DirectedPatrol

RESOURCES

Gun Violence Programs: Directed Police Patrols (National Institute of Justice)

What is Directed Patrol to Reduce Gun Violence?

Multiple quasi-experimental studies suggest that intensive patrol in high gun crime areas can lead to reductions in gun carrying and gun-related violence. These strategies are in some sense a hot spots approach, but the areas targeted in the interventions are typically much larger than hot spots (e.g., police beats or neighborhoods). As Koper and Mayor-Wilson (2012: 14) describe, the more rigorous studies in this area have focused on “directed patrols, which involve assigning additional officers to high-crime areas at high-risk times and allowing them to focus on proactive investigation and enforcement (e.g., intensified traffic enforcement and field interrogations of suspicious persons) rather than answer calls for service.”

Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence (National Research Council)
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Police Strategies for Reducing Illegal Possession and Carrying of Firearms (Christopher Koper and Evan Mayo-Wilson, Campbell Collaboration systematic review)

  • One pager summarizing the Koper  and Mayo-Wilson review
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 Congressional Briefing on Reducing Gun Violence: Lessons from Research and Practice

 

 

What is the Evidence on Directed Patrol?

Directed patrol to reduce gun violence is listed under “What works?” on our Review of the Research Evidence. 

 

A systematic review by Koper and Mayo-Wilson (2012) concluded that directed patrol strategies are effective, but cautioned that the results are based on only seven comparisons from four quasi-experimental studies.

 

While six of these seven comparisons showed positive results, there was also wide variation in the overall effects. For example, the declines in gun-related crime ranged from 29 percent to 71 percent across studies and different outcome measures.

 

Similar to focused deterrence strategies, the evidence base for directed patrol as a strategy to reduce gun violence is promising, although not as methodologically rigorous as hot spots policing and problem-oriented policing.

 

While we focus here on directed patrol strategies, we also note the success of multi-component, multi-agency interventions to reduce gun violence that use some combination of enforcement/patrol with federal prosecution enhancements.  Relevant Matrix studies include Koper et al. (2010, 2016) and Bynum et al. (2014)

 

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Reducing Gun Violence: Evaluation of the Indianapolis Police Department’s Directed Patrol Project (Edmund F. McGarrell, Steven Chermak, and Alexander Weiss, National Institute of Justice)
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The Kansas City Gun Experiment (Lawrence W. Sherman, James W. Shaw, and Dennis P. Rogan, National Institute of Justice Research in Brief)
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Gun Violence Among Serious Young Offenders (Anthony A. Braga, Center for Problem-Oriented Policing
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Reducing Gun  Violence
(CrimeSolutions.gov Practice Profile)

What Should Police Be Doing in Directed Patrol?

 

The small number of rigorous studies limits our ability to make strong recommendations on the particular techniques police should use in directed patrol interventions beyond the general recommendation that more intensive police presence in high gun crime beats seems to be effective.

 

The Indianapolis directed patrol study provided some suggestive evidence, because it included two intervention beats, which used somewhat different approaches and had differing results (McGarrell, Chermak, Weiss, & Wilson, 2001). Significant crime control benefits were found only in the beat using more arrests and no significant crime reduction occurred in the beat focusing more on increasing the number of vehicle stops. McGarrell et al. (2001) argue it is unlikely that variation in the rate of gun seizures can explain the difference, because the more successful beat actually had fewer gun seizures.

 

Instead, they argue that the targeted offender approach in the arrest-oriented beat was more effective because it sent a deterrent message that police were increasing surveillance in the area. Additionally, arresting these individuals may have been an important way to remove individuals responsible for a lot of gun crime from the streets. In contrast, the less successful target site used a more general “wider net approach” that may have diluted enforcement resources, reducing effectiveness and efficiency (McGarrell et al., 2001: 143).

 

When deterrence efforts are focused on the highest risk offenders and the deterrent threat is credible, significant crime control benefits are more likely.

 

Evidence-Based Policing Matrix
Download a full list of studies included in the Evidence-Based Policing Matrix

 

Directed Patrol for Gun Violence Studies from the Evidence-Based Policing Matrix:

 

Author
Intervention
Cohen & Ludwig (2003) Targeted patrol against gun crime reduced shots fired by up to 34% and gun-related assault injuries by up to 71% on days the program was in action
full-circle
M
N
G
P
Sherman et al. (1995) Directed patrol to increase gun detection leads to significant increase in gun seizures and decline in gun-related crime.
full-circle
M
N
F
P
Villaveces et al. (2000) Homicide rates significantly lower on days gun ban/police intervention in effect compared to non-intervention days in 2 Colombian cities
full-circle
R
J
F
P
McGarrell et al. (2001) Directed patrol to focus on suspicious activities and locations, reduced violent gun crime. In contrast, a general deterrence strategy, focused on maximizing vehicle stops, did not have an effect.
grey-circle
M
N
G
P
 Uchida & Swatt (2013)  Targeting violent repeat offenders in specific target areas found successful intervention when mixed hot spots patrol with focused offender tactics.
grey-circle
M N F P

 

Result: full-circle = successful intervention; grey-circle  = mixed results; empty = nonsignificant finding; backfire = harmful intervention

Rigor: M = moderately rigorous; R = rigorous; VR = very rigorous

X-axis: I = individual; G = group; MP = micro place; N = neighborhood/community; J = jurisdiction

Y-axis: F = focused; G= general

Z-axis: R = reactive, P = proactive, HP = highly proactive

Seattle Police car image courtesy of Flickr user Seattleye and used under a Creative Commons license.