Military Policing Exacerbates Crime and May Increase Human Rights Abuses: A Randomized Controlled Trial in Cali, Colombia
95 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2021
Date Written: September 16, 2021
Governments across the developing world deploy their armed forces for domestic policing. Advocates of these policies tout their crime reduction effects, while detractors claim they undermine human rights. We experimentally evaluate a military policing intervention in Cali, Colombia, one of the country’s most violent cities. The intervention involved recurring, intensive military patrols targeting crime hotspots, 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 that military policing had weak (if any) effects on crime during the intervention, and adverse effects following its completion. We observe higher rates of crime, crime witnessing, crime reporting, and arrests in the weeks after the intervention. We also find suggestive evidence of increased human rights abuses, committed by police officers rather than soldiers. The benefits of military policing likely are small and not worth the costs.
Keywords: military policing, field experiments, crime, policing, Colombia
JEL Classification: K42, J48, C93
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation