Micro Places – Schaefer et al. (2019)

Study Reference:

Schaefer, B. P., Hughes, T., & Cameron Stelzig, W. (2019). Hot spots across the metropolis: Evaluating hot spots directed patrol at city and suburban locations. Justice Quarterly, DOI: 10.1080/07418825.2019.1616804.

Location in the Matrix, Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

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

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study focused on a hot spot directd patrol strategy in city and suburban hot spots implemented by a metropolitan police agency. Officers were assigned 1-2 hot spot locations that corresponded with their assigned patrol beats and were directed to visit the location every 2-3 hours at random times, spending 12-15 minutes at each location during each visit. However, the patrols delivered were not as frequent as planned and declined over the course of the project (in the final month, for example, the target locations received only 1.6 visits per day). Officers were not given specific instructions on what to do while at the hot spots and could engage in proactivity at their discretion. Command staff received bi-weekly dosage reports to enhance compliance. The experiment lasted 90 days.

How was the intervention evaluated?

A block randomization design was used, in which 94 hot spots were identified and paired based on crime in the previous two years and randomly assigned within-pair to receive or not receive the treatment. Of these 47 pairs of hot spots, 24 were located in the city, and 23 were in suburban areas. The control locations were not revealed to officers to limit contamination. Changes in crime (i.e., crime-related calls for service, part I crime, and soft crime) during the experimental period from the same time period in the previous two years were compared between the treatment and control groups and between city and suburban locations to assess program effects.

What were the key findings?

Results suggest that the directed patrols did not significantly impact crime-related calls for service, part I crime, and soft crime during the experimental periods. The intervention was ineffective in city and suburban hot spots.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors cited challenges of department-wide interventions. For example, certain locations had to be included in the experiment per the commander’s desire, although these did not meet the inclusion criteria of being serious crime hot spots that are susceptible to police visibility. There were also challenges related to implementation fidelity (i.e., low dosage, as noted above), tracking of dosage, and a lack of support from some commanders. Although the patrols did not have clear impacts, the fact that findings did not differ across the urban and suburban locations led the authors to suggest that hot spot strategies can be used as effectively in suburban locations as in urban ones.

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