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Will today's criminal policy reforms be able to reduce crime?

The new research centre, the Swedish Criminal Policy Laboratory, will investigate the effects of various reforms in criminal policy using large amounts of registry data. The project has received SEK 17.7 million from the Swedish Research Council and is a collaboration between Linnaeus University and Stockholm University.

What is the actual impact of reforms introduced to reduce crime? Do they cost more than they yield? This is what a number of criminologists and economists will study at the newly established Swedish Criminal Policy Laboratory.

The centre is comprised of researchers from Linnaeus University and Stockholm University, who will also collaborate with scholars at Harvard University, London School of Economics, and Paris School of Economics.

"Our research results will help policymakers see which reforms have worked and which haven't".

Hans Grönqvist

Tracking individuals sentenced in court

To answer these questions, they use large amounts of registry data, for example from the Criminal Records Register. Using this data, they can track what happens to individuals who have been sentenced in court over the past decades and see to what extent those given a stricter punishment due to a reform revert to crime or not. They can also see the effect on crime in an area after a particular reform has been implemented. The centre's goal is to inform policymakers about what criminal policy is optimal for combating crime.

"We have extensive experience of working with large amounts of registry-based data, specifically targeting criminal policy. This kind of quantitative crime research has historically been relatively limited in Sweden. And we are well-equipped to study causal relationships, i.e., isolating the effect of, for instance, a reform", explains Hans Grönqvist, project manager and professor of economics.

Does electronic tagging lead to reduced crime?

One of the reforms the researchers will examine is the effect of the use of electronic tagging. This reform was introduced in the 1990s as a way to reduce the high costs of imprisonment. By studying registry data, the researchers can track those sentenced to electronic tagging and see who commits a crime again, observe their performance on the job market, and their rehabilitation opportunities.

Another theme is the effect on crime of the increased number of police officers in recent years. Using registry data, researchers can track where the newly graduated police officers get jobs and see how this has affected crime in that area.

"The advantage of studying registry data is that you can get estimates that can be translated into costs and revenues. This helps answer whether a specific reform results in such a significant reduction in crime, or improvement on, for instance, the job market, that it offsets the cost of the reform," continues Grönqvist.

"Our research results will help policymakers see which reforms have worked and which haven't", Grönqvist concludes.

Contact: Hans Grönqvist, professor of economics, +4670-243 97 75,