Mazerolle, L. G., Price, J. F., & Roehl, J. (2000). Civil remedies and drug control: a randomized field trial in Oakland, CA. Evaluation Review, 24, 212-241.
Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:
Micro places, Focused, Highly Proactive; Very Rigorous; Effective
What police practice or strategy was examined?
The Oakland Police Department created the Beat Health Unit, a “civil remedy” to reduce drug and disorder problems across the five beats in the city. Civil remedies seek to reduce signs of physical and social incivilities in the hope that cleaned-up places will break the cycle of neighborhood decline and decrease victimization, fear of crime, and alienation. The Beat Health officers worked in conjunction with municipal partners to open cases against specific places which had generated high levels of emergency calls, narcotics arrests, or special requests from community members. Police would communicate landlords’ rights and tenants’ responsibilities, provide ideas for simple crime prevention measures, and gain the citizens’ confidence that the police are supporting them in their efforts to clean up the problem location.
How was the intervention evaluated?
The study used a randomized experiment examining the impact of the intervention on calls for service in spatially distinct street blocks. 100 study sites were randomly assigned to be experimental (receiving a Beat Health team of a police officer and a police service technician) or control (receiving “business as usual” patrol). All eligible problem sites referred to the Beat Health Unit over a 2-month period were included in the study. Calls for service were examined during the 12 months prior to the start of the experiment and during the 12-month period following the 5.5-month intervention period.
What were the key findings?
The average number of drug call incidents per treatment sites decreased 7% while the control group experienced an average increase in drug calls for service of 54.7%. Within the treatment blocks, residential sites experienced greater decreases in drug call incidents than commercial sites (13.2% versus 45.2%, respectively). The control commercial properties fared even worse, with a 1,000% increase in the number of drug calls for service incidents from before the intervention period to after the intervention period (from 2.57 mean calls to 36.14 mean calls).
What were the implications for law enforcement?
The authors suggest that civil remedies could become an important intervention within the police problem-solver’s toolbox, particularly if attention is paid to maintaining the crime control gains and implementing tactics to handle possible spatial displacement of crime problems.
Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?