Micro Places – Stephenson (2017)

Study Reference:

Stephensen, R. W. (2017). Cooling Down Crime Hot Spots: Impact of Saturation Patrol on Crime Hot Spots in Las Vegas, Nevada. UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones.

See also:

Baldwin, P., Fackrell, G., Glaude, T., Smith, S., Batson, C., Sousa, W., . . . Pace, S. (2014). Las Vegas smart policing initiative: Impact of police saturation. Final Report to Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Micro places; General; Proactive; Rigorous; Mixed findings

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study examined the effects of saturation patrol within hot spots (which averaged about 0.45 square miles) in Las Vegas from March 2012 to October 2012. The Saturation Team consisted of 2 sergeants and 24 officers who were exempt from answering calls for service. The team aimed to increase police visibility by patrolling the targeted hot spots. While patrolling, some officers were in uniforms using marked cars, and some were without uniforms. Many activities officers carried out within hot spots were self-initiated including managing minor offenses and traffic violations.

How was the intervention evaluated?

Twelve pairs of hot spots were identified and matched based on their levels of calls for service. Within each pair, one spot was randomly assigned to the treatment (saturation patrol) or the control (business as usual) group. The Saturation Team patrolled three treatment hot spots at a time, spending two months in each set of hot spots. They covered all 12 treatment hot spots for 8 months. The author examined multiple categories of crime reports for the treatment locations during the two months before the intervention, the 2-month treatment period, and the 2 months following intervention compared to crime reports in the control locations during the same periods. (Calls for service were also examined in a separate report.)

What were the key findings?

Overall, the saturation patrol approach did not reduce crime (or calls for service), but the effects varied. Some treatment hot spots had fewer crimes than the control group during and after the intervention, but other treatment locations experienced higher crime. Some analyses suggest that the treatment effects were stronger when controlling for differences in the sizes of the hot spots, but these results were also variable and inconclusive.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

This study suggests limited deterrent effects of saturation patrol within crime hot spots. The author pointed out that more extended implementation might be a critical factor for achieving crime reduction and emphasized the need for a more proactive approach, including more nuanced problem-solving strategies to solve the problems the communities face.

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