network analysis vs. public choice
I just wrapped up my undergrad course in networks for seniors. Near the end, in the week on networks and crime, we discussed Papachristos’ work on homicide in Chicago. If you haven’t read it, he has a very rich data set on gangs and traces the back and forth of gang revenge homicides. Great stuff. So I asked my students: “You are the police and now you have read this research, what did you learn?”
Student 1: You should target the most central gangs. They seem to generate a lot of violence.
Me: Good, what else?
Student 1: Since a lot seems to focus on revenge, maybe police should focus on friends of homicide victims. Maybe counsel them so they won’t get revenge and keep the cycle going.
Student 2: That would never work.
Student 2: The cops gets no credit for counseling. Only for arrests.
Bingo. Great insight. In other words, we have a lot of good data on homicides and we know that a lot of it has to do with gang/revenge cycles. And that implies a solution – go after survivors and do what you can to keep them from acting out. But it is very hard to see how anyone could ever be rewarded in the system where people get promoted for arrests rather than crime prevention. It’s sad that you need have someone murdered first before you can be praised for being a good cop.