The effects of police contracting on crime: An examination of Compton, California
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The utility of police consolidation, and in particular police contracting of services, has received widespread attention in academic and practitioner circles. However, the bulk of empirical research centers on potential fiduciary benefits; only limited scholarship has explored the possibility that changes in police services may correspond with differences in crimes solved and offenses observed. To address this gap, we examine consolidation in police services in a historically high crime, disadvantaged urban setting (Compton, California), which began contracting with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LACSD) after the closure of Compton Police Department in 2000.
Independent samples difference in means tests are used to examine variations in crime clearance rates prior to and following the transition in Compton. Group-based trajectory analysis combined with difference-in-difference regression estimation is used to assess changes in criminal offenses while minimizing selection differences in comparison settings.
With the exception of homicide, clearance rates for six Part I crimes experienced statistically significant improvements in Compton’s post-contractual period. Additionally, while the vast majority of Part I offenses remained stable during the transition to LACSD policing, burglary crime rates experienced a statistically significant and sustained decline, net of controls.
A primary concern with police contracting centers on a lack of local police control, disconnect between local needs and actual services provided, and the potential for backlash related to a reduction in the quality of police services. Our findings from Compton suggest that contracting with a well-resourced agency experienced in police consolidation has the ability to maintain and, in some circumstances, improve the quality of law enforcement services.
KeywordsPolice consolidation Contracting Police services Group-based trajectory analysis
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