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Working Paper

Black Mayors and Crime

Local elections are often contested on the grounds of public safety, but do elected officials have any power to curb crime? Black mayors have particular interest in the issue because Black communities are victimized by high levels of crime and fragile police community relations. Using data on elections of first-time Black mayors, I find that police forces add more Black officers, a finding that is especially true for mayors with executive authority. Officers arrest 48 fewer potential Black offenders per 10,000 Black residents for crimes where they have the ability to exercise discretion, a finding that is commensurate with the overall reduction in crime. This effect is not visible for similar white arrests. Using changes in the levels of arrests and officers induced by pivotal Black elections, I then estimate the correlation of an additional officer on race-specific arrests. An additional Black officer is related to large reductions in discretionary Black arrests, perhaps suggesting increasing the presence and visibility of Black officers may offer a solution to the “over-policing, under-policing” problem Black communities tend to face.


Suggested Citation

Sylvera, Craig. 2023. “Black Mayors and Crime.” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Working Paper No. 23-27. https://doi.org/10.26509/frbc-wp-202327