Micro Places – Lawton et al. (2005)

Study Reference:

Lawton, B. A., Taylor, R. B., & Luongo, A. J. (2005). Police officers on drug corners in Philadelphia, drug crime, and violent crime: Intended, diffusion, and displacement impacts. Justice Quarterly, 22(4), 427-451.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Micro-places; General; Proactive; Rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

Operation Safe Streets, a hot spots strategy of placing pairs of officers on street corners identified as high drug activity locations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

How was the intervention evaluated?

This study analyzed weekly counts of homicides, violent crimes, and drug crimes at 214 target areas for a period covering more than two years prior to the intervention (January 2000 through the week of April 29, 2002) and approximately the first four months of the intervention (the week of April 29, 2002 through August 31, 2002). The study also examined trends in these crimes at 73 matched comparison sites (similar drug corners) that did not receive the intervention.

What were the key findings?

Operation Safe Streets had a significant negative impact on both violent and drug crimes within 0.1 mile of the intervention sites. There was also some modest diffusion of crime control benefits to areas surrounding the target locations. At 0.1–0.2 miles from the intervention site, the results reveal a smaller but still significant reduction of violent crime. While the intervention produced benefits at the specific target sites, it did not produce a strong enough effect to significantly reduce citywide totals of homicides, violent crimes, or drug crimes.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

Fixed police presence on hot spot drug corners reduced violence and drug crimes at those corners, but such programs are rarely sustainable due to high costs. The researchers suggested that police should seek to engineer more cost-effective crackdowns that can be sustained over time.

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