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Police Patrols and Crime


  • Blanes i Vidal, Jordi

    () (London School of Economics)

  • Mastrobuoni, Giovanni

    () (Collegio Carlo Alberto)


An influential literature has used the aftermath of terrorist attacks to estimate large effects of police street deployment on crime. However, the elasticities obtained in these settings may not easily extrapolate to more standard circumstances. This paper exploits a natural experiment that aimed to increase police presence in more than 6,000 well-defined areas, by economically-realistic amounts and under relatively normal circumstances. Using data transmitted by GPS devices worn by police officers, we first document exogenous and discontinuous changes in patrolling intensity. We do not find that these increases in patrolling were accompanied by corresponding decreases in crime. The standard errors are small enough to reject relatively small elasticities. We discuss and empirically evaluate explanations for our findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Blanes i Vidal, Jordi & Mastrobuoni, Giovanni, 2018. "Police Patrols and Crime," IZA Discussion Papers 11393, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp11393

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mastrobuoni, Giovanni, 2015. "Police Disruption and Performance: Evidence from Recurrent Redeployments within a City," IZA Discussion Papers 8799, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. repec:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/690732 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Levitt, Steven D, 1997. "Using Electoral Cycles in Police Hiring to Estimate the Effect of Police on Crime," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 270-290, June.
    4. Klick, Jonathan & Tabarrok, Alexander, 2005. "Using Terror Alert Levels to Estimate the Effect of Police on Crime," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 48(1), pages 267-279, April.
    5. John M. MacDonald & Jonathan Klick & Ben Grunwald, 2016. "The effect of private police on crime: evidence from a geographic regression discontinuity design," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 179(3), pages 831-846, June.
    6. Larson, Richard C., 1975. "What happened to patrol operations in Kansas city? A review of the Kansas city preventive patrol experiment," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 267-297.
    7. Paul Heaton & Priscillia Hunt & John MacDonald & Jessica Saunders, 2016. "The Short- and Long-Run Effects of Private Law Enforcement: Evidence from University Police," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(4), pages 889-912.
    8. Rafael Di Tella & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2004. "Do Police Reduce Crime? Estimates Using the Allocation of Police Forces After a Terrorist Attack," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 115-133, March.
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    More about this item


    police; crime; natural experiments; deterrence;

    JEL classification:

    • D29 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Other
    • K40 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - General

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