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.