2019 HRI Seed Grant-Project Update from Professor Nishith Prakash

The 2019 HRI Seed Grant was awarded to Nishith Prakash, Human Rights/Economics, to support his research project, Street Police Patrols and Crime Against Women in Public Space: Experimental Evidence from India. Professor Prakash provided the following update on the status of the project.

Street Police Patrols and Crime Against Women in Public Spaces:

Experimental Evidence from Urban India


Nishith Prakash (University of Connecticut) along with Sofia Amaral (Ifo Institute); Girija Borker (W

orld Bank); Nathan Fiala (University of Connecticut); Anjani Kumar (Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad City); and Maria Micaela Sviatschi (Princeton University)


Set in the Indian city of Hyderabad, this project aims to disentangle and understand the effects of GBV-targeted patrolling in partnership with the SHE Team initiative of the Hyderabad City Police. The SHE Team is a targeted patrolling programme to reduce street harassment. Teams of two to four patrolling officers move around hotspots- public places with high incidence of sexual harassment (colleges, bus stops and market places) -in civil clothes to catch perpetrators of sexual harassment.

This project aims to answer the following questions:

  1. What is the effect of GBV-targeted street patrolling on the frequency and type of street harassment incidents and women’s proactive response?
  2. Do visible state presence and quantity of focused task-police force drive these changes?

Through a cluster randomized design for 350 hotspots, we try to answer these questions. At baseline, of the 8,264 women surveyed, 31.46 per cent reported facing some form of sexual harassment in public places in the immediate preceding month. We also investigate “whether GBV-crime moves” by including set of two spillover areas for each hotspot- one within a radius of 200 metres, and second within a radius of 500 metres.

Data and Innovation

Outside traditional baseline and endline survey measures, this project introduces a new measure of sexual harassment- a high frequency observer-bystander survey where female enumerators visit hotspots and observe street harassment experienced by other women. Both from our baseline as well as observational data, we find that the most commonly faced forms of harassment at the hotspots are- unwelcomed comments, inappropriate gestures, ogling and touching.

Figure 1: Types of Harassment faced in the last month at Hotspot/Spillover Area (Self-reported)

Self-reported measures of sexual harassment are often plagued by underreporting because of the social stigma around it and the internalization of harassment by women. Initial results from the observation survey reveal that ogling (staring), touching/groping and inappropriate gestures and facial expressions are the most commonly observed forms of harassment.


Figure 2: Types of Sexual Harassment ‘Observed’ at the Hotspots

The project is also making use of emerging technology by leveraging advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence to measure the impact of GBV-targeted patrolling on female mobility by tapping into the wide CCTV camera network of the Hyderabad City Police of over 200, 000 cameras.

Evidence-based Policing

Using police administrative data on reported crimes from Dial 100[1], we map reported crimes to the police and results from our baseline to enhance evidence-based policing. A spatial overlap of both has already provided the police with valuable information on gender crimes, especially given the fact that reporting of such crimes is well below 10 per cent.

Figure 3: Overlap between Reported GBV in January-June 2019 and Baseline Survey Incidence/ Observed Street Sexual Harassment


Design and Intervention

Through the intervention, we aim to provide more intensive GBV-targeted patrolling with each treatment hotspot exposed to 45 minutes of patrolling. The hotspots are divided into three groups, (i) Control: No street patrolling, (ii) Treatment Arm 1: Undercover street patrolling; and (iii) Treatment Arm 2: Visible street patrolling, i.e., patrolling by officers in uniform. Patrolling vehicles and phones of officers are fitted with GPS tracking devices to closely monitor their movement to ensure design compliance.

This project seeks to improve proactive behaviour of women by making policing more accessible and reducing street sexual harassment through GBV-targeted policing. A successful intervention can lead to scaling up of the SHE Team initiative beyond Hyderabad to other parts of the country.

[1] Dial 100 is a police emergency service hotline number used for reporting crimes.