Neighborhood – Tebes & Fagan (2022)

Study Reference:

Tebes, J. K., & Fagan, J. (2022). The Effects of Police Stops on Crime and High School Dropouts in Tebes, J. K. (2022). Essays on the Economic and Social Consequences of Policing. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Neighborhoods; General; Proactive; Moderately Rigorous; No evidence of effect

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study examined the impacts of New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) stop and frisk reforms on neighborhood crime and high school dropout rates following the 2012 federal lawsuit in Floyd et al. v. City of New York et al. This lawsuit declared the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices unconstitutional and limited the use of investigative pedestrian stops. Following the verdict, the NYPD implemented a series of reforms, including enhanced training aimed at distinguishing lawful from unlawful profiling (i.e., racial profiling), revised patrol guidelines designed to clarify the lawful grounds for stops, and improved data management to ensure accurate records of stops.

How was the intervention evaluated?

To evaluate the effects of pedestrian stops on crime rates, researchers identified neighborhoods with similar crime rates but very different stop rates before the reform (between January 1, 2006, and April 15, 2008). Researchers evenly divided census tracts (N = 2,058) into treatment and control groups based on their expected mean stop rate given their crime rates. They then used a flexible difference-in-difference framework to compare the stop and frisk rates and crime rates of these groups for four years before the reform and over the five years following the reform, from April 2008, to April 2017. To assess the effects of pedestrian stops on high school dropouts, researchers divided schools into four groups (quartiles) based on the number of stops per square mile in a given Census tract from 2007 and 2009. Schools with higher exposure to stops (fourth and third quartiles) were assigned to the treatment group, while those with lower exposure were assigned to the control group. They also compared the stop and frisk rates and enrollment outcomes of students in treatment and control schools from 2010 to 2017.

What were the key findings?

The study found no evidence that significant reductions in stops and frisks led to increases in felonies and violent misdemeanors. Moreover, these areas experienced decreased reporting of  non-violent misdemeanors and other less serious violations. The study also found that schools in neighborhoods where stop and frisks declined experienced a reduced probability of high school dropout.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The author concludes there is mixed evidence regarding the effectiveness of the Problem-Oriented Policing Project implemented in Atlanta as a result of varying degrees of successful implementation. For example, only some of the problems identified by the management team as potential barriers to drug enforcement were successfully addressed in the intervention. While efforts were made to increase engagement with the public, this did not translate into improvements in resident’s satisfaction with the police. Further, supervisors seemed unwilling to support or encourage officers to engage in problem-solving activities. The author does note, however, that inter- and intra- agency relationships improved because of the intervention and may be one of the more promising outcomes that stemmed from the project.

Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?