Nightly confrontations occurred between protestors and officers outside of the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD’s) East precinct in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. On June 8, 2020, the SPD abandoned the East precinct in an attempt to calm the situation. Following closure of the precinct, the Capitol Hill Occupation Protest (CHOP) took hold in the surrounding 6-block area. The CHOP occupation lasted until July 1, 2020. Over this time period, CHOP operated as an autonomous zone, with police officers not patrolling and generally not responding to calls for police service within the area. We used the microsynthetic control group method to analyze the effect of CHOP on crime during the 24-day occupation. Results indicate crime significantly increased in the CHOP zone, the encompassing 2-block area, and the overall East precinct service area.
The current study found comparatively stronger effects than the general literature on de-policing. The significant crime increase is particularly noteworthy given the short time frame of the CHOP occupation and retreat of police from the area theoretically making it more challenging for crimes to be reported by citizens and/or proactively discovered by officers. This suggests that police abolition, the most extreme form of the police defunding movement, may significantly compromise public safety. Moving forward, a prudent policy solution may be to simultaneously support the evidence-based crime prevention work of police and community-based institutions. Such an approach may achieve currently desired policing reforms without risking crime spikes that can result from drastic reductions of police presence. Wide-scale adoption of evidence-based policing may provide a vehicle for such meaningful, long-term reform.
Available for download on Friday, January 12, 2024