Micro Places – Santos & Santos (2016)

Study Reference:

Santos, R. B., & Santos, R. G. (2016). Offender-focused police intervention in residential burglary and theft from vehicle hot spots: a partially blocked randomized control trial. Journal of Experimental Criminology12(3), 373-402.

Location in the Matrix, Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Micro Places; Focused; Proactive; Very rigorous; No evidence of an effect

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study evaluated an offender-focused intervention within suburban hot spots of residential and property crime in Port St. Lucie (FL). Police identified individuals who were living in identified burglary and autotheft hot spots and previously arrested for residential burglary or theft from vehicle or convicted of burglary or drug offenses while on active probation. A team of two detectives reviewed records for each identified offender and began conducting home and telephone visits with targeted offenders and their families. Home visits were intended to communicate an increased risk of punishment to targeted offenders and involved curfew checks, inquiring about information on crimes in the area, and general face-to-face interactions. Detectives tried to avoid enforcement actions and be respectful and collaborative with targeted offenders and their families. On average, six offenders were identified in a hot spot, and each offender received approximately eight contacts from detectives throughout the intervention.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The intervention was evaluated using a randomized experimental design. Forty-eight hot spots that experienced at least 15 residential burglaries or residential thefts from vehicle crimes in the previous year were separated into three groups based on the ratio of targeted crime incidents to targeted offenders. Within each group, half of the hot spots were randomly assigned to treatment, and half were randomly assigned to control. In treatment hot spots, all eligible offenders living in that hot spot were targeted (151 offenders total). Offenders living in control hot spots did not receive any intervention. Researchers measured the total number of residential burglary and theft from vehicle incidents in each hot spot, the number of total arrests for each targeted offender, the number of burglary, theft, and drug offense arrests in each hot spot, and the ratio of these arrests to the number of individuals arrested (repeat arrests). All measurements were compared between a 9-month preintervention and a 9-month post-intervention period.

What were the key findings?

Results indicated no significant differences between treatment and control hot spots on postintervention levels of overall crime, hot spot arrests, or hot spot repeat arrests. While the average number of arrests per offender targeted significantly declined by 68% post intervention, no comparison was made to offenders in the control hot spots.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

While the results are nonsignificant, the authors suggest that the direction of the results is promising and that the experiment likely suffered from a small number of hot spots with which to analyze. The authors suggest that the decrease in arrests of targeted offenders may indicate success at the individual level (although this was not measured). The authors also noted the positive feedback from offenders and their families as evidence that offender-focused strategies can be beneficial.

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