An article co-authored by Professor of Economics Emily Conover was recently published in the Journal of Development Economics. “The effect of traffic cameras on police effort: Evidence from India” was written with Daniel Kraynak ’15, who is currently completing his Ph.D. in agriculture and resource economics at the University of Maryland, and Prakarsh Singh of the Navarra Center for International Development. In addition, Hannah O’Leary ’17 and Fan Xiang ’22 contributed as research assistants, working on the data processing required to complete the paper.
In their research, Conover and her co-authors used a novel data set on CCTV cameras in Chandigarh, India, to test whether police officers’ effort changes in response to the presence of traffic cameras. Twenty cameras, installed at major intersections of the city, feed data to a central control room in the police headquarters. The controller in this room is in charge of recording remote violations and is in contact with officers at the intersections, who are aware of when the cameras are working. The cameras are useful in sanctioning drivers and can also capture both passive or active corruption of officers.
The researchers found consistent results indicating that the number of tickets issued by officers on-the-ground increased with a functioning camera. They did not rule out possible decreases in active corruption, but found a decline in passive corruption that appeared to be driving the increase in officer ticketing behavior, particularly for the most common vehicles and violations that can be observed from the CCTV cameras.
Overall, they said, the results of this study indicate that policing can improve by taking advantage of the use of on-the-ground enforcement and remote monitoring of both drivers and officers. The authors noted that this is the case even when the camera operator’s distinct role is not to supervise the behavior of the officers.