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What police strategy is the most effective in the hot spots?

Posted April 20, 2015

Team of American criminologists collaborated with the Philadelphia Police Department in order to find out what policing strategies are the most effective in so called hot-spots. Natural-field experiments revealed that the most fruitful strategy is based on targeting of particular offenders.

Picture: Crime Scene by Alan Cleaver via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Picture: Crime Scene by Alan Cleaver via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Elizabeth R. Groff and her colleagues report that “the offender-focused tactic implemented in violent crime hot spots achieved a 42 percent reduction in violent crime and a 50 percent reduction in violent felonies compared with their control areas.”

It is well known that crime rates are drastically reduced when police target particular problematic neighborhoods, so called hot spots. But what strategies are the most effective in these places?

Authors of the study published in the recent issue of Criminology have carried out controlled and randomized field experiments comparing three different policing strategies: classical foot patrol, problem-oriented policing and offender-focused policing.

“A problem is defined as ‘a recurring set of related harmful events in a community that members of the public expect the police to address’. Problem Orientated Policing emphasizes the use of non–law-enforcement solutions as well as traditional responses to crime problems based on the results of an in-depth analysis of the problem,” the researcher say. Meanwhile, offender-focused policing targets particular individuals having a history in violent offenses and possibly leading a violent way of life.

Scientists working at Temple University carried out “a randomized, controlled field experiment of three approaches to hot spots policing at 60 violent crime hot spots and 21 control hot spots. All three treatments were applied by the same police department, in the same city, over approximately the same time period, providing greater consistency than systematic reviews of studies implemented across different cities and types of crime problems.”

This study showed that the only strategy which yielded statistically significant results was offender-focused policing. All violence decreased by 42% in the neighborhoods in which this strategy was implemented. Moreover, number of violent felonies dropped by astonishing 50%. In addition, this type of policing is likely to be positively perceived by community, because in contrast to foot patrol or problem-oriented policing it does not touch most of the people.

Article: Groff, E. R., Ratcliffe, J. H., Haberman, C. P., Sorg, E. T., Joyce, N. M. and Taylor, R. B. (2015), Does what police do at hot spots matter? The Philadelphia policing tactic experiment. Criminology, 53: 23–53. doi: 10.1111/1745-9125.12055. Source link.

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