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What 'Ferguson Effect'?

February 5, 2016 10:17:06 am

Photo by Ted Eytan via Flickr

Despite speculation that police anger over anti-cop protests following the 2014 killing of an unarmed young black man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo.---and their sensitivity to increased  public vigilance and the prospect of lawsuits---led to less aggressive policing and a subsequent nationwide increase in crime, recent data shows no change in crime trends aside from an increase in robberies, say the authors of a study published in the Journal of Criminal Justice.

The study, titled “Was there a Ferguson Effect on crime rates in large U.S. cities?” measured crime data from police departments in 81 of the 105 U.S. cities with populations exceeding 200,000 residents during the year preceding the shooting of Michael Brown and the year following it. Researchers involved in the study were David Pyrooz, Scott Decker, Scott Wolfe and John Shjarback.

The study found that the only type of serious crime that increased following the shooting in Ferguson was robbery, which had been decreasing along with other categories in the 12 months prior to the Ferguson shooting and then began to rise in the opposite direction---showing a monthly increase of 0.12 robberies per capita.

“Robbery drives fear of crime among the general population and is among the most feared crimes, so that's concerning,"  said co-author Scott Decker, foundation professor of criminology and criminal justice at Arizona State University.

But the study's lead author, David Pyrooz, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Colorado-Boulder, noted in a news release accompanying the study that, "The finding that crime rates are essentially unchanged means that a 'Ferguson effect' cannot be be singled out as the driving factor of any increase in crime.“

The researchers acknowledged that homicides have increased in some U.S. cities, but they noted that those cities already had "high concentrations of socioeconomic disadvantages, more police per capita and a demographic makeup that differs from cities where homicide rates remained flat."

"What our analysis cannot speak to is the extent to which de-policing or a crisis in police legitimacy have occurred post-Ferguson, and if so, the impact it may have had on crime rates,” the authors write. “What we do know, however, is that if de-policing or a legitimacy crisis are occurring, neither is impacting crime rates systematically across large U.S. cities.”

Read the study HERE.

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