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Cooperation with the police: the incentives do not work

On July 9th Scott Gehlbach and Lauren MacCarthy presented their paper "Cooperating with the State: Evidence from Survey Experiments on Policing" at an ICSID seminar.

On July 9th Scott Gehlbach and Lauren MacCarthy presented their paper "Cooperating with the State: Evidence from Survey Experiments on Policing" at an ICSID seminar.

The presentation was based on preliminary results of ICSID research of Russian police reform. In November 2011, commissioned by the ISCID, WCIOM conducted a survey among Moscow residents, which included  "experimental" questions - that is, the questions which are randomly distributed between the respondents so that the comparison of responses to different versions of the same question make it possible to draw conclusions about the unobservable preferences. This methodology is used to study "sensitive" issues - in those cases where direct questioning may distort the results. In this study such questions concerned, particularly, willingness to cooperate with the police.

Public cooperation with the police in reporting and investigating crimes is one of the key and basic forms of cooperation with the state. Study of this issue can add to the theoretical debate about which factors determine the desire of citizens to cooperate with the state.

The paper proposes a theoretical scheme, including citizens' choice concerning collaboration with the police. The authors identify several factors that influence willingness to report a crime to the police: the nature of the crime (the severity of the crime and the identity of the criminal), the benefits of cooperation (personal profit from  solving
this crime, the subjective benefit of the fact of cooperation), costs of cooperation. It is shown in research that only the severity of the crime (theft - or a violent crime), and the identity of the criminal (an ordinary citizen - or law enforcement official) significantly predicted desire of hypothetical witness to report the crime to the police. Witness rather report on a serious offense than a petty theft. And a person is less likely to report a crime committed by a police officer in front of him.

This means, in particular, that all attempts to promote cooperation with the police will not have the desired effect. Material rewards to those who reported a crime, as well as considerations of civic duty - all this will not increase the number of people willing to report an offense they have witnessed.

On the other hand, it should be noted that in general, respondents demonstrated a relatively high propensity to report an offense if it is committed in their presence.