LSU study links aggressive policing to major crime

Halen Doughty

There's been an increase in aggressive police tactics across the country, but a new study out of LSU shows those crime fighting methods may not be effective after all. The study by the LSU Department of Political Science in conjunction with the University of Michigan finds a correlation between reduced "proactive policing" and a drop in crime.

Proactive policing means law enforcement proactively patrol communities rather than waiting for citizens to report criminal conduct. That includes more police stops, summonses, and low-level arrests.

Proponents of this approach say it sends a signal the area is being monitored and deters criminal activity.

Opponents say it diverts resources away from investigative units, which focus on tracking down serial offenders and breaking up criminal networks. Additionally, they claim arresting citizens, disrupting markets, and costing people their jobs creates more stress on an already vulnerable community.

The study examined the results of a seven-week "slowdown" by the New York Police Department in late 2014 and early 2015. LSU Assistant Professor and co-author of the study Christoper Sullivan said the results are striking.

"'Order Maintenance Style’ policing tactics have been shown to increase economic and political inequality, destabilize communities, and impair the mental health of young people," Sullivan said.

The study found that criminal summonses, non-major crime arrests, and narcotics arrests saw a substantial drop during the slowdown. Sullivan notes in the report that in contrast, "arrests by the Detective Bureau increased significantly during the slowdown."

Civilian complaints of major crimes decreased by 3 to 6 percent during that time. Each week during the slowdown, Sullivan estimates that 43 fewer felony assaults, 40 fewer burglaries, and 40 fewer acts of grand larceny were reported. The slowdown resulted in about 2,100 fewer major crime complaints.

However, as NYPD returned to its usual tactics, the crime rate eventually reverted to the level it was before the slowdown. The study concludes that certain aggressive policing tactics may inadvertently contribute to criminal activity.

"It is time to consider how proactive policing reform might reduce crime and increase well-being in the most heavily policed communities," the report says.

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