RWAP: Rebecca Goldstein

Wednesday, February 12, 2020
12:00pm to 1:30pm
119 Moses Hall - Harris Room
UC Berkeley

Event Contact: Cecilia Mo, [at]

Title: Decisionmaking in Street-Level Bureaucracies: Evidence from Residential Burglary Investigations

Abstract: In the face of excess service demand and little direct supervision, how do streetlevel bureaucrats decide which clients receive thorough services, and which receive the minimum required? Efforts to answer this question have typically been hampered by a lack of detailed, interaction-level data. This paper leverages uniquely granular police data on over 2,500 residential burglaries in Tucson, Arizona to show that the best predictor of investigative thoroughness is whether the burglary featured a forced entry into the residence. Forced entry cases feature more evidence, providing greater likelihood of case clearance. Police focus on such cases is thus consistent with a large body of literature on performance incentives in bureaucracies. Contrary to conventional wisdom about police behavior, demographics of victims and officers do not predict investigative thoroughness. However, the probability of forced entry differs significantly by type of neighborhood, meaning the seemingly neutral decision to maximize clearance rates has unequal consequences.