Little Evidence That Military Policing Reduces Crime or Improves Human Security

Nature Human Behaviour, forthcoming

106 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2021 Last revised: 10 Feb 2023

See all articles by Robert Blair

Robert Blair

Brown University; Brown University - Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Michael Weintraub

Universidad de los Andes, Colombia

Date Written: February 8, 2023

Abstract

Governments in low and middle income countries routinely deploy their armed forces for domestic policing operations. Advocates of these policies claim they reduce crime, while detractors argue they undermine human rights. We experimentally evaluate a military policing intervention in Cali, Colombia. The intervention involved recurring, intensive military patrols targeting crime hot spots, randomly assigned at the city block level. Using administrative crime and human rights data, surveys of more than 10,000 residents, and firsthand observations from civilian monitors, we find little to no credible evidence that military policing reduced crime or improved perceptions of safety during the intervention. If anything, we find that military policing likely exacerbated crime after the intervention was complete. We also find evidence of increased human rights abuses in our survey data (though not in the administrative data or in the firsthand observations of civilian monitors), largely committed by police officers rather than soldiers. We argue the benefits of military policing are likely small and not worth the costs.

Keywords: military policing, field experiments, crime, policing, Colombia

JEL Classification: K42, J48, C93

Suggested Citation

Blair, Robert and Weintraub, Michael, Little Evidence That Military Policing Reduces Crime or Improves Human Security (February 8, 2023). Nature Human Behaviour, forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3925245 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3925245

Robert Blair

Brown University ( email )

Box 1860
Providence, RI 02912
United States

Brown University - Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

111 Thayer Street
Box 1970
Providence, RI 02912-1970
United States

Michael Weintraub (Contact Author)

Universidad de los Andes, Colombia ( email )

Carrera Primera # 18A-12
Bogota, DC D.C. 110311
Colombia

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