Panel Paper: Can Community-Based Policing Moderate the “Chilling Effect” of Immigration Enforcement? Evidence from Los Angeles

Thursday, November 7, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Court 3 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Ashley Muchow, University of Illinois, Chicago

Federal legislation and executive actions over the past two decades have dramatically altered the scale and scope of immigration enforcement—creating a system that relies heavily on state and local law enforcement to identify, arrest, and detain non-citizens. As a result, associations between local police and immigration enforcement have grown. Stepped-up interior enforcement operations are one component of a myriad of changes to the immigration system made under the Trump Administration.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) cited growing mistrust of the criminal justice system to explain notable declines in crime reporting by Latinos in the first three months of the Trump presidency, relative to the same period the previous year. The concern that escalations in immigration enforcement may jeopardize advances in community cooperation originate in Los Angeles’ complicated history with immigrant and minority communities. In the early 2000s, the LAPD made deliberate efforts to improve relations with minority residents—one such initiative was the Community Safety Partnership (CSP) program. The program was created in 2011 to improve public safety in four of the city’s most violent housing developments. The program recruited officers to engage in community-based policing, whereby offers would foster relationships with residents to address the root conditions of crime—including social isolation, poor access to support structures, and community cooperation with police.

This study seeks to determine whether community-based policing programs can offset reductions in Latino engagement amid escalations in immigration enforcement. Using data on crimes reported to the LAPD between January 2008 and December 2018, I test whether the program increased the share of Latinos reporting crime in CSP neighborhoods. In order to make meaningful comparisons, I employ a quasi-experimental design wherein CSP neighborhoods are compared to a synthetic control group comprised of a weighted combination of neighborhoods similar in terms of their sociodemographic composition, presence of housing developments, and baseline trends in criminal activity. Incorporating synthetic control weights, I use a difference-in-difference estimator to determine the impact of the CSP program on the share of crimes reported by Latinos for four different types of incidents: all crime, violent crime, domestic violence, and non-violent crime. I introduce interactions to test whether the program had a moderating effect on Latino crime reporting as immigration enforcement efforts stepped-up under the Trump Administration.

The objective of this work is to contribute to nascent research exploring the tools localities can use to offset the spillover effects of restrictive immigration policy. Fifty-five percent of Latinos in 2017 reported concern that they, a family member, or a close friend could be deported—up 8 percent from the previous year. Issues of disengagement with public institutions and its implications for public safety must be closely examined to address effectively. This study aims to engage policymakers and researchers seeking to build consensus around the social implications of restrictive immigration policy, and to further discussion on how to balance immigration enforcement with shared goals of public safety and social equity.