The ineffectiveness of ‘observe and report’ patrols on crime

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The deterrence effect of police on crime has been well established using modern quasi-experimental micro-econometric methods. Although the results from these studies uniformly suggest that police spending is cost justified, it is worth exploring whether police-like alternatives can deter crime even more cheaply. Unarmed private security personnel that conspicuously patrol a neighborhood have the potential to cheaply leverage the ability of police to be informed of crimes while also providing direct deterrence on their own. In the Fall of 2013, a neighborhood in Oakland, CA mounted a campaign to provide observe and report security patrols to augment the publicly provided policing in the area. While the initial effect of the additional security was a drop in crime, it quickly evaporated, calling into question the value of security forces that do not have the ability to apprehend criminals directly.


Crime, deterrence, private security, Paul Blart Mall Cop

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International Review of Law and Economics