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Place-Based Interventions at Scale: The Direct and Spillover Effects of Policing and City Services on Crime

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  • Christopher Blattman
  • Donald Green
  • Daniel Ortega
  • Santiago Tobón

Abstract

Cities target police patrols and public services to control crime. What are the direct and spillover effects of such targeted state services? In 2016 the city of Bogotá, Colombia, experimented on an unprecedented scale. They randomly assigned 1,919 streets to either 8 months of doubled police patrols, greater municipal services, both, or neither. We study how crime responds to intensifying normal state presence in moderate- to high-crime streets, and what this implies about criminal behavior. Scale also brings challenges. Spatial spillovers in dense networks introduce bias and complicate variance estimation through “fuzzy clustering.” But a design-based approach and randomization inference produce valid hypothesis tests in such settings. We find that increasing state presence has modest direct impacts, even when focusing on the highest-crime “hot spots.” More intense state presence deters more crime. But in most cases, however, crime appears to displace to neighboring streets. Property crimes seem most easily displaced, while violent crimes may not be. One interpretation is that crimes with a more sustained motive are more likely to displace than crimes of passion, which state presence may more permanently deter.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher Blattman & Donald Green & Daniel Ortega & Santiago Tobón, 2017. "Place-Based Interventions at Scale: The Direct and Spillover Effects of Policing and City Services on Crime," NBER Working Papers 23941, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23941
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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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    Cited by:

    1. Emily Breza & Cynthia Kinnan, 2018. "Measuring the Equilibrium Impacts of Credit: Evidence from the Indian Microfinance Crisis," Working Papers id:12587, eSocialSciences.
    2. Maria Micaela Sviatschi, 2018. "Making a Narco: Childhood Exposure to Illegal Labor Markets and Criminal Life Paths," Working Papers 2018-03, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
    3. Andres Gonzalez Lira & Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, 2018. "Enforcing Regulation under Illicit Adaptation," HKUST IEMS Working Paper Series 2018-57, HKUST Institute for Emerging Market Studies, revised Aug 2018.
    4. Guadalupe Kavanaugh & Maria Sviatschi & Iva Trako, 2018. "Women Officers, Gender Violence and Human Capital: Evidence from Women's Justice Centers in Peru," PSE Working Papers halshs-01828539, HAL.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General

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