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

Privacy and Security

Article Snapshot


Luis Garicano and Paul Heaton


CEPR Discussion Paper 5837, September 2006


This paper looks at how better communications helps the police fight crime.

Policy Relevance

Better communications technology helps the public sector improve only when combined with organizational changes.

Main Points

  • Data from police agencies in the United States from 1987-2003 shows that police increased their use of computers from 20% in 1987 to 90% in 2003.

  • Statistics show that crime increased as information technology (IT) usage increased. This is partly because better communications technology meant that more crime was reported.
    • Even so, there is little evidence that more IT improves reduces crime rates, improves deterrence, increases conviction rates, or otherwise helsp productivity.
    • IT use results in police hiring more college-educated workers.

  • Changes within police departments to improve management and accountability can improve crime rates. One program is known as “Compstat.”
    • When such changes are combined with the use of information technology, the police can substantially improve productivity.

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