Seminar announcement:
    The Dynamics of Deterrence

I’ll be giving a seminar at the National Institute of Justice this Thursday at 1 pm. Send me an email if you’d like to come.

I’ll be talking at the National Institute of Justice (810 7th. St., N.W., Washington) this Thursday, October 12, at 1 pm. If you’re interested in hearing the talk, please email me at markarkleiman (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll ask my hosts to add you to the guest list. The seminar breaks promptly at 2 p.m. I think they’re serving lunch, though I’m not sure.

I’ll be giving more or less the same talk later in the term at George Mason and at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. Beau Kilmer, Andrew Morral, and I should have a draft of the paper sometime this month.

Here’s the abstract:

The Dynamics of Deterrence

When enforcement capacity is constrained, potential offenders face a interdependent choices: the greater the frequency of offending, the less the risk of punishment for any given offender. This can generate a “tipping” situation in which both high violation rates and low violation rates are self-sustaining in the face of the same underlying characteristics of potential offenders and the same level of enforcement capacity.

If instead we fix the ratio of sanctions to violations, then as long as rate of offenses slopes downward as a function of the sanctions risk, and above some level is more than unit-elastic, the amount of sanctions capacity used will form an inverted U.

Under these assumptions, a temporary increment to enforcement capacity can produce lasting benefits by “tipping” a high-violation-rate equilibrium into a low-violation-rate equilibrium. Even where no additional capacity is available, a strategy of sequential concentration, in which a subset of offenders is singled out for attention and that subset is expanded as falling violation rates free up capacity, can have the same effect.

A simple agent-based simulation demonstrates these phenomena, instantiated in a variety of actual programs including the grafitti and squeegee crackdowns in New York, Operation Cease-Fire in Boston, the low-arrest drug crackdowns in High Point, NC, and elsewhere, and the HOPE probation project in Hawai’i. Full exploitation of the underlying principle could lead to reduced crime and reduced incarceration.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

4 thoughts on “Seminar announcement:
    The Dynamics of Deterrence”

  1. Not to detract at all from your paper, but am I correct in thinking this is an adaptation of military strategy to crime enforcement? I mean, we form organized groups and attack specific targets in groups instead of spreading limited resources out equally over the entire theater to produce similar results.
    Sometimes hindsight is almost mocking in it's revelation.

  2. Proofreading? Missing word?
    "Under these assumptions, a temporary in enforcement capacity . . . "
    Or do you mean that law enforcement is so underfunded it's getting cops from temp agencies?

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