Place Based Interventions at Scale: The Direct and Spillover Effects of Policing and City Services on Crime

79 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2017 Last revised: 16 Jan 2019

See all articles by Christopher Blattman

Christopher Blattman

University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Donald P. Green

Columbia University

Daniel Ortega

CAF Development Bank of Latin America

Santiago Tobon

University of Chicago; Innovations for Poverty Action

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 15, 2019

Abstract

In 2016 the city of Bogotá doubled police patrols and intensified city services on high-crime streets. They did so based on a policy and criminological consensus that such place-based programs not only decrease crime, but also have positive spillovers to nearby streets. To test this, we worked with Bogotá to experiment on an unprecedented scale. They randomly assigned 1,919 streets to either 8 months of doubled police patrols, greater municipal services, both, or neither. Such scale brings econometric challenges. Spatial spillovers in dense networks introduce bias and complicate variance estimation through “fuzzy clustering.” But a design-based approach and randomization inference produce valid hypothesis tests in such settings. In contrast to the consensus, we find intensifying state presence in Bogotá had modest but imprecise direct effects and that such crime displaced nearby, especially property crimes. Confidence intervals suggest we can rule out total reductions in crime of more than 2–3% from the two policies. More promising, however, is suggestive evidence that more state presence led to an 5% fall in homicides and rape citywide. One interpretation is that state presence may more easily deter crimes of passion than calculation, and place-based interventions could be targeted against these incredibly costly and violent crimes.

Keywords: Crime, Violence, Police, Public Services, State Building, Spillovers, Field Experiment

JEL Classification: K42, O17, E26, J48, C93

Suggested Citation

Blattman, Christopher and Green, Donald P. and Ortega, Daniel and Tobon, Santiago, Place Based Interventions at Scale: The Direct and Spillover Effects of Policing and City Services on Crime (January 15, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3050823 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3050823

Christopher Blattman (Contact Author)

University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Donald P. Green

Columbia University ( email )

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Daniel Ortega

CAF Development Bank of Latin America ( email )

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Santiago Tobon

University of Chicago ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Innovations for Poverty Action ( email )

1731 Connecticut Ave, 4th floor
New Haven, CT 20009
United States

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