Young Economist Award research looks at police behaviour in the U.S.

Dr Nicola Mastrorocco, Assistant Professor in Economics at Trinity College, has won the prestigious 2020 European Economic Association (EEA) Young Economist Award.

The award, which recognises outstanding research by authors who are no more than three years past their PhD defence, was presented at the first virtual EEA Congress which took place from August 24-28, 2020.

Dr Mastrorocco, and his co-author Dr Arianna Ornaghi Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Warwick, won the award for their research project: ‘Who Watches the Watchmen? Local News and Police Behaviour in the United States. The research looked at the local media coverage of crime and how this impacts on police behaviour in the United States (U.S.)

The key finding of the research is that news coverage of local crime influences police behaviour. U.S.municipalities exposed to a 27% reduction in the probability of appearing in the news with a local crime story experienced an 8% decline in their violent crime clearance rate compared to municipalities not exposed to the change.

The award-winning study collected a unique dataset of 9.5 million stories from 300,000 newscasts of local TV Stations in the U.S.. It then exploited sophisticated econometric techniques and text analysis models to show that a reduction in news coverage of local crime affects police behaviours and, in particular, decreases violent crime clearance rates. The authors postulate that the decrease in coverage affects individuals’ perceptions of crime, which becomes less salient for local citizens. This in turn reduces the pressure that citizens put on the police to solve these crimes, causing police officers to reallocate their effort away from clearing these types of crime in favour of other policing-related activities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commenting on the award Dr Mastrorocco (pictured) said:

 I am honoured to have received this award, along with my co-author Dr Arianna Ornaghi, for our research on the impact of local media crime coverage on police behaviour.

Law enforcement is one of the most important functions of US local governments, but we still have a limited understanding of what forces shape the incentive structure of police departments. Our research suggests that the local media play an important role and that shocks in the local news environment, such as changes in ownership, might have important consequences for local institutions.

You can read the full research paper here: https://www.tcd.ie/Economics/TEP/2020/tep0720.pdf

You can visit the EEA Congress website and the research paper here: https://www.eeavirtual.org/node/1433