Micro Places – Morton, Luengen, & Mazerolle (2019)

Study Reference:

Morton, P. J., Luengen, K., & Mazerolle, L. (2019). Hoteliers as crime control partners. Policing: An International Journal, 42(1), 74-88.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Micro places; Focused; Highly Proactive; Very Rigorous; Mixed effects*

* Please see findings below. Warrants executed and drug crime reports went up as a result of the intervention. The authors suggest that this reflects increased reporting, rather than a backfire effect.

What police practice or strategy was examined?

The current study investigates the impact of Operation Galley (OG), an intelligence-led policing intervention that sought to proactively address the problem of drug dealing from hotel rooms by engaging hoteliers as third-party crime control partners with the Queensland Police Service. Third-party policing engages crime control partners to target problem places, people, or times. It expands police capacity to reduce crime by creating a partnership between police and non-police entities, and harnessing the entity’s resources and legal powers. Operation Galley involved the police using a procedurally just dialogue to cultivate hoteliers as intelligence sources. The program also aimed to make hoteliers aware of the problem and signs of drug offending, inform them of their legal rights and obligations, provide them clear avenues to report suspicious drug activity, and make them more willing and capable of reporting information to the police while at the same time refusing tenancy to offenders. The Combined Agency Responses Team (CART) was in charge of implementing the program, which consisted of detectives and fire and emergency services officers supporting hoteliers. The program lasted approximately 2.5 months.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The study compares three conditions: Operation Galley (OG), which involved hoteliers receiving a scripted letter with information described above and written with procedural justice elements, followed by visits from the police to establish partnerships, consultation, and engagement with hoteliers; a second condition in which only the letter was sent; and a third “business as usual” control condition. Forty groups of three hotels each were matched on their size, rating, location, and estimated risk, and were then randomly assigned to one of the three conditions. A dedicated OG email account and telephone number were set up to receive any reporting of suspicious behaviors from the intervention groups. Three outcomes were measured before (when available), after, and during the intervention to determine the treatment effect: (1) notifications of suspicious behaviors through OG channels; (2) drug search warrants executed as a result of an OG notification vs. through alternative channels (i.e., existing reporting infrastructures); and (3) drug crime reports resulted from an OG notification or existing channels. The authors argue that their goal of measuring reporting through existing avenues was to understand that OG does not increase detection simply by changing reporting methods of the hoteliers.

What were the key findings?

The OG condition led to an increase in police engagement with hoteliers, as well as increases in hoteliers’ reporting of suspicious behaviors, drug search warrants executed as a result of an Operation Galley notification, and reports of drug crimes. The authors suggest that increases in warrants executed and drug crime reports likely reflect increases in reporting rather than a backfire effect. These effects decayed over time as OG notifications post-intervention declined. The letter alone was not sufficient to generate a significant program effect. Therefore, the authors could not conclude there was a longer-term suppression of the drug market from this intervention.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors suggest that the combination of a third party policing and an intelligence-led approach can help to foster positive engagement between hoteliers and detectives. The approach cultivated hoteliers as crime control partners, enabling the police to better target and respond to drug dealing problems in hotel rooms.

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