Peep Show Establishments, Police Activity, Public Place, and Time: A Response to McCleary and Meeker

Article excerpt

First, let us dispel one unseemly insinuation made by McCleary and Meeker (2006) in their response to our article--the notion that because this research was conducted as part of a lawsuit, it is not to be trusted and perhaps not even published, due presumably to some form of conflict of interest. McCleary and Meeker, previously employed by the government of San Diego, are concerned that our research has been funded by plaintiffs bringing a lawsuit against the city. In this suit, the plaintiffs alleged that their right of freedom of speech regarding sexual matters had been abridged in violation of the First Amendment. The research reported in our article was funded by plaintiffs as part of this lawsuit and this is acknowledged.

It is agreed among ethicists involved in research of all types that alleged conflicts of interest must be assessed within a specific factual context and not merely presumed to exist in the absence of facts supporting such a conclusion (National Institutes of Health, 2002). The specific context here--research conducted as part of a legal proceeding--renders the work more, not less, credible. Rather than being suspect, as McCleary and Meeker imply, the research conducted in this legal context should inspire greater confidence in the veracity of the study findings than most other situations.

As McCleary and Meeker know, we have been required by law to share all data and all written materials associated with our study with city officials. The calls-for-service (CFSs) data used in this study were generated by the city and made available to McCleary and Meeker. Had we been deposed about the study or had the case gone to court (the case was settled) and the findings presented there, we would have been required to present sworn testimony under oath. These features of research within a legal context are arguably more demanding than those associated with most peer-reviewed journals.

This said, we do not believe that our findings are methodological artifacts as McCleary and Meeker (2006) claimed. We believe there is ample precedent in the literature for the quasi-experimental design we have employed. Our study is one in a series of studies undertaken by local governments and academics that fail to find adverse secondary effects in the community for commercial enterprises involving sexual speech.

McCleary and Meeker's (2006) reply to our article is an attempt to recast our research in light of questionable statistical procedures and misleading analyses. Specifically, we will address the following problems with their reply: (a) their focus on an unreliable mean difference in CFSs between peep show and control areas illustrates a fundamental error in reasoning with statistics; (b) their application of retrospective power analysis is misleading; (c) they have inappropriately set up a system, wittingly or unwittingly, whereby the government can never lose when attempting to legislate against free speech; (d) their position is logically inconsistent with regard to the use of CFSs as a measure of crime and adverse secondary effects, and they mischaracterize the state of the field regarding the use of CFSs as a valid measure of secondary effects; and (e) their assertion that CFSs have dire consequences for significance tests is based on a set of unjustifiable assumptions.

The Null Hypothesis and Type H Errors

We showed that the mean difference between CFSs immediately surrounding peep shows and adjacent areas is not statistically significant. Thus, we concluded there is no "reliable evidence of differences in crime levels between the control and test areas" (Linz, Paul, & Yao, 2006). McCleary and Meeker asserted that this argument reflects a misunderstanding of significance tests. We could hardly disagree more. A "significant" difference is one for which the chance explanation has been rejected. Using conventional, agreed-upon statistical techniques, we were unable to reject the chance explanation. …