Effect of Gang Injunctions on Crime: A Study of Los Angeles from 1988–2014

Abstract

Objective

To assess the effect of civil gang injunctions on crime.

Methods

We use data on the location and date of 46 gang injunctions between 1993 and 2013 and quarterly crimes reported to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) from 1988 to 2014. We estimate the effect of gang injunctions on crime over the short-term (20 quarters) and long-term (108 quarters) using difference-in-differences designs that take into account spatial and temporal correlation. Three gang injunctions were paused during the study period and provide a natural experiment from which we estimate the short-term effect of these injunctions on crime.

Results

Gang injunctions are estimated to reduce total crime 5% in the short-term and 18% in the long-term, most of the effect coming from reductions in assaults. Analyses of the three interrupted injunctions yielded estimates of similar magnitude, providing further support of a crime reduction effect of gang injunctions. We found no evidence that gang injunctions are associated with displacing crime to nearby areas.

Conclusions

Injunctions represent a powerful place-based intervention strategy for police and prosecutors. Courts have recently subjected gang injunctions to closer scrutiny. This study indicates that gang injunctions contributed to a meaningful amount of the crime reductions in Los Angeles. Future research should examine whether gang injunctions reduce crime by specific deterrent effects on individual gang members or by the general deterrent effect of placing an area under greater police surveillance and restricting public gatherings and other actions deemed to be indicators of gang activity.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The Rampart investigation revealed criminal activity among some LAPD anti-gang unit officers (Lopez and Connell 1999). Several implicated officers had been involved in the establishment of two of the injunctions (O’Deane 2012). For the third case, at the same time the dismissal was occurring, LACA was already in the process of establishing a second MS-13 gang injunction in the Rampart area. When the court dismissed the original MS-13 injunction, LACA added the safety zone from the dismissed case to the new injunction (personal communication with LACA). All three injunctions were later reestablished when the LACA refiled complaints with new evidence.

  2. 2.

    Grand theft person, listed under California PC 487(c), is the theft of property of value directly off another person without force or threat of force.

  3. 3.

    For identification to hold, we need to condition on the calendar time periods corresponding to the relative time periods for each injunction. We leave this conditioning implicit here in order to reduce notation clutter. We explicitly deal with calendar time in the estimation section.

  4. 4.

    This is true for all but the last two injunctions listed in Table 5. Since our sample period ends with the fourth quarter of 2014, we have six quarters of follow-up data for the 6-Gang Glendale Corridor injunction and seven quarters for the Columbus Street injunction.

  5. 5.

    http://assets.lapdonline.org/assets/pdf/Org%20Chart%204-27-17-DP-4B.pdf. Accessed 10 Aug 2017.

  6. 6.

    The three injunctions that underwent a temporary disruption were Shatto Park (Case Number BC190334), Pico Union I (Case Number BC175684), and Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) I (Case Number BC187039).

  7. 7.

    For each of the three interrupted injunctions, RDs associated with the Southwest (Case Number BC167915) injunction constituted the only continuously enjoined comparison RDs. The Southwest injunction was continuously in effect concomitant with the complaint-suspend-reinstate time periods for all three treatment injunctions. Furthermore, the Southwest RDs were not too far away from the Shatto Park, Pico Union I, and MS13 I RDs and provide a useful comparison.

  8. 8.

    In addition to the variables shown, all regressions included calendar quarter dummies to control for general time trends and seasonal patterns.

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Correspondence to Greg Ridgeway.

Appendix

Appendix

See Table 5.

Table 5 List of gang injunctions in the City of Los Angeles

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Ridgeway, G., Grogger, J., Moyer, R.A. et al. Effect of Gang Injunctions on Crime: A Study of Los Angeles from 1988–2014. J Quant Criminol 35, 517–541 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10940-018-9396-7

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Keywords

  • Gangs
  • Gang injunctions
  • Difference-in-difference
  • Spatial–temporal model