Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
COPS Grants and Crime Revisited
COPS Grants and Crime RevisitedJohn L. Worrall and Tomislav V. KovandzicCriminologyVol. 45No. 12007pp. 159-90
Worrall and Kovandzic (2007) examine the finding of Zhao et al. (2002) that funding of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS Office) led to significant reductions in violent and property crimes in cities with populations greater than 10,000. With enacting provisions of the Violent Crime Control Act of 1994, a total of $8.8 billion were appropriated to local police departments in the form of grants to hire additional officers and improve their community policing capabilities during fiscal years 1995 through 2000. The task of COPS Office has been to provide several types of these grants to eligible law enforcement agencies. Previous research on COPS effectiveness can be classified into two types: studies focusing on:
(1) how much COPS funds increased hiring and/or community policing capabilities in America's law enforcement agencies; and
(2) to what extent crime rates have been reduced.
The authors focus on the latter effect of COPS' spending on crime and revisit the work of Zhao et al. with a panel data analysis.
The panel data from 189 large US cities covering the period 1990-2000 is analyzed. While the study at hand employs a smaller sample of cities than did Zhao et al.'s work which covered 6,100 cities, the extension of time frame from 5 to 11 years allows 2,079 observations for the analysis. A total of seven indexed crime rates, including homicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft, are adapted for dependent variables; three indicators of COPS grants corresponding to three main grant categories are included as predictors; and annual fiscal expenditures are included in order to control for non-COPS-related expenditures. As it is unlikely that COPS grants or annual fiscal expenditures influence crime instantaneously, a one-year lag is applied to both spending variables. To analyze these data, a series of two-way fixed-effects regressions are estimated, which include dummy variables for each city and year. The authors also use a log-log model, which allows estimating the percent change of dependent variable expected from a one percent change in the independent variable, holding all other factors fixed.
Contrary to the expectation based on previous research, all the outcomes from analyses at hand reveal that COPS grants had no discernible effect on serious crime during the period. Tests on overall spending or only COPS spending fail to reveal any significant effect of COPS grants on crime rates. All the robustness checks, which are adapted to ensure that these results are not driven by other issues, also show that no COPS coefficient is significant. Only when both city and year dummies are excluded, do the COPS variables achieve significance for more than one crime type: hiring grants are associated with reductions in murder, robbery, and assault. It is, however, a significant omission to exclude such dummies in any fixed-effects regression. In the model with state-specific effects, three states show the significant effects of COPS grants on violent crimes: only Arkansas, however, shows negative effects of COPS grant and others show positive effects.
Worrall and Kovandzic present three possible explanations for this outcome:
(1) even while COPS grants provides funding for 100,000 new police officers, the actual number patrolling the streets is much lower;
(2) even if the number of police officers were doubled, the number on the street would remain quite small; and
(3) police presence or patrol may not be effective to some people.
The authors also recommend the study of new strategies aiming at specific types of crime because it is likely that a targeted policing program better reduces crime, while a strategy of hiring more police officers alone does not seem to reduce crime significantly.