Do university police forces reduce crime?

March 2018
The Journal of Law and Economics: The Short- and Long-Run Effects of Private Law Enforcement: Evidence from University Police
by Paul Heaton, University of Pennsylvania; Priscillia Hunt, RAND Corporation; John MacDonald, University of Pennsylvania; Jessica Saunders, RAND Corporation

Abstract: Over a million people in the United States are employed in private security and law enforcement, yet very little is known about the effects of private police on crime. The current study examines the relationship between a privately funded university police force and crime in a large U.S. city. Following an expansion of the jurisdictional boundary of the private police force, we see no short-term change in crime. However, using a geographic regression discontinuity approach, we find large impacts of private police on public safety, with violent crime in particular decreasing. These contradictory results appear to be a consequence of a delayed effect of private police on crime. Read more.

More officers, fewer crimes

October 2015
Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: The Effect of Privately Provided Police Services on Crime: Evidence from a Geographic Regression Discontinuity Design
by John M. MacDonald, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Criminology; Jonathan Klick, University of Pennsylvania, Law School; and Ben Grunwald, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Criminology.

Summary: Research demonstrates that police reduce crime. A literature in criminology and economics has attempted to document the effect of extra police on crime using field experiments and natural experiments. We study this question by using a natural experiment based on geography, where a patrol boundary of a private university police department was created that added extra police to city blocks that are adjacent to the university. The assignment of extra police to this area was made without consideration to the population in the adjacent blocks or other covariates of crime. We capitalize on the discontinuity in police force size at the geographic boundary to estimate the effect of the extra police on crime. We find that the extra police provided by the university generated approximately 45-60 percent fewer crimes in adjacent city blocks. These estimates are also similar to those found in other natural experiments that do not rely on geographic discontinuity designs. This paper demonstrates the utility of geographic discontinuities for estimating the effects of social policy decisions on a variety of outcomes. Read more.

What do our peers do?

October 2018
Safety and Security Models at Peer Institutions
Summary: This table shows how our peers at Ivy Plus universities and other private urban university outside of the Maryland and Washington, D.C. area approach safety and security on and around their campuses.