Boston University (United States)


Do racial disparities in police contact intensify during a pandemic? While recent research suggests racial and ethnic minority groups experience disproportionately high rates of Covid-19 infection and death, no studies have systematically examined the degree to which law enforcement practices have simultaneously become more burdensome for communities of color. This project aims to study the relationship between racial segregation, urban inequality, and hyper-criminalization, and whether these factors are associated with inequities in police enforcement during a historic public health crisis. We study the changes to police practices by developing a novel dataset of police contact (arrests, police-investigated crimes, and 911 calls) from eight cities representing the four main regions of the US. Using temporal, spatial, and hierarchical modeling strategies, we aim to study patterns and inequalities in police contact before, during, and after the stay-at-home mandates were enacted. Over-policing and disparate practices have been shown to have significant health consequences and reduce public trust in the law. Through a study of publicly available police reports in a diverse set of cities, our project promises to yield new insights into policing in urban neighborhoods, with the goal of directly informing and advancing more equitable public health responses.

Principal Investigators

Jessica Simes

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Boston University

Jessica T. Simes is an assistant professor of sociology at Boston University with expertise in urban inequality, mass incarceration, and quantitative spatial methods. Her work has been published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, Social Science & Medicine, and City & Community. Her forthcoming book, Punishing Places: The Geography of Mass Imprisonment in America (University of California Press), uses administrative data on geo-referenced prison admissions to study racial inequality and place stratification underlying the broader system of punishment. Simes is committed to public sociology, and uses maps to vividly describe social inequality in criminal justice encounters.

Jaquelyn Jahn

Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University

Jaquelyn L. Jahn is a postdoctoral researcher at the Stone Center for Socio-Economic Inequality at CUNY Graduate Center. Her social epidemiologic research applies public health frameworks to understand the consequences of mass incarceration and police contact. She has published in the American Journal of Public Health, Social Science & Medicine, and the American Journal of Epidemiology.