UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs researchers have been selected to join the Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice, based at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, to study policing patterns related to misdemeanors in the city of Los Angeles.

Michael Stoll

Michael Stoll, professor of public policy and urban planning, and his colleague Michael Lens, assistant professor of urban planning, will lead these research efforts and partner with the Los Angeles Police Department to study data from stops and arrests over time and across different precincts. The data will be used to help them identify possible “misdemeanor hot spots” where diversion programs could be more effective.

Los Angeles was one of six sites recently selected by the Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice based on proposals submitted from 39 institutions across the United States. The other selected sites — Toledo, Ohio; Durham, North Carolinca; Seattle, Washington; Prince George’s County, Maryland.; and St. Louis, Missouri, — will join New York City as part of the network. The core sites will use data analytics to inform policy discussions and reforms regarding trends in the enforcement of lower-level offenses. The project is funded by a $3.25 million, three-year grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

Michael Lens

Enforcement of lower-level offenses has a profound impact on the criminal justice system. It can overwhelm the courts and delay case processing, often resulting in large numbers of individuals held on pretrial detention. High-volume activity serves as the basis of public opinion about police and the legitimacy of the criminal justice system. The Research Network works with criminal justice stakeholders to obtain accurate data, provide objective analyses and disseminate findings to key stakeholders in the community, renowned scholars and policymakers to spur a national dialogue.

“The larger good in studying policing related to low-level offenses will be to figure out how the LAPD can police smarter and more effectively,” Stoll said. He added that there is evidence that individuals involved in multiple misdemeanor offenses have a high probability to go on to commit a felony offense, and that intervention and diversion at the misdemeanor level can be effective in reducing felony offenses.

In looking at misdemeanors and police intervention over time, Stoll and Lens hope to build a network in Los Angeles supportive of this effort. This includes partnering with the city attorney, nonprofit organizations and diversion programs.

“We are excited to work with the core sites and to help inform their policy decisions on critical issues regarding the role of the criminal justice system in responding to low-level misconduct,” said John Jay College President Jeremy Travis.

The research network is a national alliance of seven jurisdictions that will examine trends in the enforcement and disposition of lower-level offenses at a local level and, for the first time, at a cross-jurisdictional level. Working with research institutions, data partners and stakeholders, the research network aims to build data infrastructure at a local level.

In addition to UCLA, the other academic partners are the University of Toledo, North Carolina Central University, Seattle University, University of Maryland and University of Missouri—St. Louis.

This story is posted on the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs website.