More Lawyers, More Crime? An Evaluation of the OEO Legal Service Program

Jamein P. Cunningham, Portland State University

This paper uses the city level roll-out of legal services grants to evaluate whether there is a causal connection between the introduction of legal services and increased crime. Using the Uniform Crime Report files from 1960 to 1985, the results show that there is a short run increase of 7 percent in crimes reported but also a 13 percent increase in crimes cleared by arrest. Further analysis provides evidence that the increase in crime is mostly driven by changes in reporting after subsidized legal services became available as opposed to an increase in actual crimes committed. Also, results show an increase in the staffing of police officers in cities that received legal services. These cities are also associated with having better police/poor relationships as well as higher median property values 10 years later.

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 Presented in Session P2. Data and Methods/Applied Demography/ Spatial Demography/ Demography of Crime