The causal effect of police brutality on local crime: evidence from Chicago
Using recently digitized complaints made about Chicago police officers released by the Citizen's Police Data Project, I estimate the effect of police brutality on short-term local crime. My empirical strategy uses conditionally random variation in the timing and location of serious excessive force incidents within Chicago to identify the causal relationship between these incidents and local crime. I also explore how this relationship changes with proximity to where a brutality incident occurred, the race of the victim, and the race of the offending officer. I find that, within a month after a brutality incident occurred, the average incident is associated with a one percent decrease in citywide violent crime. Within a community where an incident occurred, however, there is a three percent increase in violent crime and a two percent increase in total crime. Expanding out to the district, the total crime effect disappears, and the violent crime effect diminishes to two percent but remains positive. I also find that if the victim of a brutality incident is black, the community-level effect on violent crime increased to four percent, the district-level effect on violent crime increased to seven percent, and property crime increased by six percent at the district-level. If the offending officer is white and the victim is black (a.k.a. if the incident is potentially racially charged), there is a ten percent increase in total crime and an 18 percent increase in property crime within a month after the incident, both at the community-level.