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Marijuana Study by RAND That Indicated Lower Crime Around Dispensaries Retracted

Updated at the bottom with reaction from a criminal justice professor. First reported at 12:17 p.m. Monday.

First a withdrawal, now a retraction?

RAND has pulled its controversial September study of L.A. marijuana dispensary crime off the shelf for good after concluding that it "did not include crime data reported by the Los Angeles Police Department."

Um. Who's crime data did it include? Fred's? We raised some serious questions when the study came out and noted that the alleged increase in crime when dispensaries reportedly closed did not coincide with LAPD reports indicating that crime continued to fall in the same general areas.

RAND today stated that "Regulating Medical Marijuana Dispensaries: An Overview with Preliminary Evidence of Their Impact on Crime" failed to take into account LAPD stats (which makes us ask what states it relied on). RAND:

Questions raised following publication prompted RAND to undertake an unusual post-publication internal review of the study. That review determined the crime data used in the analysis are insufficient to answer the questions targeted by the study.

The primary issue discovered during the internal review was that the data described as covering the city of Los Angeles and surrounding areas did not include crime data reported by the Los Angeles Police Department.

The RAND researchers originally said they discovered that where pot shops closed, crime actually went up, indicating, it would seem, that not only do pot shops not attract crime, as police contend, but that they actually bring it down.

The study guessed that, perhaps, the extra security hired by dispensaries helped suppress crime.

But we noted that the study stated it was based on a list of shops told to close by the city of L.A. It looked at crime 10 days before and 10 days after.

But even the city admits that not all of those shops closed. Many if not most did not.

Meaning that crime could have gone up around shops that stayed open.

Now RAND indicates that researchers didn't even look at police stats. On that note, here's what we said when the study came out:

.. Crime continued to decline in the city of L.A. during the period covered. According to LAPD statistics year-over-year burglary was down 9.2 percent citywide for the week following the alleged closures in June, 2010. Personal theft was down nearly 8 percent. Yet RAND found these pockets of crime near reportedly closed dispensaries where break-ins were up by 50 percent? These crimes sure seemed to elude the official stat-keepers at the LAPD.

RAND states that a "new analysis" of pot shop crime will be undertaken.

Debra Knopman, RAND VP of Infrastructure, Safety and Environment:

This was a rare failure of our peer review system. We take our commitment to quality and objectivity seriously so we have retracted the study in order to correct it.

Question: Have RAND researchers been smoking some of that sticky-icky? Come on now -- admit it.

[Update]: RAND's Knopman told City News Service that the data came from a website, CrimeReports.com, that doesn't use LAPD numbers. (What the?).

Knopman:

The whole idea of the study was to try to get insight as to whether or not there was an effect on crime, whatever direction, as a consequence of the city's closure order of some dispensaries. Having an incomplete data set renders that kind of analysis invalid.

[Update No. 2]: Dean Dabney, associate professor at Georgia State University's Department of Criminal Justice and the editor of Criminal Justice Review, was unimpressed with RAND's original study (PDF).

Here's what he told the Weekly today:

... My sense is that the methodology of the LA portion of the report was less than comprehensive and it is not surprising that the results did not match reality.

[@dennisjromero/djromero@laweekly.com]


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