Research

Working Papers

Please email me for the latest drafts.

“Reelection Reform and Removing Rivals in Mexico.”

Abstract What is the effect of introducing reelection on criminal engagement in elections? Examining an electoral reform in Mexico, I argue that reelection can bring stability to the ties between criminal groups and local politicians. Politicians may be incentivized to collude with organized crime to win reelection, and, armed with longer political horizons, the long-term deals they make with criminal groups may be more credible. When one criminal group has a monopoly on illicit power, this collusion may result in lower levels of violence against politicians. On the other hand, reelection also increases the value of office. Where groups compete for control of localities, this can incentivize violence during an election, followed by a period of stability after the winner is established. To test this theory, I exploit the staggered implementation of electoral reform in Mexico. Using a multi-period difference-in-differences design with an original dataset of attacks on local politicians, I find that reelection had a negative effect on violence, regardless of the degree of competition between groups. I also examine other indicators of engagement, such as the number of candidates, concentrations of vote shares, and electoral crimes. Further, I find attacks in municipalities had spillover effects, precipitating attacks nearby. This paper contributes to the larger literature which seeks to understand the interaction of organized crime, politics, and institutional reforms.
  • Keywords: reelection; institutional reform; organized crime; criminal violence; elections; Mexico

“Criminal Police? Analyzing the formalization of Enforcement Units in Criminal Groups”

Abstract When academics, journalists, and policymakers discuss enforcement wings within criminal organizations, there is a wide variety of terms that are used -- often describing dramatically different groups. These same groups are also responsible for the vast majority of criminal violence worldwide. To be able to understand what they are and how they operate, we need a clear definition. This paper conceptualizes enforcement wings into two ideal types: expansion types and control types. The former is produced by in-house, militarized groups that focus on protecting and expanding the boundaries of the parent organization. The latter, control types, outsource enforcement to existing groups within territories to regulate the daily activities of criminals and communities. As economic prospects and opportunities evolve, groups can similarly shift between types. I argue that groups develop expansion wings when planning a major military offensive against rivals or the state, and that they develop control types once they hold territory -- needing a mechanism for governing it. Criminal groups may also collude with the state, co-opting enforcement out to state forces rather than creating their own. I examine this conceptualization using qualitative evidence of criminal enforcement wings from Mexico (1993-2015).
  • Keywords: criminal governance; enforcement units; institutions; paramilitaries; Mexico

“An Endogenous Process of Organized Crime and Statebuilding”

Abstract How do criminal groups shape the behaviors and preferences of the state, and how does the state influence the behavior of criminal groups? This formal model seeks to clarify the influences that each has on each other in decentralized systems, where both criminal groups and leaders of the state seek to control the enforcement of policy by the agent. However, in doing so, they create incentives for the other to take control. This paper presents a moral hazard problem with multiple principals to examine this relationship. The model shows the effect of criminal groups on the wages and incentives offered by the executive to the agent and the effect of the state on the strategies used by the criminal group to capture the agent. This findings present new implications for empirical studies of the interactions of organized crime and politics.
  • Keywords: organized crime; state governance; moral hazard; multiple principals; delegation

“Violence Incorporated: State Response to Pro-Government Militias in Northern Ireland”

  • Written with: Danielle Villa, Emily Gade, and Sarah Dreier
Abstract Pro-government militias (PGMs) actively participate in conflicts around the world. Yet governments respond to these militant groups in very distinct ways. States openly support some PGMs, maintain covert links with some, and ignore or suppress others. We examine this variation in how governments respond to PGMs, both across and within groups, in the context of the early years of Britain's ``Troubles in Northern Ireland.'' This project analyzes 8,430 recently declassified documents from the United Kingdom Prime Ministers’ security-based Correspondence Files (1969-1974), which detail the British government's internal attitudes and behaviors toward these groups. We argue that states balance their military needs with goals of social control and engagement with supporters. This project provides the first internal account of governmental attitudes towards PGMs, contributing to a greater understanding of the factors that influence the decision-making process of governments in conflict.
  • Keywords: Loyalist paramilitaries; pro-government militias; qualitative research; Northern Ireland

Data Collection

“Mapping Criminal Governance”

Abstract How do criminal groups govern? While our understanding of governance by criminal organizations has grown, there is little systematic data to map it. This project seeks to address this gap. Using newspaper articles from _The New York Times_ containing the names of more than 50 randomly selected groups from across Latin America, this project implements a supervised machine learning approach to code more than thirty indicators of criminal governance. This indicators include who is governing (what group or groups), how they are governing (enforcing rules, collecting taxes, distributing goods), and who they are governing (civilians, other criminals, or the state). This project seeks to expand our understanding of criminal governance across the globe.
  • Keywords: criminal governance; Latin America; Natural Language Processing; supervised machine learning