Micro Places – Basford et al. (2021)

Study Reference:

Basford, L., Sims, C., Agar, I., Harinam, V., & Strang, H. (2021). Effects of one-a-day foot patrols on hot spots of serious violence and crime harm: A randomised crossover trial. Cambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing, 5, 119-133.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Micro places; General; Proactive; Very Rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study examined the impact of a daily foot patrol in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, over a 90-day period from July to October 2020. The objective was to evaluate whether a once-a-day, highly visible foot patrol could reduce street-based violence in designated crime hot spots. The strategy involved two officers driving to these hot spots, parking their vehicle in a highly visible location, and conducting foot patrols lasting 15-20 minutes on an overtime basis.

How was the intervention evaluated?

Researchers identified 20 hot spots of 150m2 each based on high levels of community violence. Community violence was defined as serious assaults, robbery, and drug dealing, and was weighted by the Crime Harm Index, ensuring that more serious offenses were given greater weight in the assessment of crimes. Over the 90-day period, these hot spots were randomly assigned daily to either a control group (no patrol) or a treatment group (patrol), with officers designated to visit eight treatment hot spots per day. The effectiveness of the patrols was measured using community violence and all street visible crime counts, as well as crime harm, which reflects the severity of offenses. In total, there were 720 days in which hot spots received extra patrols and 1080 days in which they did not.

What were the key findings?

There was a substantial reduction in crime harm and the frequency of community violence and visible street crimes on days when foot patrols were conducted. Specifically, crime harm from serious community violence decreased by 88.5% on patrolled days compared to non-patrolled days. Furthermore, the average frequency of community violence fell by 73% on days with patrols. For all visible street crimes, the crime harm scores were 35.6% lower, and the average count of all visible offenses decreased by 31% on patrol days.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The study underscores the effectiveness of targeted foot patrols in reducing crime in high-risk areas. It highlights the value of visible policing as a deterrent to crime and proposes a model for strategically deploying police resources to combat violence and crime effectively in specific areas. Additionally, it suggests that even small targeted increases in patrol presence (e.g., 15-20 minutes per day) – which may be more cost-effective and feasible for police departments – can have significant impacts on crime.

Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?