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Research Summary

The Local Law Enforcement Block Grants (LLEBG) Program was second only to the Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Program in its funding levels. Some $3 billion was dispensed to local jurisdictions to reduce crime and improve public safety; yet the effects of LLEBG funding on crime have been all but ignored. Accordingly, panel data from more than 5,000 cities covering a 12-year period (1990–2001) were collected, and index crime rates were regressed on LLEBG funding and appropriate demographic controls. Additional controls for police levels and other federal grants were also introduced, proper checks for endogeneity of grants (and police levels) were performed, and the models were subjected to an array of robustness checks. A consistent message emerged: LLEBG Program funding was associated with significant reductions in serious crime.

Policy Implications

Although LLEBG funding seemed to reduce serious crime, the results also revealed that the decrease did not occur through the hiring of additional police officers, even though many funds were used for that purpose. Other mechanisms were thus at work, but the data did not provide insights into what these mechanisms were. In any case, every $1 in LLEBG funding per capita was associated with approximately 59 fewer index crimes per 100,000 people. When combined with the findings from recent studies of the effects of community policing grants on crime, this study suggests additional federal support for local law-enforcement agencies should be considered.
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Keywords: Local Law Enforcement Block Grants; Universal Hiring Program; crime rate; endogenous; police levels

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Professor of criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Publication date: 2008-08-01

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