Koper, C. S., Lum, C., & Hibdon, J. (2015). The uses and impacts of mobile computing technology in hot spots policing. Evaluation Review, 39(6), 587-624.
Location in the Matrix and Methodological Rigor:
Micro places, General, Proactive, Very Rigorous; Mixed Findings
What police practice or strategy was examined?
The study examined hot spot patrols that were conducted at micro hot spots (individual street segments or smaller clusters of blocks) in a suburban jurisdiction. Project officers were asked to conduct three 15-30 minute stops per day at their assigned hot spots, but they were given discretion to conduct fewer but longer visits to the locations if they were engaged in an activity that warranted a longer stay (e.g., problem-solving) or if that seemed most appropriate based on conditions (i.e., activity levels) at the locations. Due to resource limitations and other needs, the patrol dosages delivered to the experimental locations were modest. Officers made about 19 visits per location on average over the course of the 11-week experiment, or close to 2 visits per week to each location. The project also had an emphasis on the use of mobile information technology (IT) to enhance hot spots policing. Officers were thus encouraged to consider proactive and strategic ways that they might use available IT for more in-depth investigation and problem-solving (see the article for further description of the agency’s mobile IT capabilities and uses).
How was the intervention evaluated?
Eighteen hot spots were randomly assigned to receive the patrol intervention (9 locations) or to serve as control sites (9 locations) that received only normal levels of patrol. The analysis compared weekly crime incident reports across the experimental and control sites. The researchers also used non-randomized subgroup and multivariate analyses (controlling for patrol dosage, officers’ non-technology activities, location type, historical crime patterns, and seasonal effects) to examine whether the effects of the patrols varied based on how heavily officers used their mobile IT capabilities.
What were the key findings?
Overall, the patrols did not have a statistically significant effect on crime. However, locations that received a relatively high dosage of patrol (47-90 minutes per week on average) experienced a statistically significant 24% reduction in crime reports, whereas the low-dosage locations (8-45 minutes per week on average) showed no significant change. Officers used technology in hot spots primarily for surveillance and enforcement (e.g., checking automobile license plates and running checks on people during traffic stops and field interviews). Officers did not often use technology for strategic problem-solving and crime prevention. The crime reduction effect of extra patrol was smaller in hot spots where officers made greater use of technology, suggesting that basic applications of mobile computing may not have a direct and measurable impact on officers’ ability to reduce crime.
What were the implications for law enforcement?
The authors suggest that given sufficient but modest dosages (roughly three quarters of an hour to an hour-and-a-half per week on average over several weeks), extra patrol presence can reduce crime at hot spots in suburban jurisdictions. Basic application of mobile computing may not measurably enhance officers’ abilities to reduce crime at hot spots. However, greater training and emphasis on strategic uses of IT for problem-solving and crime prevention might enhance its application for crime reduction.
Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?