Police Contact with Black and Latino Juvenile Boys Predicts Future Criminality

April 12 2019

Black and Latino boys who are stopped more often by police are more likely to commit crimes six, 12, and 18 months later. And that association is stronger the younger boys are when stopped the first time. That’s the finding from new research co-authored by researchers at Center for Policing Equity.

The longitudinal study featured 637 males from six public high schools in “high-intensity policing neighborhoods” and tracked their encounters with law enforcement over two years. The boys self-identified as 57.5 percent Latino, 23.1 percent Black, and 19.4 percent non-White.

Researchers found those who were stopped by police subsequently engaged in more delinquent acts, such as theft and vandalism, than those who had not. This finding remained consistent regardless of prior delinquent behavior. Further analysis indicated that one contributing factor is the psychological stress that results from interacting with police.

“By looking at data over time, we have a better picture of how police contact may negatively influence Black and Latino adolescents’ psychological well-being not just months, but years later,” said the study’s lead author Juan Del Toro of New York University. “Our findings also show those outcomes are more harmful when they occur earlier in boys’ lives.”

The report suggests that the single most common proactive policing strategy – directing officers to neighborhoods where crime is more likely to be reported and to make contact with those most likely to be accused of crimes – may actually do more harm, having a criminogenic effect on vulnerable boys. This research addresses an important gap in quantitative research about effects of proactive policing over long periods, within non-White communities, and for youth populations.

“If we say the purpose of policing is public safety, then we need to do a better job studying what the consequences of policing are for those most in need of public protections,” said Dr. Phillip Atiba Goff, Co-founder and CEO of Center for Policing Equity. “We hope this will be part of a wave of research examining the consequences of police behavior.”

The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Co-authors from Center for Policing Equity include Kim S. Buchanan, Summer Joi Robins, Meredith Gamson Smiedt, and Phillip Atiba Goff. CPE gathers and analyzes data on policing in order to shed light on disparities and the biases that may influence police behaviors.