Research

We have several projects currently underway. Below is a list of a few of them.

    • Explaining Low Crime Rates in Immigrant Communities
      Abstract:There has been a veritable explosion of studies on the relationship between immigration and crime. The literature has produced several noteworthy findings, including one of the most robust findings in the field: areas, and especially neighborhoods, with greater concentrations of immigrants have lower rates of crime. Yet important areas of inquiry remain. For example, extant research lumps all immigrants together and neglects important differences across groups. Moreover, theories on the connection between crime and immigration have not been sufficiently empirically evaluated, leaving us essentially in the dark about why immigrant communities are some of the safest places around. And despite a rapidly expanding cross-sectional literature, research examining the longitudinal immigration-crime nexus across areas has been scarce, making it a challenge to determine the proper causal ordering between crime and immigration. The goal of the proposed project is to address each of these important areas of inquiry. We examine the immigration-crime nexus in neighborhoods across the Southern California metropolitan region over a decade (2000-2010). Using data from a variety of sources, in our analyses, first, we unpack immigration in order to capture the rich diversity that exists, including grouping immigrants by similar racial/ethnic categories, by areas or regions of the world they emigrate from, and by where immigrants co-locate once in the U.S. We compare these approaches with the typical approach employed in studies—examining just the percent foreign born. Second, to begin to better understand why immigrant communities are some of the safest places around, we empirically evaluate several competing theoretical explanations hypothesized to account for lower crime rates in immigrant neighborhoods. And finally, in contrast to much of the extant literature, we take a dynamic approach to the study of crime and immigration by examining changes in neighborhoods across the cities in the Southern California region from 2000 to 2010.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation ($268,368).

      • Crime in Metropolitan America: Patterns and Trends across the Southern California Landscape
        Abstract: This project involves collecting and combining data from a large number of sources (e.g. crime data, land use data, parolee data, business and employment data, etc.) to study crime and crime trends across three metropolitan areas (six counties) in Southern California. This wide array of information will allow accounting for the multi-dimensional and inter-related sources of crime and crime trends in Southern California at different units of analysis including blocks, neighborhoods, and cities. Using these data, we will: 1) build a model to predict crime in small geographic areas; 2) model the change in crime in cities over a 50-year period; 3) assess the effect of neighborhood organizations and institutions on crime trends; 4) determine the effect of the spatial distribution of poverty (at both small and large scales) on crime rates; 5) examine the effect of gentrification on crime in neighborhoods and nearby neighborhoods; 6) assess the effect of foreclosures and vacancies on neighborhood home values and crime over time; 7) consider the relationship between immigration and crime, taking into account the neighborhood institutional context; 8) assess how the clustering of social problems in a neighborhood (including the presence of parolees) affects neighborhood crime over time. This project builds on prior work done by the Metropolitan Futures Initiative (MFI) team to locate various data sources in Southern California.

This project is funded by the National Institute of Justice ($560,620).

        • Realigning California Corrections: Legacies of the Past, the Great Experiment, and Trajectories for the Future
          Overview—California’s corrections system, one of the largest state-level systems in the world, is in crisis. Prison overcrowding led to U.S. Supreme Court intervention (Brown v. Plata 2011). The Plata order required the state to reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent of design capacity within two years, translating into a reduction of nearly 33,000 prisoners. In response, the state enacted “Public Safety Realignment,” considered the largest prison downsizing experiment in U.S. history. Realignment is designed to comply with Plata by devolving from the state to each of its 58 counties the responsibility for supervising a sizeable class of offenders. This historic shift in the structure and workings of the criminal justice system evokes a series of questions amenable to empirical examination; such questions are consequential for theorizing the workings of the state, penology and social control. We will convene a workshop at University of California, Irvine to catalyze an interdisciplinary research agenda to answer these crucial questions. Participants will conduct original research, present and discuss findings, solidify productive collaborations and identify promising avenues for future research. Papers resulting from the workshop will be published in an edited volume that uses the Plata case and Realignment as a lens through which to advance scholarship in the study of law and society as well as criminology and criminal justice.Intellectual Merit—The workshop will accomplish four objectives: (1) identify the historical antecedents to California’s prison crisis, (2) understand the diffusion and translation processes of legal mandates, such as Plata and Realignment, among different levels of government and society, (3) document and explain the effects of Plata and Realignment on all aspects of California’s criminal justice system, including probation, parole, the courts, law enforcement and crime rates, and (4) leverage the California case to more broadly theorize and research prison downsizing and correctional reform beyond California. Given that Realignment only recently went into effect, it is not surprising that there are no peer-reviewed published findings examining its origins, structure, workings and consequences. Therefore, the research that emerges from this workshop and that will be published in the edited volume will present the first comprehensive analysis of California’s path to the Plata ruling, as well as the implications of Realignment on the future of the criminal justice system.Broader Impacts—Understanding how Plata and Realignment affect California’s criminal justice system, crime rates and communities is crucial for evaluating the viability of prison downsizing more broadly in the U.S. The development of an interdisciplinary scholarly research agenda will shed light on the practical issues that face California as well as on how the U.S.’s reliance on mass incarceration is being reconciled with the economic crisis facing the nation at large. The steps taken in California are being closely watched by other states confronting similar challenges arising from prison overcrowding. These states are asking whether large scale prison downsizing in California will compromise public safety or whether they can look to Realignment as a possible solution to replicate in their own states. While speculation abounds, rigorous, high-quality scientific research has yet to be done. As such, policymakers and the public lack the knowledge base needed to make evidence-based decisions about the operation of criminal justice systems in the future. The workshop represents a necessary first step in producing such research.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation ($50,000).

Workshop website: http://sites.uci.edu/lawcrimeworkshop/.

      • Southern California Regional Crime Report
        Overview – An annual report of standardized crime rates to facilitate comparisons between cities within the Southern California region. A novel approach was used for calculating changes in crime over time, which adjusts for the inherent problem of comparing changes in crime rates across cities of different sizes. Click to link to download: Crime Report for Southern California 2014 by ILSSC. Read more about the report here.