Conflict theory and racial profiling: An empirical analysis of police traffic stop data

Matthew Petrocelli, Alex R. Piquero, Michael R. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

198 Citations (Scopus)


Using data collected by the Richmond, Virginia Police Department, this article applies conflict theory to police traffic stop practices. In particular, it explores whether police traffic stop, search, and arrest practices differ according to racial or socioeconomic factors among neighborhoods. Three principal findings emanate from this research. First, the total number of stops by Richmond police was determined solely by the crime rate of the neighborhood. Second, the percentage of stops that resulted in a search was determined by the percentage of Black population. Third, when examining the percentage of stops that ended in an arrest/summons, the analyses suggest that both the percentage of Black population and the area crime rate served to decrease the percentage of police stops that ended in an arrest/summons. Implications for conflict theory and police decision-making are addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003
Externally publishedYes

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