Micro Places – Piza et al. (2015)

Study Reference:

Piza, E. L., Caplan, J. M., Kennedy, L. W., and Gilchrist, A. M. (2015). The effects of merging proactive CCTV monitoring with directed police patrol: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 11, 43-69.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Micro places; General; Proactive; Very Rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study compares standard closed-circuit television (CCTV) operations in Newark, NJ, with an approach that increased the monitoring of CCTV camera surveillance and also dedicated two patrol cars to respond to specific incidents detected by cameras in targeted areas.

How was the intervention evaluated?

A randomized block design assigned 38 CCTV monitoring stations (“schemes”) to either treatment or control groups. Schemes were paired based upon their levels of violence, disorder, and narcotics calls for service. For 11 weeks, an additional camera operator monitored the 19 treatment CCTV schemes, and two dedicated patrol officers responded to incidents detected by the treatment camera locations. The number of incidents reported and the number of incidents resulting in action from law enforcement were compared between the experimental condition and the control condition. Additionally, researchers compared these results to calls for service from the prior year to account for any spillover effects of increased enforcement that might have occurred in the control area.

What were the key findings?

Officers identified more instances of criminal activity and took action on them in the treatment group, compared to the control condition. While crime was reduced in both the experimental and control areas, it was reduced by a greater amount in the experimental condition, indicating that, overall, the increased surveillance monitoring and dedicated patrol were effective. More specifically, violent crime and social disorder decreased, while the level of narcotics violations was unaffected. Backfire effects were observed in limited cases. However, the small sample size limits the statistical power of this experiment.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

Different interventions address different types of crime. In this case, researchers speculate that drug-dealers are motivated by money and can easily relocate out of view of the CCTV camera to conduct their business. In contrast, CCTV cameras may be more effective in preventing crimes of opportunity that are not premeditated. Additionally, police departments that use CCTV cameras should consider monitoring CCTV footage as well as conducting patrol operations connected to that monitoring. Police departments might consider a more proactive, focused deployment strategy, assigning patrol cars to specific focus areas, such as incidents observed on CCTV.

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