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Concept: Crime


A geographically-resolved, multi-level Bayesian model is used to analyze the data presented in the U.S. Police-Shooting Database (USPSD) in order to investigate the extent of racial bias in the shooting of American civilians by police officers in recent years. In contrast to previous work that relied on the FBI’s Supplemental Homicide Reports that were constructed from self-reported cases of police-involved homicide, this data set is less likely to be biased by police reporting practices. County-specific relative risk outcomes of being shot by police are estimated as a function of the interaction of: 1) whether suspects/civilians were armed or unarmed, and 2) the race/ethnicity of the suspects/civilians. The results provide evidence of a significant bias in the killing of unarmed black Americans relative to unarmed white Americans, in that the probability of being {black, unarmed, and shot by police} is about 3.49 times the probability of being {white, unarmed, and shot by police} on average. Furthermore, the results of multi-level modeling show that there exists significant heterogeneity across counties in the extent of racial bias in police shootings, with some counties showing relative risk ratios of 20 to 1 or more. Finally, analysis of police shooting data as a function of county-level predictors suggests that racial bias in police shootings is most likely to emerge in police departments in larger metropolitan counties with low median incomes and a sizable portion of black residents, especially when there is high financial inequality in that county. There is no relationship between county-level racial bias in police shootings and crime rates (even race-specific crime rates), meaning that the racial bias observed in police shootings in this data set is not explainable as a response to local-level crime rates.

Concepts: Constable, White American, Bayes factor, Relative risk, Crime, Scientific method, Police, United States


Bicycle theft is a serious problem in many countries, and there is a lack of evidence concerning effective prevention strategies. Displaying images of ‘watching eyes’ has been shown to make people behave in more socially desirable ways in a number of settings, but it is not yet clear if this effect can be exploited for purposes of crime prevention. We report the results of a simple intervention on a university campus where signs featuring watching eyes and a related verbal message were displayed above bicycle racks.

Concepts: Campus, Robbery, University, Theft, Crime


Little is known about the impact of urbanicity, adverse neighborhood conditions and violent crime victimization on the emergence of adolescent psychotic experiences.

Concepts: Procedural knowledge, Knowledge, Crime, Violence, Violent crime


Many populations have been exposed to environmental lead from paint, petrol, and mining and smelting operations. Lead is toxic to humans and there is emerging evidence linking childhood exposure with later life antisocial behaviors, including delinquency and crime. This study tested the hypothesis that childhood lead exposure in select Australian populations is related to subsequent aggressive criminal behaviors.

Concepts: Antisocial personality disorder, Environment, Crime, Biology, Juvenile delinquency, Natural environment, Lead


Algorithms for predicting recidivism are commonly used to assess a criminal defendant’s likelihood of committing a crime. These predictions are used in pretrial, parole, and sentencing decisions. Proponents of these systems argue that big data and advanced machine learning make these analyses more accurate and less biased than humans. We show, however, that the widely used commercial risk assessment software COMPAS is no more accurate or fair than predictions made by people with little or no criminal justice expertise. We further show that a simple linear predictor provided with only two features is nearly equivalent to COMPAS with its 137 features.

Concepts: Algorithm, Risk assessment, Psychometrics, Crime, Criminal law, Evaluation, Critical thinking, Scientific method


Vacant and blighted urban land is a widespread and potentially risky environmental condition encountered by millions of people on a daily basis. About 15% of the land in US cities is deemed vacant or abandoned, an area roughly the size of Switzerland. In a citywide cluster randomized controlled trial, we investigated the effects of standardized, reproducible interventions that restore vacant land on the commission of violence, crime, and the perceptions of fear and safety. Quantitative and ethnographic analyses were included in a mixed-methods approach to more fully test and explicate our findings. A total of 541 randomly sampled vacant lots were randomly assigned into treatment and control study arms; outcomes from police and 445 randomly sampled participants were analyzed over a 38-month study period. Participants living near treated vacant lots reported significantly reduced perceptions of crime (-36.8%,P< 0.05), vandalism (-39.3%,P< 0.05), and safety concerns when going outside their homes (-57.8%,P< 0.05), as well as significantly increased use of outside spaces for relaxing and socializing (75.7%,P< 0.01). Significant reductions in crime overall (-13.3%,P< 0.01), gun violence (-29.1%,P< 0.001), burglary (-21.9%,P< 0.001), and nuisances (-30.3%,P< 0.05) were also found after the treatment of vacant lots in neighborhoods below the poverty line. Blighted and vacant urban land affects people's perceptions of safety, and their actual, physical safety. Restoration of this land can be an effective and scalable infrastructure intervention for gun violence, crime, and fear in urban neighborhoods.

Concepts: Sociology, Crime, Effectiveness, Epidemiology, Poverty, Pharmaceutical industry, Efficacy, Randomized controlled trial


Following brain lesions, previously normal patients sometimes exhibit criminal behavior. Although rare, these cases can lend unique insight into the neurobiological substrate of criminality. Here we present a systematic mapping of lesions with known temporal association to criminal behavior, identifying 17 lesion cases. The lesion sites were spatially heterogeneous, including the medial prefrontal cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, and different locations within the bilateral temporal lobes. No single brain region was damaged in all cases. Because lesion-induced symptoms can come from sites connected to the lesion location and not just the lesion location itself, we also identified brain regions functionally connected to each lesion location. This technique, termed lesion network mapping, has recently identified regions involved in symptom generation across a variety of lesion-induced disorders. All lesions were functionally connected to the same network of brain regions. This criminality-associated connectivity pattern was unique compared with lesions causing four other neuropsychiatric syndromes. This network includes regions involved in morality, value-based decision making, and theory of mind, but not regions involved in cognitive control or empathy. Finally, we replicated our results in a separate cohort of 23 cases in which a temporal relationship between brain lesions and criminal behavior was implied but not definitive. Our results suggest that lesions in criminals occur in different brain locations but localize to a unique resting state network, providing insight into the neurobiology of criminal behavior.

Concepts: Premotor cortex, Neuroanatomy, Crime, Cerebral cortex, Limbic system, Brain, Frontal lobe, Cerebrum


Recent studies have shown that while psychopathy and non-psychopathic antisociality overlap, they differ in the extent to which cognitive impairments are present. Specifically, psychopathy has been related to abnormal allocation of attention, a function that is traditionally believed to be indexed by event-related potentials (ERPs) of the P3-family. Previous research examining psychophysiological correlates of attention in psychopathic individuals has mainly focused on the parietally distributed P3b component to rare targets. In contrast, very little is known about the frontocentral P3a to infrequent novel events in psychopathy. Thus, findings on the P3 components in psychopathy are inconclusive, while results in non-psychopathic antisocial populations are clearer and point toward an inverse relationship between antisociality and P3 amplitudes. The present study adds to extant literature on the P3a and P3b in psychopathy by investigating component amplitudes in psychopathic offenders (N = 20), matched non-psychopathic offenders (N = 23) and healthy controls (N = 16). Also, it was assessed how well each offender group was able to differentially process rare novel and target events. The offender groups showed general amplitude reductions compared to healthy controls, but did not differ mutually on overall P3a/P3b amplitudes. However, the psychopathic group still exhibited normal neurophysiological differentiation when allocating attention to rare novel and target events, unlike the non-psychopathic sample. The results highlight differences between psychopathic and non-psychopathic offenders regarding the integrity of the neurocognitive processes driving attentional allocation, as well as the usefulness of alternative psychophysiological measures in differentiating psychopathy from general antisociality.

Concepts: Crime, Differential equation, Psychology, Conduct disorder, Neuroscience, Antisocial personality disorder, Antisocial, Psychopathy


Extralegal factors may influence judicial outcomes. Here we investigated the experience of incidental haptic sensations on the harshness of punishment recommendations. Based on recent theories of embodiment, which claim that cognitive representations are structured by metaphorical mappings from sensory experience, we hypothesized that tactile priming with hard objects would cause subjects to recommend harsher sentences (to be ‘hard on crime’). Furthermore, the theory of embodiment predicts that this effect should be based on sensorimotor brain activation during the judging process. In order to test this we presented participants with scenarios that described various crimes while scanning their brain activity with fMRI. Participants were then asked to rate how severely they would sentence the delinquents. Before the scenarios, the participants were primed by touching either a hard or a soft object. Results revealed tha t hard priming led participants to recommend harder punishments. These results were accompanied by activation of somatosensory brain areas during the judging phase. This outcome is in line with simulation assumptions of the embodiment theory and proposes a central role of the sensorimotor cortices for embodied metaphors. Thus, incidental tactile experiences can influence our abstract cognitions and even how hard we are on criminals.

Concepts: Theory, Criminal justice, Proprioception, Somatosensory system, Empiricism, Cognition, Crime, Sensory system


Although selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are widely prescribed, associations with violence are uncertain.

Concepts: Antidepressant, Violence, Crime, Tricyclic antidepressant, Violent crime, Serotonin, Reuptake inhibitor, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor