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Community Policing & Criminal Justice

More Students Carry Guns in Chicago than New York or Los Angeles

A study by community health scholar and IPR associate Joseph Feinglass finds between 2007 and 2013 more freshman and sophomore students reported carrying guns in Chicago than in New York or Los Angeles. The study, published in Injury Epidemiology, was based on self-reported data from the national Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, an anonymous, voluntary survey of public high school students. While self-reported gun carrying increased in Chicago between 2007–2013, it declined rapidly in Los Angeles and remained less than half the Chicago rate in New York. The 2013 prevalence of high school freshman and sophomore students who reported carrying a gun was 9 percent in Chicago, 4 percent in New York, and 6 percent in Los Angeles. When students who were exposed reported more violence risk factors, such as feeling unsafe in school, being exposed to fights, or doing illegal drugs, they were more likely to carry a gun, the study found. Chicago’s students were exposed to more guns and these risk factors than their peers. The findings may provide insight into Chicago’s 2016 spike in gun violence, which occurred mostly among youth and young adults.

The Impact of Crack Cocaine Markets on Young Black Men

Crack cocaine markets were associated with a surge in violence in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s, and the arrival of these markets coincided with an uptick in murder rates for young black males. In a working paper, Healthcare economist and IPR associate Craig Garthwaite, William Evans of the University of Notre Dame, and Timothy Moore of Purdue University use cross-city variation in the emergence of these markets to show that the resulting violence has important long-term implications for understanding current murder rates by age, sex, and race. They estimate that the murder rate of young black males doubled soon after crack entered a city, and that these rates were still 70 percent higher 17 years after the drug arrived. The researchers document the role of increased gun possession as a mechanism for this increase. Following previous work, they show that the fraction of suicides by firearms is a good proxy for gun availability and that this variable among young black males follows a similar trajectory to murder rates. Access to guns by young black males explains their elevated murder rates today compared to older cohorts. The long-run effects of this increase in violence are substantial. Garthwaite and his co-authors attribute nearly 8 percent of the murders in 2000 to the effects of the emergence of crack markets. Elevated murder rates for younger black males continue through to today and can explain approximately one-tenth of the gap in life expectancy between black and white males.

Use of Force by Police

Recent shootings by police in the United States emphasize that legitimate policing is difficult to achieve and highlight concerns over use of force by police. In Criminal Justice and Behavior, IPR faculty emeritus Wesley G. Skogan and his co-author Maarten Van Craen of the Leuven Institute of Criminology in Belgium examine the relationship between fair supervision and officers’ support for restrictions on their use of force. They find that a supervisor modeling good behavior can offer an important link between the two. Their results suggest that fair supervision fosters support for restraint in the use of force through greater “moral alignment” with citizens and increased trust in the public. The research also suggests that police organizations can contribute to encouraging economy in the use of force by implementing supervisory practices that reflect the principles of procedural justice. With support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, and the Research Foundation-Flanders, Skogan and his co-author examine how supervision might contribute to a better justified use of force by the police.

The Network Structure of Police Misconduct

Interventions for police misconduct often focus on individual officers or top-down management issues within police departments. In a recent study, IPR sociologist Andrew Papachristos, IPR postdoctoral fellow George Wood, and Daria Roithmayr of the University of Southern California, examine the role networks play in police misconduct. Data from 16,503 complaints against 15,811 Chicago police between 2010 and 2016 show that misconduct happens in networks. The majority of officers received relatively few complaints, but a small proportion of officers had a higher number of complaints with a large number of fellow officers who had also received complaints. Seniority, gender, and race were predictors of misconduct: Younger officers were more likely to receive civilian complaints than older ones, men received more complaints than women, and white officers were slightly more likely than black or Hispanic officers to have received at least one complaint. The researchers also find that pairing a more experienced officer with a lesser experienced one led to a lower likelihood of misconduct. The researchers suggest that easy-to-implement policies, such as paying attention to how officers are partnered, might help prevent incidents of police misconduct. Papachristos is the director of the Northwestern Neighborhood & Network (N3) Initiative.

‘Hot Spots Policing’ and Crime Reduction

Research shows that crime is not spread evenly across communities, but tends to cluster in “hot spots,”
or areas that see higher rates of crime. In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Criminology,
Papachristos and his colleagues conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis looking at the
effectiveness of focusing policing effects on hot spots to reduce crime rates. They identified 65
studies—51 in the U.S.—containing 78 tests of policing interventions in hot spots. Then they conducted
a meta-analysis of studies looking at small, medium, and large cities. The policing interventions fit into
one of two categories: increased traditional policing and problem-oriented policing (POP). The POP
method attempts to address crime and disorder by identifying and analyzing their underlying causes to
develop solutions. As previous research has shown, the researchers find that focusing policing efforts on
areas of high criminal activity can be an effective way to reduce crime. Problem-oriented policing
interventions seem to be more effective compared to increasing policing interventions. The researchers
believe that the POP approach holds promise in developing tailored responses to recurring problems at
hot spots.