DP5837 | Computing Crime: Information Technology, Police Effectiveness and the Organization of Policing

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How does information technology (IT) affect the organization of police work? How does it in turn affect police crime-fighting effectiveness? To answer these questions, we construct a new panel data set of police departments covering 1987-2003. We find that while IT adoption had substantial effects on a wide range of police organizational practices, it had, by itself, a negligible impact on crime-fighting effectiveness. These results are robust to various methods for controlling for agency-level characteristics and the endogeneity of IT use. We then suggest and test two explanations for this puzzle. First, we demonstrate that use of a particular technology, computerized record-keeping, increased recorded crime rates. Second, we provide evidence that IT investments only had a substantial impact on crime clearance rates and crime rates when undertaken as part of a broad set of complementary organizational practices such as those in the Compstat program.