Did de‐policing cause the increase in homicide rates?
Richard Rosenfeld & Joel Wallman
Criminology & Public Policy, February 2019, Pages 51-75
Widespread protests and demands for accountability in the wake of broadly publicized police killings of unarmed civilians coincided with the marked upturn in homicide levels, especially in large U.S. cities, in 2015. Many observers, including prominent political figures, claimed that de‐policing caused the homicide rate to rise: Fearing increased legal liability and publicity, the police employed less proactive enforcement and made fewer arrests, producing an increase in homicide levels. We use structural equation modeling to estimate the simultaneous relationship between arrest and homicide rates between 2010 and 2015 in 53 large cities. We find no evidence of an effect of arrest rates on city homicide rates for any offense category for any year in this period, including 2015, the year of the spike in homicide levels.
More cops, fewer prisoners?
Jacob Kaplan & Aaron Chalfin
Criminology & Public Policy, February 2019, Pages 171-200
The results reported in a large amount of the criminology literature reveal that hiring police officers leads to reductions in crime and that investments in police are an efficient means of crime control compared with investments in prisons. One concern, however, is that because police officers make arrests in the course of their duties, police hiring, albeit efficient, is an inevitable driver of “mass incarceration.” In this article, we consider the dynamics through which police hiring affects downstream incarceration rates. Using state‐level panel data as well county‐level data from California, we uncover novel evidence in favor of a potentially unexpected and yet entirely intuitive result: that investments in law enforcement are unlikely to increase state prison populations markedly and may even lead to a modest decrease in the number of state prisoners. As such, investments in police may, in fact, yield a “double dividend” to society by reducing incarceration rates as well as crime rates.
Why Do States Privatize their Prisons? The Unintended Consequences of Inmate Litigation
Emory University Working Paper, February 2019
The United States has witnessed privatization of a variety of government functions over the last three decades. Media and politicians often attribute the decision to privatize to ideological commitments to small government and fiscal pressure. These claims are particularly notable in the context of prison privatization, where states and the federal government have employed private companies to operate and manage private correctional facilities. I argue state prison privatization is not a function of simple ideological or economic considerations. Rather, prison privatization has been an unintended consequence of the administrative and legal costs associated with litigation brought by prisoners. I assemble an original database of prison privatization in the US and demonstrate that the privatization of prisons is best predicted by the legal pressure on state corrections systems, rather than the ideological orientation of a state government.
Mass shootings and the salience of guns as means of compensation for thwarted goals
Pontus Leander et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming
Between 2016 and 2017, Americans suffered 3 of the deadliest mass shootings in modern history by a lone gunman: the Orlando nightclub shooting, the Las Vegas strip shooting, and the Texas church shooting. We studied American gun owners in the wakes of these tragedies, theorizing that a byproduct of the salience of mass shootings is to increase the salience of guns as means of individual empowerment and significance. We hypothesized that this increase in salience would be especially relevant in the context of thwarted goals, because such individuals may be seeking a compensatory means to interact more effectively with their environment. In 4 studies of U.S. gun owners (N = 2,442), we tested whether mass shooting salience interacted with thwarted goals to predict justification to shoot suspected criminals, as well as ideas about armed vigilantism and perceptions that guns are means of empowerment. The thwarting of goals was either experimentally induced via failure on an achievement task (Study 1), or measured via perceptions of disempowerment in society (Studies 2–4). Mass shooting salience was measured via perceptions of mass shooting threat, as well as temporal proximity and social proximity to specific mass shooting events. Across studies, results indicated an interaction between thwarted goals and mass shooting salience; temporal proximity yielded mixed results. Altogether, thwarted goals motivate people to seek effectiveness and mattering, and guns are more likely to be perceived as means to such ends when mass shootings loom large in the mind.
The Effect of Police Oversight on Crime and Allegations of Misconduct: Evidence from Chicago
Bocar Ba & Roman Rivera
Duke University Working Paper, February 2019
Does policing the police increase crime? We avoid simultaneity effects of increased public oversight following an officer-involved shooting scandal by identifying events in Chicago that only impacted officers’ self-monitoring. We estimate crimes’ response to types of oversight using generalized synthetic control methods. Cautionary notes from the police union, inducing officers to self-monitor, significantly reduced Constitutional violation complaints without increasing crime. In contrast, complaints and crime rise post-scandal. This suggests that higher crime following more oversight results not solely from de-policing but also from civilian behavior simultaneously changing. Our research suggests that proactive accountability improves police resident interactions without increasing crime.
Do Minimum Wage Increases Reduce Crime?
Zachary Fone, Joseph Sabia & Resul Cesur
NBER Working Paper, March 2019
An April 2016 Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) report advocated raising the minimum wage to deter crime. This recommendation rests on the assumption that minimum wage hikes increase the returns to legitimate labor market work while generating minimal adverse employment effects. This study comprehensively assesses the impact of minimum wages on crime using data from the 1998-2016 Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), and National Longitudinal Study of Youth (NLSY). Our results provide no evidence that minimum wage increases reduce crime. Instead, we find that raising the minimum wage increases property crime arrests among those ages 16-to-24, with an estimated elasticity of 0.2. This result is strongest in counties with over 100,000 residents and persists when we use longitudinal data to isolate workers for whom minimum wages bind. Our estimates suggest that a $15 Federal minimum wage could generate criminal externality costs of nearly $2.4 billion.
Gun Laws and Suicides
Marco Ghiani, Summer Sherburne Hawkins & Christopher Baum
American Journal of Epidemiology, forthcoming
The aim of this work was to examine the impact of a state gun law environment on suicides overall and within demographic subgroups. We linked 211,766 firearm suicides and 204,625 non-firearm suicides in the 50 states of the United States for 2005-2015 to the population in each state, year, race/ethnicity, sex, and age, as well as to an index of state-level gun control. Difference-in-differences zero-inflated negative-binomial models were used to evaluate the impact of strengthening gun control on firearm and non-firearm suicides. We subsequently stratified by sex and interacted the index by race/ethnicity and age. In the data, 25 states strengthened gun control by an average of 6 points. Such an increase may result in a 3.3% (IRR=0.967; 95% CI=0.938,0.996) decrease in firearm suicides. While no impact on non-firearm suicides was found overall, interacted models showed an increase in non-firearm suicides among black males, white and black females, and older individuals. Strengthening gun control may reduce firearm suicides overall, but may increase non-firearm suicides in some populations. Results advocate for stricter gun laws and additional policies are needed for populations who shifted to non-firearm suicides.
The Intergenerational Stability of Punishment: Paternal Incarceration and Suspension or Expulsion in Elementary School
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, forthcoming
Objectives: I extend the life-course theory of cumulative disadvantage to focus on continuity in punishment across generations. Specifically, I examine (1) the association between paternal incarceration and elementary school suspension or expulsion and (2) the extent to which behavior problems and weakened social bonds explain this association.
Method: Analyses rely on logistic regression, propensity score matching, and mediation methods with data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N = 3,201), a birth cohort of children born in large U.S. cities between 1998 and 2000.
Results: The odds of school punishment among children who had a residential father incarcerated by age 5 are 75 percent greater than the odds for children in a matched control group. About one third of this association is accounted for by behavior problems and weakened social bonds. Even after accounting for behavior problems and social bonds, children whose fathers were incarcerated are at greater risk of school punishment.
Urban Transport and Crime: Evidence from Unanticipated Mass Transit Strikes
Gregory DeAngelo et al.
Economic Inquiry, forthcoming
We examine the effects of mass transit strikes on criminal behavior in Los Angeles County utilizing a unique dataset of reported crimes between 2000 and 2007. Geocoded location and time information pertaining to each offense accommodates a fine grained difference‐in‐differences panel data analysis. We find that in locations affected by the strike, aggravated assaults rose by 18.7% while aggregate property crimes increased by 5.7%, relative to their mean. This increase in crime was disproportionately larger in lower income neighborhoods, which report higher usage of mass transit, suggesting local isolation of both criminals and victims as a mechanism.
Modeling cocaine traffickers and counterdrug interdiction forces as a complex adaptive system
Nicholas Magliocca et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, forthcoming
Counterdrug interdiction efforts designed to seize or disrupt cocaine shipments between South American source zones and US markets remain a core US “supply side” drug policy and national security strategy. However, despite a long history of US-led interdiction efforts in the Western Hemisphere, cocaine movements to the United States through Central America, or “narco-trafficking,” continue to rise. Here, we developed a spatially explicit agent-based model (ABM), called “NarcoLogic,” of narco-trafficker operational decision making in response to interdiction forces to investigate the root causes of interdiction ineffectiveness across space and time. The central premise tested was that spatial proliferation and resiliency of narco-trafficking are not a consequence of ineffective interdiction, but rather part and natural consequence of interdiction itself. Model development relied on multiple theoretical perspectives, empirical studies, media reports, and the authors’ own years of field research in the region. Parameterization and validation used the best available, authoritative data source for illicit cocaine flows. Despite inherently biased, unreliable, and/or incomplete data of a clandestine phenomenon, the model compellingly reproduced the “cat-and-mouse” dynamic between narco-traffickers and interdiction forces others have qualitatively described. The model produced qualitatively accurate and quantitatively realistic spatial and temporal patterns of cocaine trafficking in response to interdiction events. The NarcoLogic model offers a much-needed, evidence-based tool for the robust assessment of different drug policy scenarios, and their likely impact on trafficker behavior and the many collateral damages associated with the militarized war on drugs.
Gun laws and school safety
Marco Ghiani, Summer Sherburne Hawkins & Christopher Baum
Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, forthcoming
Methods: We used data on 926 639 adolescents from 45 states in the 1999–2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveys. Students self-reported on weapon carrying at school, the number of times they experienced weapon threats or injuries at school, the number of school days missed due to feeling unsafe, and weapon carrying at any location. For each state and year, 133 gun laws were combined into an index of gun control strength. Difference-in-differences logistic regression models were used to evaluate the associations of stricter gun laws with binary measures of students’ weapon carrying and perception of school safety, controlling for individual and state characteristics, as well as year and state fixed effects.
Results: An IQR increase in the index (ie, a 15-point increase corresponding to a strengthening of gun control) was associated with a 0.8-percentage point decrease in the probability of weapon threats at school (p=0.029), a 1.1-percentage point decrease in the probability of missing school due to feeling unsafe (p=0.002) and a 1.9-percentage point decrease in the probability of carrying weapons at any location (p=0.001). Stricter gun laws had a stronger negative association with weapon carrying among males compared with females. Stricter gun laws were also differentially associated with weapon carrying by race/ethnicity.
“I Want to Have the American Dream”: Messages of Materialism as a Driving Force in Juvenile Recidivism
Criminal Justice and Behavior, forthcoming
Youth in the United States are raised with the message that economic achievement and the American Dream are the only means to obtain true success and happiness. Those youth who face barriers to these standards of achievement, however, internalize any shortcomings as their own personal failure, heightening the appeal of criminal means of monetary gain. Scholars have explored the correlation between materialism and youth crime, but have done so without involving youth in research about themselves. In this study, a content analysis was conducted of 1,008 writing samples from incarcerated youth in an effort to prioritize youth voice and perspective. Messages of materialism and its deleterious effects frequently emerged as prominent concerns for these youths. Incarcerated youth are missing interventions to devitalize materialism’s function as a motivating or justifying factor in criminal or delinquent acts, thus contributing to reoffending when they fail to achieve their economic goals through legal means.
Positive Sanctions versus Imprisonment
George Mason University Working Paper, January 2019
This article considers the possibility of simultaneously reducing crime, prison sentences, and the tax burden of financing the criminal justice system by introducing positive sanctions, which are benefits conferred to individuals who refrain from committing crime. Specifically, it proposes a procedure wherein a part of the imprisonment budget is re-directed towards financing positive sanctions. The feasibility of reducing crime, sentences, and taxes through such reallocations depends on how effectively the marginal imprisonment sentence reduces crime, the crime rate, the effectiveness of positive sanctions, and how accurately the government can direct positive sanctions towards individuals who are most responsive to such policies. The article then highlights an advantage of positive sanctions over imprisonment in deterring criminal behavior: positive sanctions operate by transferring or creating wealth, whereas imprisonment operates by destroying wealth. Thus, the conditions under which positive sanctions are optimal are broader than those under which they can be used to jointly reduce crime, sentences, and taxes. The analysis reveals that when the budget for the criminal justice system is exogenously given, it is optimal to use positive sanctions when the imprisonment elasticity of deterrence is small, which is a condition that is consistent with the empirical literature. When the budget for the criminal justice system is endogenously determined, it is optimal to use positive sanctions as long as the marginal cost of public funds is not high.
Further Evaluating the Relationship Between Adverse Childhood Experiences, Antisocial Behavior, and Violent Victimization: A Sibling-Comparison Analysis
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, forthcoming
A developing line of research suggests that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) increase the risk for antisocial behavior and future victimization. However, the mechanisms that underlie this association remain largely speculative. To address this gap in the existing body of research, data on full siblings from a large population-based sample of youth were analyzed to evaluate the direct effect of ACEs on child antisocial behavior, adolescent delinquency, and young adult violent victimization after controlling for familial confounders. Traditional between-family analyses revealed that ACEs were significantly associated with higher levels of childhood antisocial behavior, adolescent delinquent behavior, and risk for violent crime victimization. After controlling for unmeasured common genetic and shared environmental confounds using fixed-effect sibling comparisons, siblings exposed to more ACEs did not demonstrate higher levels of antisocial behavior, delinquent behavior, or risk for future victimization. The implications of these results for future ACEs research are discussed.
A Descriptive Analysis of School and School Shooter Characteristics and the Severity of School Shootings in the United States, 1999–2018
Melvin Livingston, Matthew Rossheim & Kelli Stidham Hall
Journal of Adolescent Health, forthcoming
Methods: We analyzed associations between individual-, school-, gun-level factors and school shooting severity in the United States from April 1999 through May 2018.
Results: Handguns were used in most school shootings (81%); however, substantially, more fatalities occurred when rifles (relative risk [RR] =14.74, 95% confidence interval [CI] [5.00, 43.41]) or shotguns (RR = 8.84, 95% CI [2.20, 35.54]) were used. Fatal shootings were more likely to happen in schools that were majority white, taught younger students, and were rural or suburban. When shooters were aged ≥20 years, shootings were more likely to be fatal (RR = 2.44, 95% CI [1.18, 5.07]), have more casualties (RR = 5.15, 95% CI [2.06, 12.90]), and more deaths (RR = 20.13, 95% CI [4.86, 83.28]). No significant differences were observed based on the presence of resource officers.
Evaluation of a cognitive‐behavioral intervention for high‐ and medium‐risk probationers
David Kosson et al.
Behavioral Sciences & the Law, forthcoming
Reducing recidivism is a central goal of treatment programs for offenders. Preliminary evidence suggests that cognitive‐behavioral group interventions based on the National Institute of Corrections curriculum (Bush, Glick, & Taymans, 1997) may be effective in reducing recidivism rates among adult probationers. We evaluated the effectiveness of a program based on this curriculum among 167 high‐ and medium‐risk probationers assigned to this program and a comparison group of 120 high‐ and medium‐risk probationers matched on age and number of prior criminal charges. Improvements over prior studies included use of survival analytic methods and propensity score matching, a longer follow‐up interval, and examination of treatment effectiveness within ethnic groups. Relative to the comparison group, treatment group probationers were more likely to complete probation satisfactorily and survive longer before rearrest. Moreover, supplementary analyses suggested that ethnicity was associated with differences in intervention effectiveness. Treatment was predictive of lower recidivism rates among European Americans and African Americans but was less effective among Latino American probationers.
The impact of mandatory arrest laws on domestic violence in times of economic stress
Jeremy Cook & Timothy Taylor
Economics Letters, May 2019, Pages 77-81
We test the effectiveness of mandatory arrest laws to suppress domestic violence under changing levels of community-wide economic stress. While existing economic scholarship focuses upon the influence of arrest laws and financial strain independently of one another, we provide a meaningful bridge across these two factors to assess whether arrest laws are effective when communities need them most. Using county-level monthly unemployment rates and national crime data for years 2000 to 2015, we examine changes in incidents of intimidation and assault between intimate partners across states with and without mandatory arrest laws. After controlling for baseline county characteristics, we document the subsequent increase in domestic violence from rising rates of unemployment. We find the efficacy of arrest laws to mitigate intimate partner violence is strongest when unemployment increases. However, these results do not hold for more severe forms of domestic violence. Our results suggest that while mandatory arrest laws are not a single solution to domestic violence, they lessen the adverse effects of rising unemployment rates.