The Murder Mystery: Police Effectiveness and Homicide

Objective: Previous aggregate analyses of the effect of police on crime show that increases in police staffing are especially effective at preventing homicide. This conflicts with evidence that suggests standard police methods should be more effective at preventing robbery, auto theft, and other pro...

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Published in:Journal of quantitative criminology
Main Author: Spelman, William (Author)
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
Published: 2017
In:Journal of quantitative criminology
Year: 2017, Volume: 33, Issue: 4, Pages: 859-886
Online Access: Volltext (Resolving-System)
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Summary:Objective: Previous aggregate analyses of the effect of police on crime show that increases in police staffing are especially effective at preventing homicide. This conflicts with evidence that suggests standard police methods should be more effective at preventing robbery, auto theft, and other property crimes. My objective is to reconcile the two. Methods: Regression of crime rates on uniformed police staffing and other economic and demographic covariates, for a panel of 59 US cities for the period 1970-2013. Results: Lagged crime rates are strong and statistically significant predictors of both policing staffing and crime rates, particularly homicide. When lags are included in the specification, the apparent effect of police on homicide drops by more than 70 %; there is little change in the effect of police on other crimes. Findings are robust with respect to specification and method. Conclusions: Previous studies omitted lags and overstated the effectiveness of police on homicide. Because murder accounts for almost 40 % of all costs of crime in US cities, it is no longer clear whether increasing police force size is a cost-effective way to cut crime. Improving police tactics is more likely to work and less expensive.
ISSN:1573-7799
DOI:10.1007/s10940-016-9315-8