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Security Without Equity? The Effect of Secure Communities on Racial Profiling by Police

By Jack Willoughby

Anecdotal and circumstantial evidence suggest that the implementation of Secure Communities, a federal program that allows police officers to more easily identify illegal immigrants, has increased racial bias by police. The goal of this analysis is to empirically evaluate the effect of Secure Communities on racial bias by police using motor vehicle stop and search data from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. This objective differs from most previous research, which has largely attempted to quantify racial profiling for a moment in time rather than looking at how an event influences racial profiling. I examine the effects of Secure Communities on police treatment of Hispanics vs. whites with an expanded difference-in-difference approach that looks at outcomes in
motor vehicle search success rate, search rate conditional on a police stop, stop rate, and police action conditional on stop. Statistical analyses yield no evidence that the ratification of Secure Communities increased racial profiling against Hispanics by police. This finding is at odds with the anecdotal and circumstantial evidence that has led many to believe that the ratification of Secure Communities led to a widespread increase in racial profiling by police, a discrepancy that should caution policy makers about making decisions driven by stories and summary statistics.

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Advisor: Frank Sloan | JEL Codes: J15, K14, K37, K42 | Tagged: Racial Policing, Bias, Immigration Law, Secure Communities

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