Police response to domestic violence: Multilevel factors of arrest decision

Joongyeup Lee, Yan Zhang, Larry T. Hoover

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Purpose: Police factor in extra-legal as well as legal context in their decision to arrest a suspect. The purpose of this paper is to examine the effect of extra-legal factors at both situational and neighborhood levels. Design/methodology/approach: Using hierarchical generalized linear modeling, over 9,000 domestic violence cases across 421 census tracts in Houston, Texas were examined. Situational information was derived from police reports, and neighborhood factors were measured by population characteristics drawn from the US Census Bureau. The model also controls for spatial autocorrelation of arrest rates between census tracts in the estimation of officer's arrest decision. Findings: At the neighborhood level, concentrated disadvantage and immigration concentration had positive effect on the odds of arrest. At the situational level, the time of day, day of the week, premise type, and gender and racial relations between suspect and complainant, along with offense type and weapons use, had significant impact. Originality/value: The scant literature has not yet provided an affirmative set of extra-legal factors affecting police arrest decision. The paper's findings may contribute to the literature and suggest the need for guidelines concerning officer discretion exercised in the line of duty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-174
Number of pages18
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Public Administration
  • Law


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