Does crime increase on game day? (football)

David E. Kalist and Daniel Y. Lee report:

This article investigates the effects of National Football League (NFL) games on crime. Using a panel data set that includes daily crime incidences in eight large cities with NFL teams, we examine how various measurements of criminal activities change on game day compared with nongame days. Our findings from both ordinary least squares and negative binomial regressions indicate that NFL home games are associated with a 2.6% increase in total crimes, while financially motivated crimes such as larceny and motor vehicle theft increase by 4.1% and 6.7%, respectively, on game days. However, we observe that play-off games are associated with a decrease in financially motivated crimes. The effects of game time (afternoon vs. evening) and upset wins and losses on crime are also considered.

Is it that a game works up everyone’s excitement, but the playoff games the criminals actually watch?  That is via the excellent Kevin Lewis.


I'd say it's probably down to distraction of the local population. When people are busy watching the game, they're not watching their property, and might make marginally riskier/more distracted decisions like, say, leaving their keys in the ignition than otherwise. That, plus the predictability of people leaving their homes to watch games could be pretty easily noticed and taken advantage of by criminals already casing an area could explain it.

Eight days vs. 357 days: is 2.6% actually significant enough to be an actual phenomenon. Only one or two playoff game days for only a few cities every year vs. 355-356 days. A small movement doesn't really seem meaningful.

They need more work on the data. Did they control for aggregation differences: on game days, cars are aggregated in areas where it is easier, and more efficient, to break in; people are more crowded in spaces (bars, outdoor areas) and are intoxicated, whereas on non NFL days, they are dispersed.

Also, why the NFL...pick any activity where you have a large number of people aggregated in an area with alcohol and partying and see what you get.

Another confounding problem is that more crimes might be reported or detected because MORE police officers are in the area where the sport event occurs. Or, some crowd control activities might provoke a crime as a policeman tries to control behavior, resulting in a disorderly conduct or resisting arrest charge.

What might be interesting to look at is not whether there are more crimes, but how the crimes differ on game days than non game days.

Sure man, of course you're going to be wearing your fly kicks when you're rocking your favorite players jersey. And that of course means that when some homie scuffs your kicks, you gotta cap him.

Oh come on, Doug. Everyone knows most NFL fans are black, AND violent. Stop skirting the issue.

Well at least game day precludes the players themselves from contributing to the crime rate. I'm pretty sure keeping Aaron Hernandez busy for 13 Sundays a year had to have prevented at least one murder.

What JPC said.

I think your hypothesis of "even criminals are watching the playoffs" seems plausible, too.

This paper found a roughly 10% spike in male-on-female domestic violence following an upset loss by the home team.

Any time domestic violence is mentioned at this web site, this link should be included. It is a simple and decent thing to do, especially in a place that proudly proclaims it is involved in taking small steps to a much better world.

The bankers are the only ones who can afford playoff tickets

Do they take into account that the population of the town might increase on game day because some fans are travelling from far away? So on a per capita basis, crime rate is maybe stable.

70,000 people who want to blow a paycheck watching millionaires fling balls around = target-rich environment.

Don't waste your time pondering the alleged playoff game effect.

We're talking laughably skimpy data: of the 8 NFL cities they selected for that 2004-2006 time frame, there were only 7 home playoff games, and 5 of those were in Philadelphia! I'm not at all surprised that cold, snowy Philadelphia saw a lower crime rate during January playoffs. Generalizing that observation to the rest of the NFL seems a bit hasty.

In Scotland there have been many articles over the last few years about violence linked to Old Firm matches (Rangers vs Celtic, two Glasgow teams with have long been clouded by bigoted elements of their support behaving in despicable manners because of events long before they were born).

The rivalry is far more intense than those in US pro sports and in European soccer small distances between the opposing teams means more away fans and more opposing fans living near, working and socialising with one another. For example, one third of the teams in the top division in Scotland lie within a fifteen kilometre radius. The negative social effects of sport are likely magnified in such an environment and therefore would be an obvious first port of call for those looking to do research in such a matter.

The liquidation of Rangers FC three years ago would be a researcher's dream as they can then observe the effect of the Old Firm games being absent, such as the £4.2m annual saving on extra policing. The two teams meet for the first time in three years in the semi-final of the League Cup in January when many in Glasgow are planning to evacuate the city for the weekend. The lack of the fixture between the senior teams lead to rioting when their U16 teams met, a game normally attended only by parents and friends.

Here is one newspaper report on the link between Old Firm matches and domestic abuse:

"Figures collated by Strathclyde Police in 2011 showed that there had been 142 cases during an Old Firm weekend compared to an average of 67. It found the average for an Old Firm weekend was 107 incidents."

In Chicago on a nice fall Sunday when the Bears are on TV, there are no men in the parks until 15 minutes after the game is over, at which point touch and tackle football games begin. I have a vague recollection that more guys come out to play football if the Bears won, but I may be wrong.

The emptiest afternoon streets I've ever seen in Chicago were while driving late to a friend's house for the 1986 Bears-Patriots Super Bowl, at the beginning of the second quarter with the temperature -7 F.

There's no better day to play golf than Sundays when the local team is playing. Hate when they have night games early in the season. True in both Charlotte and Philly when I've lived there.

I've long believed that much crime is the result of sports. A sports prohibition is clearly warranted, and promises significant benefits.

Somebody mentioned the salutary effects of porn and video games. It is also possible that professional sports bleed off a lot of tribal energy that would otherwise be manifest in actual intertribal warfare.

More cynically, you might call sports the Great Distraction.

More middle class people parking their cars and walking around in bad neighborhoods on regular game day; more police, more media, which means more private security next to the production trucks, and thus less ability for criminals to be surreptitious during the playoffs.

I assume they're controlling for the expected when crowds, alcohol and circuses are involved.

So, when do I get my Ph.D.

In our state, when the Packers lose, there's a significant increase in the number of domestic violence cases. I've known that for about ten years, so this article doesn't surprise me.

Does crime increase when political parties' national conventions are in town?

I shudder to think what happens during the AEA meetings.

Satire: perhaps there is a root causes explanation here ... playoff games make potential criminals temporarily richer reducing their interest in committing crimes.

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