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Computing Crime: Information Technology, Police Effectiveness and the Organization of Policing


  • Garicano, Luis
  • Heaton, Paul


How does information technology (IT) affect the organization of police work? How does it in turn affect police crime-fighting effectiveness? To answer these questions, we construct a new panel data set of police departments covering 1987-2003. We find that while IT adoption had substantial effects on a wide range of police organizational practices, it had, by itself, a negligible impact on crime-fighting effectiveness. These results are robust to various methods for controlling for agency-level characteristics and the endogeneity of IT use. We then suggest and test two explanations for this puzzle. First, we demonstrate that use of a particular technology, computerized record-keeping, increased recorded crime rates. Second, we provide evidence that IT investments only had a substantial impact on crime clearance rates and crime rates when undertaken as part of a broad set of complementary organizational practices such as those in the Compstat program.

Suggested Citation

  • Garicano, Luis & Heaton, Paul, 2006. "Computing Crime: Information Technology, Police Effectiveness and the Organization of Policing," CEPR Discussion Papers 5837, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5837

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Alexander Tabarrok & Paul Heaton & Eric Helland, 2010. "The Measure of Vice and Sin: A Review of the Uses, Limitations and Implications of Crime Data," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Economics of Crime, chapter 3 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Shaw, Kathryn, 2009. "Insider econometrics: A roadmap with stops along the way," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 607-617, December.

    More about this item


    hierarchy; information technology; organization; police; skills;

    JEL classification:

    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production
    • M5 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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