Research

Working Papers:

“Streetlights and Crime: Evidence from Chicago” (Job Market Paper) Download Here

Can repairs to basic public infrastructure lead to declines in criminal activity? In this paper I utilize streetlight outages as a natural experiment to estimate the relationship between streetlight outages and crime. Using hourly, geocoded crime and streetlight level data from the city of Chicago, I find that streetlight outages lead to a 16 percent increase in non-violent crime at night. There is no evidence that the increase is driven by reallocation across space; rather, it seems to be a result of increased opportunity. Within the non-violent categories, the largest impacts are found in the subcategories of motor vehicle theft, criminal damage to property, and burglary which increase by 13,8, and 18, percent respectively. No statistically significant impact is found on violent crime.

“Civil Asset Forfeiture, Crime and Police Incentives: Evidence from the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984” Download Here

(With Shawn Kantor and Carl Kitchens) Under Review at Public Choice

The 1984 federal Comprehensive Crime Control Act (CCCA) included a provision that permitted local law enforcement agencies to share up to 80 percent of the proceeds derived from civil asset forfeitures obtained in joint operations with federal authorities. This procedure became known as “equitable sharing.” In this paper we investigate how this rule governing forfeited assets influenced crime and police incentives by taking advantage of pre-existing differences in state level civil asset forfeiture law and the timing of the CCCA. We find that after the CCCA was enacted crime fell about 17 percent in places where the federal law allowed police to retain more of their seized assets than state law previously allowed. Equitable sharing also led police agencies to reallocate their effort toward the policing of drug crimes. We estimate that drug arrests increased by about 37 percent in the years after the enactment of the CCCA, indicating that it was profitable for police agencies to reallocate their efforts. Such a reallocation of effort, however, brought an unintended cost in the form of increased roadway fatalities, seemingly from reduced enforcement of traffic laws.


Works in Progress:

"Early WARNing: The Impact of Unexpected Mass Layoff Events on Subsequent Crime"