Micro Places – Caplan et al. (2021)

Study Reference:

Caplan, J. M., Kennedy, L. W., Drawve, G., & Baughman, J. H. (2021). Data-informed and place-based violent crime prevention: The Kansas City, Missouri risk-based policing initiative. Police Quarterly, 24(4), 438-464.

Location in the Matrix and Methodological Rigor:

Micro places; General; Proactive; Rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study evaluated the effects of risk-based policing in targeted areas of Kansas City, Missouri, on violent crime rates. Target areas were determined by command staff using maps that highlighted high-risk places and related risk factors. A total of 13 target areas were selected for the risk-based policing intervention based on how well command staff thought they could address these high-risk areas given their resource availability. These target areas were spread out amongst four divisions within the city: central division, east division, metro division, and south division. Officers were trained (half-day training workshops) on the principles and practices of risk-based policing (RBP). Following these workshops, officers were tasked with performing directed police patrols and business checks in targeted areas. Officers were provided with a one-page report about their target area, including environmental items to address and information on busy days/times for that specific location. Directed patrols involved officers tending to specific environmental features when arriving at their designated patrol location. Business checks involved officers contacting business owners and/or checking to ensure a property was secured when a business was closed. Other tasks included the coordination and deployment of non-police related resources as well as general positive police-community engagements. A new data collection system was created within their CAD system to allow for tracking of RBP activities. RBP was incorporated into the Kansas City Police Department’s weekly commander meeting to ensure accountability for the risk-based policing initiative.

How was the intervention evaluated?

Comparison areas were derived based on similarities in zoning and geographic size of target locations. Target and comparison areas were compared using one year of pre- and one year of post-intervention violent crime counts. Law enforcement actions against people (i.e., arrests and citations) were also evaluated to understand if the risk-based policing intervention would increase self-initiated police activities. Analysis was also conducted on target buffer areas to determine if the intervention had diffusion or displacement effects.

What were the key findings?

The reduction in violent crimes experienced in target areas was significantly more than the reduction in violent crimes in the comparison areas. There was also evidence of diffusion of benefits in the target buffer area, which had lower levels of violent crime than comparison groups. The study also found varied effects across divisions, indicating some divisions performed better than others, which may have impacted the overall effect of the intervention. Across the treatment areas, officers’ self-initiated activities were less likely to result in an arrest or citation than in comparison areas.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors suggest that the effectiveness of crime prevention using community-based tactics, such as focusing on environmental factors, is pragmatic. Self-initiated programs, such as risk-based policing, can be implemented into daily operations in police agencies to address crime concerns. This study also shows that it is possible to focus on target areas without translating into over-policing. During the KCPD intervention, violent crime rates had decreased without an increase in self-initiated law enforcement actions (i.e., arrests and citations). The authors also emphasize the cost-effectiveness and longevity benefits programs such as the Kansas City risk-based policing intervention can provide police departments.

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