Micro Places – Carson & Wellman (2018)

Study Reference:

Carson, J. V., & Wellman, A. P. (2018). Problem-oriented policing in suburban low-income housing: a quasi-experiment. Police Quarterly21(2), 139-170.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Micro places; Focused; Highly proactive; Moderately rigorous; Mixed findings

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study evaluated the effectiveness of a Crime Response Team (CRT) made up of 4 veteran officers and one sergeant, who undertook a multifaceted problem-oriented policing (POP) approach to combat crime in a multifamily, low-income apartment complex identified as a hot spot for violence, drug crime, and mental health calls for service in a suburban jurisdiction. The intervention involved officers collaborating with community members to remove trash and tidy up overgrown shrubbery; officers conducting door-to-door visits to encourage collaboration and participation in programs; establishing a tenant’s association and a landlord group to encourage community interest and investment; and increasing patrols, drug and gun seizures in the area. The CRT also partnered with a local mental health treatment organization and underwent CIT training to handle their responses to mental health calls better.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The authors used quasi-experimental time-series designs (specifically interrupted time-series analysis) to compare frequencies of total crime, as well as violent crime, drug-related crime, and property crimes, using calls-for-service data and reported crime data for the treatment site compared to similar control sites that also had public housing complexes (although the control sites were dissimilar on some key demographic and socioeconomic measures). Data from 2008-2013 were used (the intervention began in March 2012).

What were the key findings?

Overall, the intervention showed little consistent evidence of an effect. Some results suggested a decline in total calls for service in the treatment location and a temporary reduction in violent crime calls. However, these results were not consistent across models. Further, results showed a temporary increase in drug-related calls for service in the treatment area. In terms of reported crimes, the intervention temporarily decreased reported drug crimes in the treatment site but did not significantly impact any of the other outcome measures. There was a decrease in total reported crime in the area adjacent to the treatment site, suggesting the possibility of a diffusion of benefits in surrounding areas. Many aspects of the intervention were not sustained over time.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors suggest that possible shortcomings in training and implementation of POP strategies may have contributed to limiting the intervention's effectiveness. Officers noted the POP training included limited instruction on implementing and assessing POP strategies. In addition, interviews with both officers and residents indicated a hesitancy by residents to collaborate with officers or to sustain long-term participation in activities. Such collaboration and community participation may be necessary for POP to be successful. The authors also highlight the importance of collaboration between police and researchers before an intervention is implemented (which was not the case here; the researchers retroactively examined this intervention in this study).

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