanor suspect were most likely to arrest compared to officer in the other conditions.


Effects of Maternal Work Incentives on Youth Crime

Hope Corman et al.

NBER Working Paper, January 2017

This study exploits differences in the implementation of welfare reform across states and over time to identify causal effects of maternal work incentives, and by inference employment, on youth arrests between 1990 and 2005, the period during which welfare reform unfolded. We consider both serious and minor crimes as classified by the FBI, investigate the extent to which effects were stronger in states with more stringent work incentive policies and larger welfare caseload declines, and use a number of different model specifications to assess robustness and patterns. We find that welfare reform led to reduced youth arrests for minor crimes, by 7-9 %, with similar estimates for males and females, but that it did not affect youth arrests for serious crimes. The results from this study add to the scant literature on the effects of maternal employment on adolescent behavior by exploiting a large-scale social experiment that is still in effect to this day, and provide some support for the widely-embraced argument that welfare reform would discourage undesirable social behavior, not only of mothers, but also of the next generation.


The Relationship Between Crime and Stop, Question, and Frisk Rates in New York City Neighborhoods

Richard Rosenfeld & Robert Fornango

Justice Quarterly, forthcoming

The current study builds on prior research in an analysis of the relationship between monthly violent and property crime rates in New York City census tracks and the New York City Police Department’s highly contentious stop, question, and frisk (SQF) policy. We find that higher doses of SQF are associated with small crime reductions generally and specific crime reductions for stops of blacks, Hispanics, and whites. But the way the policy was implemented precludes strong causal conclusions. Now that a federal court has intervened and SQF is undergoing change, the court monitor, New York Police Department, and city officials should partner with researchers in experimental evaluations to determine the optimal mix and dosage of enforcement strategies that safeguard the rights and liberties of citizens while enhancing public safety.


Effects of Automating Recidivism Risk Assessment on Reliability, Predictive Validity, and Return on Investment (ROI)

Grant Duwe & Michael Rocque

Criminology & Public Policy, February 2017, Pages 235–269

The relationship between reliability and validity is an important but often overlooked topic of research on risk assessment tools in the criminal justice system. By using data from the Minnesota Screening Tool Assessing Recidivism Risk (MnSTARR), a risk assessment instrument the Minnesota Department of Corrections (MnDOC) developed and began using in 2013, we evaluated the impact of inter-rater reliability (IRR) on predictive performance (validity) among offenders released in 2014. After comparing the reliability of a manual scoring process with an automated one, we found the MnSTARR was scored with a high degree of consistency by MnDOC staff as intraclass correlation (ICC) values ranged from 0.81 to 0.94. But despite this level of IRR, we still observed a degradation in predictive validity given that automated assessments significantly outperformed those that had been scored manually. Additional analyses revealed that the more inter-rater disagreement increased, the more predictive performance decreased. The results from our cost–benefit analyses, which examined the anticipated impact of the MnDOC's efforts to automate the MnSTARR, showed that for every dollar to be spent on automation, the estimated return will be at least $4.35 within the first year and as much as $21.74 after the fifth year.


Exploring the conditional effects of bus stops on crime

Thomas Stucky & Sarah Smith

Security Journal, January 2017, Pages 290–309

Public transportation is a major element of social life in most cities, and the most common mode of public transportation is busing. This study examines whether bus stops are a robust predictor of crime, net of other factors, and whether the effect of bus stops on crime is conditioned by socioeconomic and land use factors. We use geocoded Indianapolis crime and bus stop data for 2010 to predict crime counts in 500-feet × 500-feet square grid cells, using negative binomial models. Net of other factors, bus stops are associated with variation in counts of Uniform Crime Reports reported rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and larceny in a cell. In addition, the effect of bus stops on crime was conditioned by land use characteristics. In particular, the effect of bus stops on crime was greater in commercial and industrial areas, but dampened in areas with high-density residential housing.


Students Wearing Police Uniforms Exhibit Biased Attention toward Individuals Wearing Hoodies

Ciro Civile & Sukhvinder Obhi

Frontiers in Psychology, February 2017

Police provide an essential public service and they often operate in difficult circumstances, requiring high-speed cognition. Recent incidents involving apparent profiling and aggressive behavior have led to accusations that the police are sometimes biased. Given that previous research has shown a link between clothing and cognition, we investigated the question of whether the police uniform itself might induce a bias in social attention. To address this question, and using a Canadian university student sample, we assessed whether wearing a police uniform biases attention toward black faces compared to white faces, and low-status individuals compared to high-status individuals. In Experiment 1 (n = 28), participants wore either a police-style uniform or mechanic overalls, and performed a shape categorization task in the presence of a distractor that could be either: a black face, a white face, a person wearing a hoodie (whom we propose will be associated with low SES), or a person wearing a suit (whom we propose will be associated with high SES). Participants wearing the police-style uniform exhibited biased attention, indexed by slower reaction times (RTs), in the presence of low-SES images. In Experiment 2 (n = 28), we confirmed this bias using a modified Dot-Probe task – an alternate measure of attentional bias in which we observed faster RTs to a dot probe that was spatially aligned with a low SES image. Experiment 3 (n = 56) demonstrated that attentional bias toward low-SES targets appears only when participants wear the police-style uniform, and not when they are simply exposed to it – by having it placed on the desk in front of them. Our results demonstrate that wearing a police-style uniform biases attention toward low-SES targets. Thus, wearing a police-style uniform may induce a kind of “status-profiling” in which individuals from low-status groups become salient and capture attention. We note that our results are limited to university students and that it will be important to extend them to members of the community and law-enforcement officers. We discuss how uniforms might exert their effects on cognition by virtue of the power and cultural associations they evoke in the wearer.


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