Policing and Management
Max Kapustin, Terrence Neumann & Jens Ludwig
NBER Working Paper, March 2022
How can we get more ‘output,’ and of the right sort, from policing? The question has only taken on greater importance with recent, widely publicized instances of police misconduct; declines in public trust in police; and a rise in gun violence, all disproportionately concentrated in economically disadvantaged communities of color. Research typically focuses on two levers: (1) police resources, and (2) policing strategies or policies, historically focused on crime control but increasingly also on accountability, transparency, and fairness. Here we examine a third lever: management quality. We present three types of evidence. First, we show there is substantial variability in violent crime and police use of force both across cities and within a city across police districts, and that this variation is related to the timing of police leader tenures. Second, we show that an effort to change police management in selected districts in Chicago generates sizable changes in policing outcomes. Third, as part of that management intervention the department adopted a predictive policing tool that randomizes which high-crime areas it shows to officers. We use that randomization to generate district-specific measures of implementation fidelity and show that, even within the context of a management intervention designed to improve implementation of the department’s strategies, there is variability in implementation.
Skimmed at the Pump: How COVID-19 Lockdowns Increased Gas Pump Skimming
Scott Belshaw et al.
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming
Few schemes for monetizing stolen credit card data are as bold as the fuel theft scam. Skimming devices embedded inside gas pumps steal credit card data from customers which can be used to engage in any manner of illegal economic activities, however, empirical research on gas pump skimming is virtually non-existent. This study uses data from the State of Texas to examine the patterning of gas pump skimming, focusing on changes in prevalence in the months prior and the year following COVID-19 lockdowns being lifted in June 2020. Our findings suggest that (1) skimmer hits significantly increased after COVID-19 lockdowns and (2) that this “COVID effect” persisted even when controlling for other structural characteristics, including theoretically-relevant factors such as the average price of gas.
Beyond Crime Rates: How Did Public Safety in U.S. Cities Change in 2020?
Maxim Massenkoff & Aaron Chalfin
University of Pennsylvania Working Paper, March 2022
This paper argues that changes in human activity during the COVID-19 pandemic led to an unusual divergence between crime rates and victimization risk in US cities. Most violent crimes declined during the pandemic. But analysis using foot traffic data shows that the risk of street crime victimization was elevated throughout 2020; people in public spaces were 15-30 percent more likely to be robbed or assaulted. This increase is unlikely to be explained by changes in crime reporting or selection into outdoor activities by potential victims. Traditional crime rates may present a misleading view of recent changes in public safety.
Does Welfare Prevent Crime? The Criminal Justice Outcomes of Youth Removed From SSI
Manasi Deshpande & Michael Mueller-Smith
NBER Working Paper, February 2022
We estimate the effect of losing Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits at age 18 on criminal justice and employment outcomes over the next two decades. To estimate this effect, we use a regression discontinuity design in the likelihood of being reviewed for SSI eligibility at age 18 created by the 1996 welfare reform law. We evaluate this natural experiment with Social Security Administration data linked to records from the Criminal Justice Administrative Records System. We find that SSI removal increases the number of criminal charges by a statistically significant 20% over the next two decades. The increase in charges is concentrated in offenses for which income generation is a primary motivation (60% increase), especially theft, burglary, fraud/forgery, and prostitution. The effect of SSI removal on criminal justice involvement persists more than two decades later, even as the effect of removal on contemporaneous SSI receipt diminishes. In response to SSI removal, youth are twice as likely to be charged with an illicit income-generating offense than they are to maintain steady employment at $15,000/year in the labor market. As a result of these charges, the annual likelihood of incarceration increases by a statistically significant 60% in the two decades following SSI removal. The costs to taxpayers of enforcement and incarceration from SSI removal are so high that they nearly eliminate the savings to taxpayers from reduced SSI benefits.
The Effect of Self-Defense Laws on Firearm Use Among Criminal Offenders
Stewart D’Alessio et al.
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming
Criminal violence frequently increases within jurisdictions following the implementation of self-defense laws. One explanation for this finding is a firearm amplification effect, whereby criminal offenders increasingly use firearms as a direct response to the amplified threat engendered by citizens. Using longitudinal data drawn from the National Incident-Based Reporting System for 95 cities situated in 15 states, we investigate whether the passing of a stand your ground or castle doctrine law amplifies the likelihood of gun use by criminal offenders. Results from a panel analysis show a marked rise in gun use among criminal offenders following the imposition of both types of self-defense laws. These findings furnish empirical support for the firearm amplification thesis.
Reforming the police through procedural justice training: A multicity randomized trial at crime hot spots
David Weisburd et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 28 March 2022
Can police be trained to treat people in fair and respectful ways, and if so, will this influence evaluations of the police and crime? To answer these questions, we randomly allocated 120 crime hot spots to a procedural justice (PJ) and standard condition (SC) in three cities. Twenty-eight officers were randomly assigned to the conditions. The PJ condition officers received an intensive 5-d training course in the components of PJ (giving voice, showing neutrality, treating people with respect, and evidencing trustworthy motives). We used police self-report surveys to assess whether the training influenced attitudes, systematic social observations to examine impacts on police behavior in the field, and arrests to assess law enforcement actions. We conducted pre and post household surveys to assess resident attitudes toward the police. Impacts on crime were measured using crime incident and citizen-initiated crime call data. The training led to increased knowledge about PJ and more procedurally just behavior in the field as compared with the SC condition. At the same time, PJ officers made many fewer arrests than SC officers. Residents of the PJ hot spots were significantly less likely to perceive police as harassing or using unnecessary force, though we did not find significant differences between the PJ and SC hot spots in perceptions of PJ and police legitimacy. We found a significant relative 14% decline in crime incidents in the PJ hot spots during the experiment.
Negotiated Safety? Did Backpage.com Reduce Female Homicide Rates
Samantha Tjaden & David Makin
Homicide Studies, forthcoming
Prior research has associated Craigslist.com and Backpage.com as sources of victimization, which in part resulted in the closure of the erotic services of each respective website. However, research also claims the introduction of Craigslist was associated with a reduction in female homicide rates across 30 large cities. This research acts as a supplemental analysis to Cunningham et al. by analyzing if Backpage.com, considered to be Craigslist’s successor, has similar effects on female homicide rates. When including measures of interest in each respective website, we find that Backpage is associated with a decrease in homicide rates for women. The purpose of this study is to extend the study conducted by Cunningham et al. through supplemental analysis. To determine the effect of online clearinghouses on female homicide rates, interest measures in Backpage along with the female homicide rates from 120 single city metropolitan and micropolitan areas over 14 years (2004–2018) were analyzed using multiple regression analyses. The regression analyses show that there is a statistically significant relationship between interest in Backpage and homicide rates for women. We find that Backpage is associated with a decrease in homicide rates for women.
Trends in seizures of powders and pills containing illicit fentanyl in the United States, 2018 through 2021
Joseph Palamar et al.
Drug and Alcohol Dependence, forthcoming
We examined quarterly national seizure data from High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas to determine the number of drug seizures in the US containing fentanyl from January 2018 through December 2021. Generalized additive models were used to estimate trends in the number and weight of pill and powder seizures containing fentanyl.
There was an increase both in the number of fentanyl-containing powder seizures (from 424 in 2018 Quarter 1 [Q1] to 1539 in 2021 Quarter 4 [Q4], β = 0.94, p < 0.001) and in the number of pill seizures (from 68 to 635, β = 0.96, p < 0.01). The proportion of pills to total seizures more than doubled from 13.8% in 2018 Q1 to 29.2% in 2021 Q4 (β = 0.92, p < 0.001). Weight of powder fentanyl seizures increased from 298.2 kg in 2018 Q1 to 2416.0 kg in 2021 Q4 (β = 1.12, p = 0.01); the number of pills seized increased from 42,202 in 2018 Q1 to 2,089,186 in 2021 Q4 (β = 0.90, p < 0.001).
A window of opportunity: Examining the potential impact of mandatory sexual assault kit (SAK) testing legislation on crime prevention
Rebecca Campbell et al.
Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, forthcoming
Large stockpiles of untested sexual assault kits (SAKs; or “rape kits”) have been found in police departments throughout the United States. SAKs contain biological evidence (semen, saliva, and blood) that can be analyzed for DNA to inform investigations and prosecutions. However, when SAKs are not tested, it is less likely offenders will be held accountable and they may commit additional crimes. Given the utility of SAK evidence in protecting public safety, a growing number of states are passing mandatory SAK testing laws. In this study, we tracked a sample of previously unsubmitted SAKs collected in Detroit, MI to explore what crimes might have been prevented, based on mandates in the Michigan Sexual Assault Evidence Submission Act (2014). For our first research question (Did the rate of offending increase from before to after a SAK could have been tested?), the analyses revealed significant escalation in criminal activity over time. These offenders committed five additional crimes (on average) after their earliest-known SAK could have been tested (range 0–49 crimes), including other sexual assaults, physical assaults, and homicides. For our second research question (Are multiple crimes committed by a subset of repeat offenders?), the results indicated most of this criminal activity was linked to a subset of prolific offenders. For our third research question (How many of these criminal incidents could have been feasibly prevented by timely testing?), the analyses documented that up to 320 additional sexual assaults, plus over a thousand other violent crimes, might have been prevented with timely SAK testing.
Pediatric Firearm Injury Mortality Epidemiology
Annie Andrews et al.
Pediatrics, March 2022
Firearm injury is a leading and preventable cause of death for youth in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web-based injury statistics query and reporting system was queried to examine changes in firearm injury mortality among youth aged 0 to 19 from 2001 to 2019. This includes assessment of overall mortality rates, mortality rates based on intent and race/ethnicity, and the proportion of deaths due to homicide, suicide, and unintentional shootings among different age groups. Regression analysis was used to identify significant differences in mortality rate over time between Black and White youth. Deaths due to firearm injury were compared with deaths due to motor vehicle traffic collisions. In 2019, firearm injuries surpassed motor vehicle collisions to become the leading cause of death for youth aged 0 to 19 years in the United States. Homicide is the most common intent across all age groups, but suicide represents a large proportion of firearm deaths in 10- to 19-year-old youth. In 2019, Black youth had a firearm mortality rate 4.3 times higher than that of White youth and a firearm homicide rate over 14 times higher than that of White youth. For each additional year after 2013, the mortality rate for Black youth increased by 0.55 deaths per 100 000 compared with White youth (time by race interaction effect P < .0001). These data indicate the growing burden of firearm injuries on child mortality and widening racial inequities with Black youth disproportionately affected by firearm violence. This public health crisis demands physician advocacy to reduce these preventable deaths among youth.
Effects of New York City’s Neighborhood Policing Policy
Brenden Beck, Joseph Antonelli & Gabriela Piñeros
Police Quarterly, forthcoming
Between 2015 and 2018, New York City adopted “neighborhood policing,” an expansive policy to encourage interactions between police officers and community members. Among other changes, the initiative established hundreds of new “neighborhood-coordination” officers and gave “steady-sector” officers time away from 911 response to dedicate to resident interactions. This study evaluates the initiative’s effects on crime, complaints of police misconduct, racial disparities, and arrests. Using monthly data on New York City’s 76 police precincts between 2006 and 2019, we estimate the policy’s causal effect using high-dimensional time series models. This approach accounts for the policy’s staggered adoption, addresses potential correlation among outcomes and between precincts, and controls for unobserved precinct characteristics. We find neighborhood policing reduced misdemeanor and proactive arrests, especially in higher-poverty precincts outside of Manhattan, though it did not change the racial disparities of such arrests. The policy did not affect crime. It briefly increased complaints against police.
The Impact of Felony Diversion in San Francisco
Elsa Augustine et al.
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming
In the traditional criminal justice system, an arrest is followed by multiple decision points determining detention, prosecution, guilt, and sentence. Many jurisdictions across the United States (U.S.) are exploring alternative programs and approaches that consider individual needs and assessed risks at each decision point. San Francisco County uses post-filing pretrial diversion programs as alternatives to the traditional criminal justice system for defendants based on factors including social and behavioral needs. In this paper, we estimate the impact of a referral to felony pretrial diversion programs on case outcomes and subsequent criminal justice contact. To address selection bias associated with nonrandom assignment into diversion programs, we exploit the random assignment of felony cases to arraignment judges and use variation among judicial diversion referral rates as an instrument for the diversion referral. We find that a referral to diversion increases the time to disposition in the current case and decreases the probability of a subsequent conviction up to five years following case arraignment. Subgroup analyses find that the benefits of diversion are concentrated among females, those who are under the age of 25, and those facing drug sales charges.
Virtual Reality Job Interview Training for Adults Receiving Prison-Based Employment Services: A Randomized Controlled Feasibility and Initial Effectiveness Trial
Matthew Smith et al.
Criminal Justice and Behavior, forthcoming
Returning citizens struggle to obtain employment after release from prison and navigating job interviews is a critical barrier they encounter. Implementing evidence-based interview training is a major gap in prison-based vocational services. We conducted a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the feasibility and initial effectiveness of Virtual Reality Job Interview Training (VR-JIT) within two prisons. Forty-four male returning citizens were randomized to receive service-as-usual (SAU) with VR-JIT (SAU + VR-JIT, n = 28) or SAU (n = 16). Participants reported VR-JIT was highly acceptable and usable. SAU + VR-JIT, compared with SAU, had significant improvements (with large effect sizes) in interview skills, interview training motivation, and interview anxiety (all p < .05; η2pηp2 > .15), and greater employment by 6-month follow-up (odds ratio [OR] = 7.4, p = .045). VR-JIT can potentially help fill a major gap in prison-based services. Future research is needed to validate VR-JIT effectiveness and evaluate VR-JIT implementation strategies within prisons.
Police Training and Accountability: A Remedy or an Impediment for Reducing Unarmed Police Shootings?
Crime & Delinquency, forthcoming
The deaths of unarmed black citizens at the hands of police have led to dramatic calls for police reform. Some observers claim that officers are poorly trained and unaccountable for their actions. In this study, I test whether measures of organizational training and accountability reduce the likelihood of unarmed fatal officer-involved shootings (OIS). The results suggest external review of deadly force may decrease the likelihood of fatal OIS of unarmed black citizens. Other training and accountability mechanisms are unrelated to, or increase the likelihood of, fatal shootings. More research is needed to determine the causal links between the training and accountability mechanisms outlined in this study and fatal police shootings.