Micro Places – Koper et al. (2021)

Study Reference:

Koper, C. S., Lum, C., Wu, X., & Hegarty, T. (2021). The long-term and system-level impacts of institutionalizing hot spot policing in a small city. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 15(2), 1110-1128.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Micro places; General; Proactive; Moderately Rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study evaluated a hot spot policing intervention implemented by the Riley County Police Department, an agency of about 110 sworn officers, in the small city of Manhattan, Kansas (population of approximately 55,000) starting in 2013. Operation Laser Point followed many of the key pillars of hot spot policing, such as identifying hot spots through crime analysis, conducting regular patrols of the hot spots, engaging in community and problem-solving activities, and regularly tracking/evaluating police activities. Every week crime analysts would identify up to 10 hot spot street segments for officers to target. High priority hot spot locations were visited twice per shift, while remaining hot spots were visited once per shift. Officers were instructed to spend between 15-20 minutes visiting each location, to keep their vehicles visible, and were encouraged to conduct foot patrol and engage in public contacts while at the hot spot locations. A tracking system was developed in the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system to track hot spot visits and to remind officers when hot spots were due for a visit. The hot spot patrols were most extensive in the early years of the program (2013-2015), after which the program was sustained at lower levels through at least mid-2019 (the end of the study period).

How was the intervention evaluated?

A quasi-experimental interrupted time series design was used to evaluate the impact of Operation Laser Point on crime and disorder. Since hot spot locations were identified weekly, and varied across the study period, primary hot spots were selected for the analysis (they accounted for 90% of hot spot visits). Separate analyses were conducted to understand changes across varying locations: within the primary hot spot locations of Manhattan, in areas of Manhattan outside of the primary hot spots (to test for possible displacement), for the city of Manhattan overall (to test for the program’s overall effect on the city), and for areas of Riley County outside the city of Manhattan (to serve as a comparison group). The researchers used citizen calls for service data from January 2011 through August 2019 to assess changes in crime types, with analyses focusing on overall crime and disorder, violence, property crime, and disorder.

What were the key findings?

There were significant reductions in every crime category studied in the hot spot locations, in areas of the city outside the hot spots (suggesting a diffusion of crime control benefits), and across the city of Manhattan overall. The strongest decline was in hot spot locations, with declines ranging from 29 to 42 calls per month depending on the crime category (property crimes, violence, and disorder). Across the entire city of Manhattan, overall crime and disorder calls declined by 14%. Locations in Riley County outside of Manhattan did not experience significant changes to call types, except for a minor reduction in violent calls. This suggests that the changes in Manhattan were due to the hot spot policing program rather than a general trend affecting the entire county.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors conclude there was a significant reduction in crime across the small city of Manhattan for the 6-7 years following the implementation of hot spot patrols. This reduction occurred without causing significant crime displacement, and without a substantial decay over time. This study provides evidence to suggest hot spot policing can cause long-term reductions in crime for smaller cities when implemented with a priority on targeting, tracking, dosage, management, and commitment from leadership.

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