TEMPE, Ariz. (KSAZ) - It's a question being debated all the way up to the White House, is crime going up across the country because police officers are reluctant to do their jobs. It's been dubbed the Ferguson effect, but is it real? An ASU professor's new study aims to answer that question.
The argument behind the effect says police are under a microscope, and that scrutiny makes them reluctant to do their jobs. Essentially some officers are worried making a stop or questioning someone suspicious could be the next viral video. So they're pulling back, and crime is on the rise. It's an idea even supported by the head of the FBI, but the ASU professor I talked to says the data tells a very different story.
Riots, protests, civil unrest on the streets of Ferguson. Some law enforcement officials believe the aftermath of Ferguson sparked a nationwide crime wave called the Ferguson Effect.
"There's a concern fueled by social media, such a reaction produced another reaction by police which is to say the police pulled back from engaging with citizens and we observed what we call de-policing," said Scott Decker.
ASU Criminology Professor Scott Decker says there is no evidence of a Ferguson Effect.
"What happened in Ferguson didn't affect crime rates in the United States, and that is a positive thing," said Scott Decker.
He's one of the authors of the published story which looks at crime data from 81 large cities before and after the Ferguson events. The study finds that crime is unchanged, overall it's at historic lows.
"What we find is people's perception is driven by single events they see on the media," he said.
Decker says while some cities like Baltimore and St. Louis are seeing increased homicide rates; he says the data doesn't back up the idea of a widespread crime wave.
"We think it's important to look at all the data and not pick one or two cities out to make a point, it's akin to looking at the stock market, you can always find some stocks are up, and some are down," said Decker.
The biggest challenge going forward is tracking any crime changes. Decker says the FBI crime reports come out months after they're reported.
"If crime is going up across the country we need to understand that sooner than later to do something," he said.
Decker looked at several valley cities with populations over 200,000. That includes Mesa, Scottsdale, Glendale, and Phoenix, he says crime in those cities has not gone up post-Ferguson.