M-RCBG Associate Working Paper No. 211

Co-Location and Crime Reporting: Does a Salient Crime Impact Subsequent Crime Reporting in That Location? The “Nirbhaya” Case in Delhi

Aparna Mathur


In 2012, anger erupted on the streets of Delhi following the violent rape and murder of a young woman. The scale of the protests, and the intensity of the public’s opprobrium of the police and the administration of Delhi, was unprecedented. Using the synthetic control method, this paper argues that this crime (the “Nirbhaya” case) had a measurable impact on reporting by victims of similar crimes – rape and other sexual assaults – committed in the same place or jurisdiction, Delhi. Co-location can differentially affect reporting of crimes. There could be revised threat perceptions about the likelihood of being repeat victims. There could be greater identification with the victim because of the shared physical environment. Co-located individuals can feel a heightened sense of responsibility and urgency as they share the same administrative, judicial, and socio-political ecosystem. Our results show that over the period 2013-2015, the annual average reporting of rape cases in Delhi was 23 percent higher compared with its pre-intervention annual average (2001-2011); average annual reporting of molestation and sexual harassment over the period 2013-2015 was 40 percent higher compared with its pre-intervention annual average. We show that the Nirbhaya case had a causal impact on reporting of crimes against women in Delhi.

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