Civil Asset Forfeiture, Crime, and Police Incentives: Evidence from the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984
56 Pages Posted: 23 Jun 2017
Date Written: June 22, 2017
In 1984 the federal government passed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act. The act included language that permitted local law enforcement agencies to share up to 80 percent of the proceeds derived from civil asset forfeitures obtained via joint operations with federal authorities. This procedure became known as Equitable Sharing. In this paper, we investigate how the Equitable Sharing rule influenced crime and police incentives by taking advantage of pre-existing differences in state level civil forfeiture law and the timing of the CCCA. We find that after the CCCA, crime fell upwards of 13.4 percent. The introduction of Equitable Sharing also led police agencies to reallocate their effort towards the policing of drug crimes. We estimate that drug arrests increased by about 30 percent in the years after the enactment of the CCCA, indicating that it was profitable for police to reallocate their efforts. We also perform a variety of robustness tests to address possible changes in reporting and to further explore the reallocation of police effort.
JEL Classification: K14, H73, H50
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation