Crime, police, and truth-in-sentencing: The impact of state sentencing policy on local communities
This paper considers two related questions: the impact of spatial variation in crime prevention policies on the migration of criminal activity into nearby locations and the tendency for higher-level government anti-crime policies to be offset by a scaling back of local crime deterrent efforts. A key source of identification is to draw upon variation in the timing of adoption of state-wide Truth-in-Sentencing (TIS) legislation during the 1990s. To estimate the effect of the policy, I compare activity in adjacent counties on opposite sides of state boundaries in the 59 urban areas that cross state lines. There are three key results. First, adoption of TIS lowers the level of criminal activity in the adopting state. Second, adoption of the stiffer sentencing policy prompts migration of criminal activity into adjacent counties in the neighboring state, especially in the most populated urban areas. Finally, after the imposition of TIS by the state government, local governments reduce the level of police protection. This suggests that some of the deterrent effect of higher-level government anti-crime policy is offset by a scaling back on anti-crime efforts at the local level.
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