Spillover, False Positives, and the Demography of Urban Policing

Amanda B. Geller, Columbia University
Jeffrey Fagan, Columbia University

The shift toward punitive criminal justice policies in the U.S. has, particularly in urban areas, aggravated neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage, destabilized family life, and weakened social ties and informal social controls. We examine the determinants of proactive police-civilian contacts, a key engine of contemporary law enforcement and a robust risk factor for arrest and incarceration. Broad policy mandates for discretionary police power against disorderly activity have concentrated policing in neighborhoods already burdened by economic isolation and social disadvantage. We use data on pedestrian stops in New York City and a series of multilevel models to assess and compare the effects of local conditions with broader policies on the distribution of police-citizen contacts. We examine the extent to which precinct policies drive spillover of aggressive policing from higher crime to nearby lower crime areas, stigmatizing neighborhoods and their residents and placing them at increased risk of further police contact and criminal sanctions.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Session 68: Demography of Crime