Do Police Make Too Many Arrests? The Effect of Enforcement Pullbacks on Crime

69 Pages Posted: 19 May 2022 Last revised: 29 Aug 2022

See all articles by Sungwoo Cho

Sungwoo Cho

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Economics

Felipe Gonçalves

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Economics

Emily Weisburst

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Luskin School of Public Affairs; University of Texas at Austin

Abstract

Do reductions in arrests increase crime? We study line-of-duty deaths of police officers, events that likely impact police behavior through increased fear but are unlikely to directly impact civilian behavior. Officer deaths cause significant short-term reductions in all arrest types, with the largest reductions in arrests for lower-level offenses. In contrast, we find no evidence of an increase in crime or a change in victim reporting through 911 calls. There is also no apparent threshold of arrest decline beyond which crime increases. Our findings suggest that enforcement activity can be reduced at the margin without incurring public safety costs.

Keywords: Ferguson effect, broken windows, deterrence, crime, policing, community trust

JEL Classification: J15, J18, K42

Suggested Citation

Cho, Sungwoo and Gonçalves, Felipe and Weisburst, Emily, Do Police Make Too Many Arrests? The Effect of Enforcement Pullbacks on Crime. IZA Discussion Paper No. 14907, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4114411

Sungwoo Cho (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Economics ( email )

8283 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1477
United States

Felipe Gonçalves

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Economics ( email )

8283 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1477
United States

Emily Weisburst

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Luskin School of Public Affairs ( email )

3250 Public Affairs Building
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1656
United States

University of Texas at Austin ( email )

2317 Speedway
Austin, TX Texas 78712
United States

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