The Usual Suspects

Kevin Lewis

May 03, 2010

Residential Proximity to Schools and Daycares: An Empirical Analysis of Sex Offense Recidivism

Paul Zandbergen, Jill Levenson & Timothy Hart
Criminal Justice and Behavior, May 2010, Pages 482-502

Residential restrictions for sex offenders have become increasingly popular, despite the lack of empirical data suggesting that offenders' proximity to schools or daycares contributes to recidivism. Using a matched sample of recidivists and nonrecidivists from Florida (n = 330) for the period from 2004 through 2006, the authors investigated whether sex offenders who lived closer to schools or daycares were more likely to reoffend sexually against children than those who lived farther away. No significant differences were found between the distances that recidivists and nonrecidivists lived from schools and daycares. There was no significant relationship between reoffending and proximity to schools or daycares. The results indicate that proximity to schools and daycares, with other risk factors being comparable, does not appear to contribute to sexual recidivism. These data do not support the widespread enactment of residential restrictions for sexual offenders.


Panic on the Streets of London: Police, Crime and the July 2005 Terror Attacks

Mirko Draca, Stephen Machin & Robert Witt
American Economic Review, forthcoming

In this paper we study the causal impact of police on crime by looking at what happened to crime before and after the terror attacks that hit central London in July 2005. The attacks resulted in a large redeployment of police officers to central London boroughs as compared to outer London - in fact, police deployment in central London increased by over 30 percent in the six weeks following the July 7 bombings. During this time crime fell significantly in central relative to outer London. Study of the timing of the crime reductions and their magnitude, the types of crime which were more likely to be affected and a series of robustness tests looking at possible biases all make us confident that our research approach identifies a causal impact of police on crime. Implementing an instrumental variable approach shows an elasticity of crime with respect to police of approximately -0.3, so that a 10 percent increase in police activity reduces crime by around 3 percent.


'Look into my eyes': Can an instruction to maintain eye contact facilitate lie detection?

Aldert Vrij, Samantha Mann, Sharon Leal & Ronald Fisher
Psychology, Crime & Law, May 2010, Pages 327-348

In two experiments, we tested the hypotheses that (a) the differences in nonverbal and verbal behaviour between liars and truth tellers will be greater when interviewees are instructed to maintain eye contact with the interviewer than when no instruction is given, and (b) instructing interviewees to maintain eye contact with the interviewer will facilitate deception detection. In Experiment 1, 80 mock suspects either told the truth or lied about a staged event and were or were not requested to maintain eye contact with the interviewer. The maintaining eye contact condition contained more cues to deceit than the control condition. In Experiment 2, 106 undergraduate students either watched or listened to a selection of the videotaped interviews from Experiment 1 and made veracity judgements. The request to maintain eye contact improved students' ability to detect deception in both Video + Audio and Audio conditions. The results of this study are compatible with other studies showing that placing greater cognitive demands on suspects increases the number of cues to deception and also of observers' ability to discriminate between liars and truth tellers.


Demography of the Legal Profession and Racial Disparities in Sentencing

Ryan King, Kecia Johnson & Kelly McGeever
Law & Society Review, March 2010, Pages 1-32

The demography of the legal profession has changed rather dramatically in recent decades, yet the consequences of a more racially and ethnically diverse pool of lawyers for the administration of justice have not received significant attention. The present research examines how the racial composition of the local legal profession affects one facet of criminal law: the sentencing of convicted defendants. Building on prior work in the fields of law, stratification, and mobility, we hypothesize that racial and ethnic disparities in sentencing are mitigated where the legal profession is more diverse. In line with this hypothesis, analysis of data from a sample of large urban counties taken between 1990 and 2002 shows that the black-white racial disparity in sentencing attenuates as the number of black attorneys in the county increases, net of the percent black in the county and other possible confounding variables. Comparable results are found for Hispanics. The findings are discussed in the context of a demographically changing legal profession and prior work on racial disparities in the justice system.


Rational bias in forensic science

Glen Whitman & Roger Koppl
Law, Probability and Risk, April 2010, Pages 69-90

The current organization of forensic science induces biases in the conduct of forensic science even if forensic scientists are perfectly rational. Assuming forensic examiners are flawless Bayesian statisticians helps us to identify structural sources of error that we might otherwise have undervalued or missed altogether. Specifically, forensic examiners' conclusions are affected not just by objective test results but also by two subjective factors: their prior beliefs about a suspect's likely guilt or innocence and the relative importance they attach to convicting the guilty rather than the innocent. The authorities-police and prosecutors-implicitly convey information to forensic examiners by their very decision to submit samples for testing. This information induces the examiners to update their prior beliefs in a manner that results in a greater tendency to provide testimony that incriminates the defendant. Forensic results are in a sense 'contaminated' by the prosecution and thus do not provide jurors with an independent source of information. Structural reforms to address such problems of rational bias include independence from law enforcement, blind proficiency testing and separation of test from interpretation.


Cheating, emotions, and rationality: An experiment on tax evasion

Giorgio Coricelli, Mateus Joffily, Claude Montmarquette & Marie Claire Villeval
Experimental Economics, June 2010, Pages 226-247

The economics-of-crime approach usually ignores the emotional cost and benefit of cheating. In this paper, we investigate the relationships between emotions, deception, and rational decision-making by means of an experiment on tax evasion. Emotions are measured by skin conductance responses and self-reports. We show that the intensity of anticipated and anticipatory emotions before reporting income positively correlates with both the decision to cheat and the proportion of evaded income. The experienced emotional arousal after an audit increases with the monetary sanctions and the arousal is even stronger when the evader's picture is publicly displayed. We also find that the risk of a public exposure of deception deters evasion whereas the amount of fines encourages evasion. These results suggest that an audit policy that strengthens the emotional dimension of cheating favors compliance.


Is Immigration Responsible for the Crime Drop? An Assessment of the Influence of Immigration on Changes in Violent Crime Between 1990 and 2000

Tim Wadsworth
Social Science Quarterly, June 2010, Pages 531-553

Objectives: The idea that immigration increases crime rates has historically occupied an important role in criminological theory and has been central to the public and political discourses and debates on immigration policy. In contrast to the common sentiment, some scholars have recently questioned whether the increase in immigration between 1990 and 2000 may have actually been responsible for part of the national decrease in crime during the 1990s. The current work evaluates the influence of immigration on crime in urban areas across the United States between 1990 and 2000.

Methods: Drawing on U.S. Census and Uniform Crime Report data, I first use ordinary least squares regression models to assess the cross-sectional relationship between immigration patterns and rates of homicide and robbery among U.S. cities with populations of at least 50,000. Second, I employ pooled cross-sectional time-series models to determine how changes in immigration influenced changes in homicide and robbery rates between 1990 and 2000.

Results: In the ordinary least squares models, immigration is associated with higher levels of homicide and robbery. However, the pooled cross-sectional time-series models suggest that cities with the largest increases in immigration between 1990 and 2000 experienced the largest decreases in homicide and robbery during the same time period.

Conclusion: The findings offer insights into the complex relationship between immigration and crime and suggest that growth in immigration may have been responsible for part of the precipitous crime drop of the 1990s.


Estimating Risk: Stereotype Amplification and the Perceived Risk of Criminal Victimization

Lincoln Quillian & Devah Pager
Social Psychology Quarterly, March 2010, Pages 79-104

This paper considers the process by which individuals estimate the risk of adverse events, with particular attention to the social context in which risk estimates are formed. We compare subjective probability estimates of crime victimization to actual victimization experiences among respondents from the 1994 to 2002 waves of the Survey of Economic Expectations (Dominitz and Manski 2002). Using zip code identifiers, we then match these survey data to local area characteristics from the census. The results show that: (1) the risk of criminal victimization is significantly overestimated relative to actual rates of victimization or other negative events; (2) neighborhood racial composition is strongly associated with perceived risk of victimization, whereas actual victimization risk is driven by nonracial neighborhood characteristics; and (3) white respondents appear more strongly affected by racial composition than nonwhites in forming their estimates of risk. We argue these results support a model of stereotype amplification in the formation of risk estimates. Implications for persistent racial inequality are considered.


Simulated evidence on the prospects of treating more drug-involved offenders

Avinash Singh Bhati & John Roman
Journal of Experimental Criminology, March 2010, Pages 1-33

Despite a growing consensus among scholars that substance abuse treatment is effective at reducing offending, strict eligibility rules and budgetary considerations greatly limit the impact that current models of therapeutic jurisprudence can have on public safety in the United States. A question of pressing importance for U.S. drug policy is whether it is beneficial to expand application of this model to treat every offender in need and, if so, whether a set of evidence-based, going-to-scale strategies can be developed to prioritize participation. We use evidence from several sources to construct a synthetic dataset for answering the question: What are the benefits we can reasonably expect by expanding treatment to drug-involved offenders? We combine information from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) and the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) program to estimate the likelihood of various arrestee profiles having drug addiction or dependence problems. We use the same sources to also develop prevalence estimates of these profiles among arrestees nationally. We use information in the Drug Abuse Treatment Outcome Study (DATOS) to compute expected crime-reducing benefits of treating various types of drug-involved offenders under different treatment modalities. We find that annually nearly 1.5 million (probably guilty) arrestees in the U.S. are at risk of abuse or dependence and that treatment alone could avert several million crimes that these individuals would otherwise commit. Results vary by treatment modality and arrestee traits and those results are described herein.


Does the Guilty Actions Test allow for differentiating guilty participants from informed innocents? A re-examination

Matthias Gamer
International Journal of Psychophysiology, April 2010, Pages 19-24

The Guilty Actions Test (GAT) is a scientifically validated technique of forensic psychophysiology that allows for the detection of concealed memories. However, it is still debated whether it is better suited for differentiating guilty from informed innocent examinees than the Guilty Knowledge Test (GKT). Participants of the current study either committed a mock crime or they acquired crime related knowledge by indirectly witnessing it on video. A subsequent polygraph test was carried out using the passive GKT or the active GAT question wording. Neither electrodermal, nor respiratory or heart rate responses were found to differ as a function of truth status or questioning technique. Results indicate that either questioning technique yields high validity coefficients in detecting crime related knowledge. Neither the GKT nor the GAT seems to allow for a valid differentiation of guilty participants and informed innocents when crime related knowledge is deeply encoded and participants are motivated to pass the test.


Influencing Trust and Confidence in the London Metropolitan Police: Results from an Experiment Testing the Effect of Leaflet Drops on Public Opinion

Katrin Hohl, Ben Bradford & Elizabeth Stanko
British Journal of Criminology, May 2010, Pages 491-513

Enhancing trust and confidence has moved to the centre of policing policy in England and Wales. The association between direct encounters with police officers and confidence in the police is well-established. But is it possible for the police to increase confidence among the general population including those people who do not routinely come into direct contact with police officers? This paper presents the findings from a quasi-randomised experiment conducted on population representative samples in seven London wards that assessed the impact of a leaflet drop on public perceptions of policing. The results provide strong evidence of an improvement in overall confidence, and in perceptions of police-community engagement, specifically. The leaflets also appear to have had a buffering effect against declines in public assessments of police effectiveness. The findings support the idea that public trust and confidence can be enhanced by direct police communication of this type.


Effects of South Carolina's Sex Offender Registration and Notification Policy on Deterrence of Adult Sex Crimes

Elizabeth Letourneau, Jill Levenson, Dipankar Bandyopadhyay, Kevin Armstrong & Debajyoti Sinha
Criminal Justice and Behavior, May 2010, Pages 537-552

This study examined whether South Carolina's sex offender registration and notification (SORN) policy was associated with a general deterrent effect on adult sex crimes. Using adult arrest data from 1990 through 2005, trend analyses modeled the intervention effects of 1995 (the year South Carolina's SORN policy was initially implemented) and 1999 (the year the policy was revised to include online registration). Results supported a significant deterrent effect for the 1995 intervention year, with an approximately 11% reduction in first-time sex crime arrests in the post-SORN period (1995-2005) relative to the pre-SORN period (1990-1994). This decline equated to averting approximately three new sex crime arrests per month. Comparison analyses with serious nonsex offenses against persons (assault and robbery) failed to identify similar effects, suggesting that the 1995 effect is attributable to sex offense-specific legislation. Findings are compared with the existing literature on general deterrent effects of SORN and discussed in the context of research examining other effects of SORN.


Gratuitous Violence and the Rational Offender Model

James Foreman-Peck & Simon Moore
International Review of Law and Economics, forthcoming

Rational offender models assume that individuals choose whether to offend by weighing the rewards against the chances of apprehension and the penalty if caught. While evidence indicates that rational theory is applicable to acquisitive crimes, the explanatory power for gratuitous non-fatal violent offending has not been evaluated. Lottery-type questions elicited risk attitudes and time preferences from respondents in a street survey. Admitted violent behaviour was predictable on the basis of some of these responses. Consistent with the rational model, less risk averse and more impatient individuals were more liable to violence. Such people were also more likely to be victims of violence. In line with a 'subjective' version of the rational model, respondents with lower estimates of average violence conviction chances and of fines were more prone to be violent.


Exporting U.S. Criminal Justice

Allegra McLeod
Stanford Working Paper, February 2010

In the years leading up to and following the end of the Cold War, the U.S. government embarked on a new legal transplant project, carried out through the foreign promotion of U.S. criminal justice techniques, procedures, and transnational crime priorities. Over the course of the 1990s, U.S. foreign criminal justice development initiatives rapidly expanded. This Article seeks to answer two questions, which to date remain largely unaddressed in the relevant scholarly literatures: Why, in the Cold War's wake, when the U.S. criminal justice system had come to be viewed in significant respects in terms of failure, did U.S. criminal law development programs take shape and proliferate? What have been the associated outcomes? This Article illustrates how U.S.-sponsored foreign criminal justice reform has functioned in the post-Cold War period as a mode of U.S.-dominant "global governance through crime" whereby various global social concerns have come to be regulated in terms of transnational crime control, criminal law, procedure, and punishment. Yet, following two decades of reform, there is no evidence that U.S. criminal justice development assistance has achieved its professed aims of increased stability, efficiency, and prosperity, because, among other limitations, internal evaluative frameworks substitute means for ends, and otherwise neglect to meaningfully explore the impact of ongoing efforts. Competing accounts of project outcomes in Central America, the region most intensively and longest targeted for reform, suggest that at best U.S. criminal justice assistance has been ineffective on its own terms, and that it may have exacerbated inter-personal harms and legal systemic dysfunction (analogous to that of the U.S. criminal justice system) in recipient states. In any case, U.S. foreign criminal justice assistance remains un-transparent, unaccountable, and disconnected from enabling concrete improvements to human welfare. Ultimately, this Article proposes that the lessons learned from this experience ought to attune criminal justice administration to the role of resource distribution and social inequality in constituting crime and determining the appropriate scope of legal mechanisms implemented to regulate criminalized conduct.


The impact of TASERs on police use-of-force decisions: Findings from a randomized field-training experiment

William Sousa, Justin Ready & Michael Ault
Journal of Experimental Criminology, March 2010, Pages 35-55

This paper presents findings from a randomized field-training experiment designed to study the impact TASERs on police officers' use-of-force decisions. Officers were randomly assigned to either a treatment group (with TASERs) or a control group (without TASERs) and then participated in training scenarios involving different levels of suspect resistance. The study investigates whether and to what extent officers armed with the TASER use it as an alternative to other types of less-lethal force (e.g., empty hands, pepper spray, and the baton) and the firearm, controlling for the level of suspect resistance. The findings indicate that officers who were armed with the TASER were significantly less likely to deploy pepper spray and the baton in response to aggressive physical resistance. Additionally, the results show that officers equipped with the TASER were less likely to discharge their firearm when confronted with suspect resistance that was potentially lethal. No differences in police behavior occurred in response to passive suspect resistance.

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