Micro Places – Bennett et al. (2017)

Study Reference:

Bennett, S., Newman, M., & Sydes, M. (2017). Mobile police community office: a vehicle for reducing crime, crime harm and enhancing police legitimacy? Journal of Experimental Criminology13(3), 417-428.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Micro places; General; Proactive; Very rigorous; No evidence of an effect

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study evaluated an intervention involving components of both hot spots policing and procedural justice policing in Queensland, Australia, from late 2014 to early 2015. The intervention involved the deployment of a Mobile Police Community Office (MPCO) to 12 hot spots of crime for a period of two to three days at each hot spot. The MPCO was a mobile police van with an interior office that allowed the police to conduct regular duties. All MPCO officers received procedural justice training and were instructed to engage with community members during MPCO deployment. The MPCO was deployed during times when offending had shown to be highest in each respective hot spot, and the placement of the MPCO was selected to maximize visibility and accessibility for the public.

How was the intervention evaluated?

A randomized experiment was conducted to evaluate the intervention. Twenty-four hot spots matched into pairs on characteristics such as reported crime in the previous 12 months and physical characteristics of the locations (population density, number of businesses, public transport, etc.) were randomly assigned to receive either the treatment in addition to standard policing, or standard policing alone. The researchers examined official crime data for two months pre and post-MPCO deployment for each pair of hot spots. The researchers also developed a crime impact score for each hot spot based on the maximum penalty for the offenses that occurred and distributed surveys to community members (residents, business owners) nearby the van location asking about their perceptions of the police (fairness, respect, satisfaction, etc.).

What were the key findings?

There were no significant overall differences between the treatment and control hot spots on measures of reported crime or crime impact score. These differences were nonsignificant for the full 2-month pre and post-intervention period and specifically for the days the MPCO was deployed. There were also no significant differences in perceptions of police effectiveness, procedural justice, fear of crime, or trust in the police between community members in treatment and control hot spots.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors suggest that there may have been too few hot spots to find an effect and that deploying only one vehicle may have limited the intervention. Additionally, some of the hot spots were busy commercial locations, where potential offenders may not have noticed the van. However, the authors also suggest that MPCO may have helped to maintain high levels of police legitimacy despite the increase in officer presence during the intervention.

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