Micro Places – Kochel et al. (2015) Directed patrol

Study Reference:

Kochel, T. R., Burruss, G. W., & Weisburd, D. (2015). St. Louis County hot spots in residential areas (SCHIRA) final report: Assessing the effects of hot spots policing strategies on police legitimacy, crime, and collective efficacy. Southern Illinois University.

Location in the Matrix and Methodological Rigor:

Micro places; General; Proactive; Rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

A directed patrol approach was tested. Officers were directed to 20 selected residential hot spots with the goal to double the time spent at the locations. Directions were also given to target specific “hot times” by conducting 11-15-minute patrols each targeted hour. Officers were not asked to perform specific activities, but rather to be visible. In practice, officers conducted more stationary or roving patrols and less frequently conducted report writing, vehicle enforcement, foot patrol, or community engagement. Automated vehicle location (AVL) data indicated that officers spent between 3 and 4.5 hours in the treatment sites during most weeks of the intervention. This represented an increase over usual levels of patrol (which were generally between 1 and 2.5 hours per week), though they did not achieve the pre-specified goal of doubling time (4.5 hours per week) spent at the intervention hot spots. The treatment lasted for five months.

How was the intervention evaluated?

A block randomized experimental design was used to assign selected residential hot spots to the directed patrol condition or the control condition, which received normal levels of standard patrol. Using calls for service data between January 2011 and November 2012, the study used interrupted time series analyses to assess changes in crime during the intervention (June to October, 2012). Citizen perceptions of the treatment and the police were also assessed using surveys administered immediately and one year after the treatment.

What were the key findings?

Calls for service in the directed patrol sites dropped by an average of five calls per week (a 5% reduction), whereas no significant change in calls for service was noted in the control sites. (The study simultaneously tested a problem-solving approach in other sites, which generated a similar reduction in crime. See the separate St. Louis County study brief on problem-oriented policing.) Survey findings also showed that although citizens in the directed patrol locations expressed initial mistrust and concerns about procedural justice, their views about trust in police, procedural justice, and police legitimacy did not suffer in the long run. In fact, residents viewed the police as less aggressive over time, felt less at risk in the time immediately following the treatment, were more willing to cooperate with police, and felt more integrated and secure in their neighborhoods in the long term.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors suggest that directed patrol strategies conducted at crime hot spots can be effective at reducing crime, at least in the short term, without generating lasting harmful effects on public views about police. Efforts should be taken prior to implementation to allay citizen concerns about change in officer presence and activities, which may help reduce mistrust or initial challenges to police legitimacy.

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