Crime minimisation and racial bias: what can we learn from police search data?*


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     We thank Steve Machin, Charles Manski, John Pepper, Nicola Persico and two anonymous referees for helpful comments. We are also grateful for the comments of participants in seminars at Georgetown University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Conference on Social Interactions in Profiling at Northwestern University.


Is variation by motorist race in the success rate of searches informative about racial bias if police are motivated by crime minimisation rather than success-rate maximisation? We show that the basic idea of extracting information from ‘hit rates’ may still be valid, provided one can verify some simple restrictions on the joint distribution of criminality by race. We also extend these results to the case where the police minimise the rate of unpunished crime.