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Police Violence and the Underreporting of Crime

Daniel W. Gingerich and Virginia Oliveros

Economics and Politics, 2018, vol. 30, issue 1, 78-105

Abstract: This paper examines the relationship between police violence and the reporting of crime. Utilizing original data from a large†scale household survey conducted in Costa Rica from October 2013 to April 2014 (n = 4,200), we find that the observation of police violence significantly reduces citizens’ willingness to report crime. The implications of this finding are explored using a game†theoretic model of crime, crime reporting, and police misconduct. The model reveals that although the prospect of police violence against criminals may generate a degree of deterrence for criminal behavior, permissiveness toward police violence also raises expectations about the likelihood of police abuse against law†abiding citizens. Consistent with our empirics, this reduces citizens’ propensity to report crime, thereby fostering a climate of impunity for criminal activity.

Date: 2018
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