Micro Places – Hope (1994)

Study Reference:

Hope, T. (1994). Problem-oriented policing and drug-market locations: Three case studies. In R.V. Clarke (ed.), Crime Prevention Studies, Volume 2 (pp. 5-32). Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Micro places; Focused; Highly Proactive; Moderately Rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study involves three different case studies of problem-oriented policing approaches by the St. Louis, MO Police Department. All case studies were concerned with reducing crime and disorder at locations where drugs were being sold.

Case study 1: Police increased level of enforcement in a problem area to carry out intensive observations and inquiries, convened a meeting of property owners to discuss problems and elicit cooperation, and liaised with the neighborhood ConServ (concentrated services) Officer working out of City Hall to pursue proactive code enforcement activity.

Case study 2: Problem-solving officers attended community meetings, took photographs of buildings and submitted them to be inspected for code violations, and contacted absentee property owners.

Case study 3: Officers attended a block unit meeting with residents, arranged with appropriate agencies to clear trash and have vacant buildings boarded up, enforced a zero tolerance policy to halt the flow of foot traffic in the area, conducted warrant checks, and raided a problem address and contacted the finance company which eventually took possession and boarded the property.

How was the intervention evaluated?

This study assessed the impact of problem-solving examples on levels of crime and disorder at problem locations. The data consisted of calls for police service to the problem site. Call data were aggregated into three-month periods covering the twelve-month period prior to any special police activity at the problem location, the nine-month period spanning the actions taken at each of the problem locations, and the six-month follow-up period after the cessation of intensive problem-solving activities.

What were the key findings?

Case study 1: The trend in calls to both the problem address and the other addresses on the block showed an increase in calls to the address and block coinciding with the period of problem-solving activity but then subsequently a dramatic decline in calls at the problem address.

Case study 2: Again, there was a marked increase in calls to the problem location during the period of problem-solving activity, followed by a marked decline.

Case study 3: The six-month follow-up period showed a decline in calls, a reduction of 42% over the comparable period in the previous year.

In general, it would appear that each of the problem-oriented efforts achieved a reduction in calls that might not have been expected otherwise.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

Problem-oriented policing officers played an indirect but important role as catalysts for change. Important actions were also taken by agencies other than the police (e.g., building code enforcement or mortgage foreclosure), although certain police strategies clearly helped (e.g., zero tolerance or high-visibility enforcement).

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