Lawrence W. Sherman

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Lawrence W. Sherman
Born 25 October 1949
Schenectady, New York
Residence United Kingdom
Alma mater

Lawrence W. Sherman (born Schenectady, NY, 25 October 1949) is an experimental criminologist and the founder of "evidence-based policing." Since 2007 he has been the Wolfson Professor of Criminology and from 2012 the Director of the Cambridge Institute of Criminology at Cambridge University. The founding director of the Jerry Lee Centre for Experimental Criminology since 2008, he also serves as Chair of the Cambridge Police Executive Programme[1] and CEO of the Cambridge Centre for Evidence-Based Policing. A Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland's Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice in College Park since 2010, Sherman's use of randomized controlled experiments to study deterrence and crime prevention has led him to examine such wide-ranging issues as domestic violence, police crackdowns and saturation patrol, gun violence and crime, crack houses, and reintegrative shaming. He has collaborated with over 30 police and justice agencies around the world. Lawrence Sherman is best known in science as an experimental criminologist, and to Ángel Cabrera, President of George Mason University, as the "father" of evidence-based policing.[2]


Sherman graduated magna cum laude from Denison University in 1970, with a B.A. in Political Science. He received an M.A. in social science from the University of Chicago in 1970 and earned a Diploma in Criminology from Cambridge University in 1973. In 1976, Sherman received his M.A. and sociology from Yale University in 1974 and 1976 respectively. In 1999, he received an M.A. (Hons) from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.A. from Cambridge University in 2009.


Sherman’s research on domestic violence began in the 1980s with the Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment. His early experimental research into the influence of arrest on recidivism in spouse abuse led to changes in police department policies and procedures nationwide, encouraged state legislatures to modify state statutes to allow for misdemeanor arrest, and eventually resulted in five federally funded replications, one of which he conducted. In the late 1980s, Sherman’s experimental research into the effect of directed police patrol in high crime locations led to his development of the concept of “hot spots.”[3] In the early 1990s, Sherman’s Kansas City Gun Experiment studied the effect of concentrated police patrol on gun crime and violence and that directed police patrol in gun crime “hot spots” led to an increase in seizures of illegally carried guns and a decrease in gun crimes. Since 1995, Sherman has been co directing a program of prospective longitudinal experiments in restorative justice involving approximately 2,500 offenders and 2,000 crime victims. Recently, he has been working on the development of new tools for predicting murder among offenders on probation and parole in Philadelphia, as well as randomized trials of intensive services among highest risk offenders.

From 1999 to 2007, Sherman was Greenfield Professor of Human Relations at the University of Pennsylvania, initially in the Department of Sociology. Under his leadership, Penn became the first Ivy League University to establish a Ph.D. in criminology as a separate field in 2000, and the first to establish a separate department of criminology in 2003, when Sherman was appointed the University’s first Professor of Criminology. He served as Chair of the University’s Department of Criminology from 2003 to 2007 and as the Director of the Fels Institute of Government from 1999 to 2005. He resigned from Penn in June 2010.

Both before and after his appointments at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Cambridge, Sherman served and serves as a member of the faculty of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, College Park from 1982 to 1999, and returned there in 2010. He served as Maryland's Chair from 1995 to 1999. In 1998 he was named a Distinguished University Professor, a rank he still holds. In 1987, he was the Seth Boyden Distinguished Visiting Professor at Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Criminal Justice and from 1994 to 2005 he also served as Adjunct Professor of Law at the Australian National University’s Research School of Social Science. From 1976 to 1980 he was on the faculty of the University at Albany’s School of Criminal Justice.

From 2001 to 2007 he was the co-director of the Justice Research Consortium in the United Kingdom. Since 1995 has been the Scientific Director of RISE, an ongoing research program in partnership with Australian National University and the Australian Federal Police. From 1985 to 1995 he served as president of the Crime Control Institute, and from 1979 to 1985 he was the Director of Research at the Washington-D.C.-based Police Foundation.

In addition to his experimental research, Sherman has published articles and book chapters on a wide variety of topics, including police corruption, police education, police discretion, police crackdowns, restorative justice, investigations, police use of force, and fear reduction. In 1997, Sherman led a team of University of Maryland criminologists in producing Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn’t, What’s Promising, a Congressionally mandated evaluation of over 500 state and local crime prevention programs.

Key Research Findings[edit]

His major discoveries can be summarized as follows:

• In 1980 he discovered that restricting police powers to shoot people was not followed by any increases in crime, or in violence against police officers;[4] this evidence was later cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 1985 TENNESSEE V. GARNER decision to restrict police powers to kill across the US.
• In 1987 he discovered that over half of all reported crime and disorder occurred at just 3% of the property addresses in a major city, a finding that has since been consistently replicated in other cities. He showed that that exactly where and when crime will occur is far more predictable than anyone had previously thought, thus laying the theoretical and empirical basis for what is now called “hot spots policing,” now widely practiced from New York to Sydney.[5]
• In 1995 he discovered that homicides, shootings and other gun crimes could be reduced by intensified but lawful use of police stop and search powers in hot spots of gun crime,[6] a finding that has now been replicated in six out of six independent re-tests by other scholars.[7] This research helped prompt a major change in police practice in the US that was followed by a substantial reduction in the US homicide rate.[8]
• In 1992 he discovered that arrest has contradictory effects on different kinds of domestic violence offenders, causing less violence among employed men but doubling the frequency of violence among men without jobs.[9] This finding has also been replicated by independent scientists, and is now the basis for some women’s advocates to recommend abandoning mandatory arrest policies for non-injurious domestic assault.[10]
• In 1995, with his colleague David Weisburd, he demonstrated that doubling or tripling the frequency of police patrols in crime hot spots could reduce street crime by two-thirds.[11] This discovery has been replicated by other scholars as well.[12]
• In 2000, with his colleague Heather Strang (to whom he was married in 2010), he discovered that restorative justice conferences between violent offenders and their victims could reduce repeat offending by half.[13]
• In 2006, with his colleagues Strang, Barnes and Woods, he showed that restorative justice also caused a 400% increase in criminal offending among Australian Aboriginals, and that restorative justice must seen as a powerful and potentially dangerous intervention.[14]
• In 2008, Sherman discovered with Strang that nine ten out of ten of the restorative justice experiments they designed with victims present substantially reduced the overall two-year frequency of repeat convictions or arrests, across a wide range of offence types, offenders, and points in the criminal justice system.[15] This included seven that were independently assessed by Professor Joanna Shapland of Sheffield University.[16]
In 2009, with Richard A. Berk and others, he discovered that a “data-mining” algorithm can predict which Philadelphia probationers are charged with murder or attempted murder 75 times more often than those the algorithm classifies as low-risk.[17]
In 2011, he first published his proposal for a “crime harm index” to weight any count of crimes by individuals, groups, cities and countries by the number of days in prison prescribed for each offence type by sentencing guidelines, irrespective of whether anyone is charged or convicted of each reported offence.[18]
· In 2013, he developed the “Triple-T” framework for applying his 1998 model of evidence-based policing, showing how police decision-making could integrate systematic evidence on targeting, testing and tracking the use of police resources.[19]
· In 2014, he discovered with Heather Harris that the long-term effect of arresting domestic abusers on their victims was to increase the victims’ death rate from all natural causes, but not homicide, compared to police warning the offender at the scene, with a doubling in mortality among African-American abuse victims from 5% to 10% over 23 years.[20]

Research on the prestige of scholars in criminology and criminal justice has listed Sherman as one of the most highly cited scholars in the field.[21]

Evidence-Based Policing[edit]

In a 1998 Police Foundation lecture, Sherman sketched out the concept of “evidence-based policing,” modeled on the ideas of evidence-based medicine. His core idea was that police practice can be made far more effective if all of its complex but repeated elements were tested by repeated controlled field experiments. In February 2000, Sherman co-founded the Campbell collaboration's Crime and Justice Group, which has pursued the synthesis of research evidence on the effectiveness of policing and other crime prevention practices. Since then, the FBI Academy has offered a course on evidence-based policing, and it has become the subject of wide debate and commentary in police practice and research journals.

In 2008, Sherman made evidence-based policing (EBP) the core of the Police Executive Programme at Cambridge University, a part-time course of study for senior police leaders from around the world to earn a Diploma or Master’s in applied criminology. In that year, the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) funded the first international conference on EBP, which was attended by police executives from Asia, Australia, Europe and the US. Since then the conference has been held each July, with the 5th International Conference attended by over 250 police and scholars from six continents, including Africa and Latin America.

In 2010, a group of UK police officers founded the Society of Evidence-Based Policing, and elected Sherman its first Honorary President, along with Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of the UK's Greater Manchester Police (see; as of 2014 the Society has over 1,000 members, primarily UK police officers but with membership from Australia to Argentina and North America. In 2013, UK Home Secretary Theresa May appointed Sherman an independent non-executive director of the new College of Policing, which develops and promotes evidence of what works in policing.


Sherman has been a prime mover in the development on several permanent new additions to the institutional landscape of criminology. The most visible of these new institutions is the Stockholm Prize in Criminology, which philanthropist Jerry Lee and Sherman proposed to Professor Jerzy Sarnecki of Stockholm University in mid-2000, and which Sarnecki brought to the Swedish Ministry of Justice where it received support from successive Ministers. The annual Prize for criminological research or its application that benefits humanity was funded by the Jerry Lee Foundation for a guaranteed minimum of ten years, with the first prizes awarded in 2006. The Prize has been awarded annually since then, most often presented by a member of the Royal Family, with Sherman and Sarnecki as co-chairs of the International Jury that selects the winners. In 2012, Justice Minister Beatrice Ask concluded an agreement with the Soderberg foundations to provide joint funding with Ministry investment of a permanent endowment for a new Stockholm Prize Foundation, which guarantees annual funding of the Prize in perpetuity .

Sherman has also founded or helped to found the Academy of Experimental Criminology (in 1999), the Division of Experimental Criminology of the American Society of Criminology (in 2009), the Campbell Collaboration and its Crime and Justice Group (in 2000), the first Department of Criminology in the Ivy League—at the University of Pennsylvania (in 2003) and its Ph.D and MA degrees (in 2001), its Master of Science (2004), and its Jerry Lee Center of Criminology (in 2001). He also founded the first centre for experimental criminology in 2008, the Jerry Lee Centre of Experimental Criminology at the University of Cambridge Institute of Criminology.[22]

Former Students[edit]

Sherman's students have included University of Cincinnati Professor John Eck, University of Pennsylvania Professor John MacDonald, George Mason University Professors Cynthia Lum and Christopher Koper, London School of Economics Professor Meredith Rossner, University of Pennsylvania Research Professor Geoffrey Barnes, and former Thames Valley Police and National Policing Improvement agency Chief Constable Peter Neyroud. His currently serving police executive students include Stephen Williams, Acting Commissioner of Police, Trinidad and Tobago Police Service; from the UK, Chief Constables Sara Thornton (Thames Valley Police), Simon Bailey (Norfolk Constabulary), John Parkinson (West Yorkshire Police), and Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale (West Midlands Police); and Police Chief William Farrar, from the Rialto Police Department, California.

Awards and honors[edit]

Sherman has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards for his work in the field of criminology and criminal justice. In 2013 the University of Stockholm awarded him an honorary doctorate in social science, and George Mason University presented him its Award for Distinguished Achievement in Evidence-Based Crime Policy. In 2014 Denison University awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.

In 1998 he became the Founding President of the Academy of Experimental Criminology[23] and in 1999 was elected a fellow of the Academy. In 2006, the Academy presented him with the Joan McCord Award for Outstanding Contributions to Experimental Criminology.

In 1994, Sherman was elected a fellow of the American Society of Criminology. In 1999, he received the Society’s Edwin Sutherland Award for outstanding contributions to the field of Criminology. In 2001 he was elected President of the Society.[24] He served as President of the International Society for Criminology from 2000 to 2005 [25] and President of the American Academy of Political and Social Science from 2001 to 2005; the AAPSS also elected him as a Fellow in 2008.[26]

In 1994, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences presented Sherman with the Bruce Smith Sr. Award, in recognition of outstanding contributions to criminal justice as an academic or professional endeavor.[27] Sherman received the Distinguished Scholarship Award in Crime, Law and Deviance from the American Sociological Association in 1993, the Beccaria Medal in Gold from the Society of Criminology of German-speaking Nations in 2009, the Robert Boruch Award from the International Campbell Collaboration in 2010, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal and Honorary Life Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in 2011.


Selected Writings[edit]

Lawrence W. Sherman. 2013. "The Rise of Evidence-Based Policing: Targeting, Testing and Tracking." CRIME AND JUSTICE vol. 42, M. Tonry editor, University of Chicago Press, pp. 377–431.

Lawrence Sherman and Heather Strang. 2007. Restorative Justice: The Evidence. London: Smith Institute, 95 pp.

Lawrence W. Sherman, David P. Farrington, Brandon Welsh and Doris MacKenzie, eds., Evidence-Based Crime Prevention. London: Routledge, 2002.

Lawrence W. Sherman, et al. 1997. Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn't, What's Promising. Report to the U.S. Congress. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Justice, 655 pp.

Lawrence W. Sherman, Policing Domestic Violence: Experiments and Dilemmas. N.Y.: Free Press, 1992. (Winner of 1993-94 Distinguished Scholarship Award, American Sociological Association, Section on Crime, Law and Deviance).

Lawrence W. Sherman and Douglas A. Smith, "Crime, Punishment and Stake in Conformity: Legal and Informal Control of Domestic Violence." Am. Sociological Review, 57(5): 680-690 (1992).

Lawrence W. Sherman and Richard A. Berk, "The Specific Deterrent Effects of Arrest for Domestic Assault." Am. Sociological Review, 49(2): 261-272 (1984).

Lawrence W. Sherman, Patrick R. Gartin, and Michael E. Buerger, "Hot Spots of Predatory Crime: Routine Activities and the Criminology of Place." Criminology 27: 27-55 (1989).

Lawrence W. Sherman, Scandal and Reform: Controlling Police Corruption. Berkeley: University of California Press (1978) 304 pp.

Lawrence W. Sherman, "Execution Without Trial: Police Homicide and the Constitution." Vanderbilt Law Review 33, 1:71-100 (1980). [Cited by U. S. Supreme Court in Tennessee v. Garner, 1985]

Lawrence W. Sherman, “Gun Carrying and Homicide Prevention” Journal of the American Medical Association 283: 1193–1195. March 1, 2000.


  1. ^ “Professor Lawrence Sherman”, Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University
  2. ^ Angel Cabrera, President, George Mason University, tweet on April 8, 2013 (
  3. ^ New York Times (
  4. ^ Sherman, L. W. (1983). 'Reducing Police Gun Use: Critical Events, Administrative Policy and Organizational Change', in Punch, M. (ed.) Control in the Police Organization, Cambridge, Massachusetts: M.I.T. Press.
  5. ^ Sherman L. W. (l987) 'Repeat Calls To Police In Minneapolis'. Crime Control Reports 4. Washington, D.C.: Crime Control Institute, 18 pp. Reprinted in Kenney, D. (ed.) Police and Policing, New York: Praeger, 1989. Reported in New York Times on February 23, 1987 at; Sherman, L., Gartin, P., & Buerger, M. (1989). 'Hot spots of predatory crime: Routine activities and the criminology of place', Criminology vol. 27, pp.27-56.
  6. ^ Sherman, L. W. and Rogan, D. P. (1995) 'Effects of Gun Seizures on Gun Violence: Hot Spot Patrols in Kansas City' Justice Quarterly, vol. 12, no. 4., pp. 673-694.
  7. ^ Koper C. and Mayo-Wilson E. (2006) 'Police crackdowns on illegal gun carrying: a systematic review of their impact on gun crime' Journal of Experimental Criminology vol. 2, pp.227-261.
  8. ^ Zimring, F. E. (2011) The city that became safe: New York's lessons for urban crime and its control, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  9. ^ Sherman L. (1992) Policing Domestic Violence: Experiments and Dilemmas, NY: Free Press. This finding has also been replicated by independent scientists in Pate, A. M. and Hamilton, E. E. (1992) 'Formal and Informal Deterrents to Domestic Violence: The Dade County Spouse Assault Experiment.' American Sociological Review vol. 57, pp.691-97.
  10. ^ Mills, L. G. (2009) Violent partners: A breakthrough plan for ending the cycle of abuse, NY: Basic Books.
  11. ^ Sherman, L. W., and Weisburd, D. (1995) 'General deterrent effects of police patrol in crime “hot spots”: A randomized, controlled trial.' Justice Quarterly vol. 12 no. 4, pp.625-648.
  12. ^ Braga, A. A., Papachristos, A. V. and Hureau, D. M. (2014) 'The effects of hot spots policing on crime: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis.' Justice Quarterly vol. 31 no. 4, pp.633-663.
  13. ^ Sherman, L. W., Strang, H. and Woods, D. J. (2000) 'Recidivism Patterns in the Canberra Reintegrative Shaming Experiments (RISE)'. Canberra: Centre for Restorative Justice, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University.
  14. ^ Sherman, L., Strang, H., Barnes, G. and Woods, D. (2006) 'Race and Restorative Justice: Aboriginals & Whites in Canberra'. Paper Presented to the American Society of Criminology, Los Angeles, CA. November. See also Strang, H. and Lawrence Sherman, L., (2015) 'The Morality of Evidence: The Second Restorative Justice Lecture', Restorative Justice 2. University of Leuven.
  15. ^ Sherman, L. and Strang, H., 'The Effects of Restorative Justice Conferences on Repeat Offending.' Paper presented to the Stockholm Criminology Symposium, University of Stockholm, June. See also Sherman, L. W., Strang, H., Mayo-Wilson, E., Woods, D. J., & Ariel, B. (2014) 'Are restorative justice conferences effective in reducing repeat offending? Findings from a Campbell systematic review', Journal of Quantitative Criminology, pp.1-24.
  16. ^ Sherman, L. W., Strang, H., Mayo-Wilson, E., Woods, D. J., & Ariel, B. (2014) 'Are restorative justice conferences effective in reducing repeat offending? Findings from a Campbell systematic review', Journal of Quantitative Criminology, pp.1-24.
  17. ^ Berk, R., Sherman, L., Barnes, G., Kurtz, E. and Ahlman, L., (2009) 'Forecasting murder within a population of probationers and parolees: a high stakes application of statistical learning', Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society), vol. 172, pp. 191–211.
  18. ^ Sherman, L. (2011) 'Al Capone, the Sword of Damocles, and the Police–Corrections Budget Ratio', Criminology & Public Policy vol. 10, pp.195-206.
  19. ^ Sherman, L. W., (2013) 'The Rise of Evidence-Based Policing: Targeting, Testing and Tracking', Crime and Justice, vol. 42, pp.377-451; Sherman, L. W. (1998) Evidence-Based Policing. Washington, DC: Police Foundation]
  20. ^ Sherman, L. W. and Harris., H. M. (2014) 'Increased death rates of domestic violence victims from arresting vs. warning suspects in the Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment (MilDVE).' Journal of Experimental Criminology, pp.1-20. (Published online, 14 May 2014).
  21. ^ Cohn, E. G. and Farrington, D. P. (1999) 'Changes in the most-cited scholars in twenty criminology and criminal justice journals between 1990 and 1995', Journal of Criminal Justice, vol. 27 no. 4, pp.345-359.
  22. ^ (University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences,
  23. ^ “AEC Presidents: Lawrence W. Sherman”, The Academy for Experimental Criminology (
  24. ^ The American Society of Criminology, (
  25. ^ “The Society”, The International Society for Criminology (
  26. ^ “Presidents of the Academy”, American Academy of Political and Social Science (
  27. ^ . “Past Award Recipients”, Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (