Registering a proposed business reduces police stops of innocent people? Reconsidering the effects of strip clubs on sex crimes found in Ciacci & Sviatschi’s study of New York City  

Autor/a: Brandon del Pozo - Peter Moskos - John K. Donohue - John Hall


Ciacci & Sviatschi’s (2021) “The Effect of Adult Entertainment Establishments on Sex Crime: Evidence from New York City,” published in The Economic Journal, concluded that opening a strip clubs reduced sex crimes, with the most compelling finding that “[strip clubs and gentleman’s clubs] decrease sex crime by 13% per police precinct one week after the opening.”

We contend that the study’s conclusions speak beyond the data, which cannot support these findings because they do not accurately measure the necessary variables. The study uses the date a business is registered with New York State as a proxy for its opening date, when nearly all cases it is simply the earliest date a business can apply for the liquor, cabaret and restaurant licenses necessary for lawful operation, then go on to obtain the inspections and approvals necessary to open the business. The actual date of opening therefore comes several months later, after licensure and community board approval. The study then uses police Stop, Question and Frisk Reports as data about subsequent crimes, when over 94% of these reports document that the police had an unfounded belief in criminal activity and the person was in fact innocent of any crime.

In effect, what the study has done is measure changes in police encounters with innocent people in the week after an entity has filed the paperwork necessary to apply for the business licenses and go through the processes that will eventually allow it to open a strip club. We argue that the paper’s conclusions cannot be supported by this data, the study cannot reject the null hypothesis of its most important finding, and the paper’s conclusions should be retracted.

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