Micro Places – Bond et al. (2014)

Study Reference:

Bond, B.J., Hajjar, L., Ryan, A., & White, M.D. (2014,). Lowell, Massachusetts, Smart Policing Initiative: Reducing property crime in targeted hot spots. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Micro places; Focused; Highly proactive; Rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

The Smart Policing Initiative (SPI) in the city of Lowell, MA, aimed at reducing property crimes using a problem-oriented policing (POP) framework with the SARA model (scanning, analysis, response, and assessment). A team of department staff and researchers identified 12 property crime hot spots across three department sectors (East, West, and North), most of which were near known drug markets. Response plans were formed for each of the three department sectors based on specific needs in those areas. Using the SARA model, these plans included efforts to reduce prostitution, property crimes such as burglaries, community/street corner meetings, increased police visibility via bike and foot patrol, increased traffic enforcement, drug enforcement, and directed patrols.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The intervention was evaluated using a quasi-experimental design; comparison hot spots were matched to targeted hot spots using a matched-pair design based on their property and drug crime rates. Changes in crime before and during the intervention were compared between the targeted and comparison hot spots.

What were the key findings?

Each sector that included hot spots experienced significant declines in property crime ranging from 16 to 19 percent relative to comparison spots. Two East sector spots experienced a 60 percent drop in motor vehicle theft and decreases of 43 and 50 percent in larceny relative to control locations. Another East sector hot spot had a 35 percent decline in burglary. One West sector spot experienced a decrease of 47 percent in larceny, 42 percent in shoplifting, and 59 percent in motor vehicle theft relative to control spots. Hot spots in the North sector experienced a 19 percent decline in property crimes, with a 38 percent decline in burglaries and a 41 percent decline in shoplifting in one of the hot spots.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

Implementation of the SARA model was very effective in reducing property crime, but the authors noted that implementation was challenging when police resorted to traditional police tactics without consulting research or community partners. This inadequate attention to the SARA model has been common in prior POP evaluations. However, when implemented as intended, the SARA model is effective in reducing property crimes related to drug use. The Lowell Smart Policing Initiative also used problem identification methods to identify the most prevalent problems in each sector, so that the team could tailor a problem-solving intervention specific to that location and the problems in it, resulting in more effective problem-solving.

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