Micro Places – Kochel et al. (2015) Problem solving

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; Focused; Highly Proactive; Rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

A problem-oriented policing approach to hot spots policing was tested. Twenty-two officers who were trained in the SARA (scanning, analysis, response, and assessment) model were assigned to 20 crime hot spots for problem solving. Officers were required to partner with at least one stakeholder on at least one problem and make appropriate responses. Problems chosen included mostly property crime but also domestic violence, assault, drug and gang problems, and quality of life concerns. Specific interventions conducted by officers varied in type and in the extent of officer involvement but included CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design) strategies, ordinance enforcement, intensive follow-up with troubled juveniles, cross-agency collaboration, and others. Monthly meetings were held between officers and the researchers to discuss progress and adjust course. 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 problem solving condition and the control condition which received standard policing practices (i.e., normal levels of standard patrol). Using calls for service data between January 2011 and November 2012, the study conducted 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 problem solving sites declined by an average of 7 calls per week (5% reduction), whereas no significant change in calls for service was noted in the control sites. (The study simultaneously tested a directed patrol approach in other sites, which generated a similar reduction in crime. See the separate St. Louis County study brief on directed patrol.) Residents in the problem-solving locations reported initial declines in perceptions of safety and police legitimacy following the intervention, but the effects did not last, and citizens reported an increased willingness to cooperate with the police in the long run.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors suggest that problem-solving strategies conducted at crime hot spots can be effective in 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?