Micro Places – Chainey (2022)

Study Reference:

Chainey, S. (2022). A quasi-experimental evaluation of the impact of forensic property marking in decreasing burglaries. Security Journal, 35(3), 966-985.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Micro places; Focused; Proactive; Moderately Rigorous; Mixed effects

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study examined the impact of the distribution of forensic property marking on residential burglary in West Bromwich, England. Property marking involves the application of a forensic traceable liquid to the item of property. In April 2018, police officers visited a treatment neighborhood chosen for a high burglary rate to inform the residents of the intervention. Between May and June 2018, police officers distributed 345 forensic property marking kits to residential properties the community, representing 31% of all dwellings in the area. The residents were informed about the purpose of the kits and how to mark their belongings and were given a sticker advertising property marking to put on their door. Additionally, street signs advertising property marking were mounted on lamp posts in the treatment area during May and June 2018.

How was the intervention evaluated?

Three control areas were identified that were similar in terms of the number of burglaries that occurred one year before the intervention, the number of households, and deprivation. The author compared changes in the treatment area’s burglary rate relative to changes in the control areas’ burglary rates one year prior to the intervention and the six months following the intervention. To measure whether the intervention led to spillover effects, the author compared changes in other crime types, such as vehicle crime, criminal damage, and violent crime, between the treatment and control areas six months before and after the intervention period. Additionally, to analyze whether crime shifted to other areas, changes in crime in the surrounding catchment areas were analyzed. The study also examined the long-term effects of the intervention by comparing a second six-month post-intervention period to its equivalent pre-treatment period.

What were the key findings?

The distribution of property marking kits, along with advertising of the intervention featuring street signs and door and window stickers, resulted in an 82% reduction in burglaries within the treated area during the initial six-month period, compared to the control areas. The intervention also significantly reduced vehicle crime and criminal damage in treatment area and in the areas surrounding the treatment area. However, the study did not observe a sustained decrease in burglaries as the burglary rates returned to pre-intervention levels twelve months after the start of the initiative.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The use of forensic property marking resulted in a significant reduction in burglary rates in a high-risk area over a short period of time, but the effect was not sustained. To maintain the benefits of property marking in deterring burglary, the author recommended that the police conduct follow-up visits to each household to check that property was marked as intended. The author also suggests police monitor second-hand traders for potential stolen items.

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