Neighborhood – Beck et al. (2022)

Study Reference:

Beck, B., Antonelli, J., & Piñeros, G. (2022). Effects of New York City’s Neighborhood Policing Policy. Police Quarterly25(4), 470-496.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Neighborhood; General; Proactive; Rigorous; No evidence of an effect

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study examined the impact of New York City’s “neighborhood policing” initiative, which Mayor Bill de Blasio said was intended to ensure that residents of the city have a police force that is “connected at the neighborhood level…to build relationships and deepen trust,” (p. 471). The initiative involved promoting officer liaisons with civilians, reorganizing the city’s precincts into smaller sections, and appointing officers who specialized in problem-solving. Furthermore, it supplemented the community engagement efforts of traditional patrol officers with specialized teams of “neighborhood-coordination” and “steady-sector” officers to eliminate any potential division between officers who solve problems and those who primarily answer calls for service. The initiative was deployed across the entire city and police agency and included hiring 1300 additional police officers, with a large portion devoted to this effort. The primary goal of the intervention was to reduce crime. However, the authors also examined the impact of the program on low-level arrests, complaints, use of force, or opinions about the police, particularly among non-white residents.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The authors used time series analysis to examine the impact of the intervention in each of NYPD’s 76 precincts. Monthly counts of violent and property crime, low-level arrests (misdemeanor and proactive arrests), complaints against the police (substantiated and unsubstantiated), reports of police misconduct, and racial disparities in arrests (difference between Black and White proactive arrests and a Black-to-White arrest rate ratio) were calculated between January 2006 to September 2019. The authors note that they did not have detailed implementation data and were unaware of how frequently officers met with community members or whether “steady sector” officers actually spent one-third of their shift engaging in other activities than responding to calls for service. Nevertheless, they report that the first precincts finished adopting the policy by May 2015, while the final ones completed this process by late 2018.

What were the key findings?

No significant impact of the program was found on property or violent crime. The time series analysis also revealed that precincts made 21% fewer proactive arrests and 12% fewer misdemeanor arrests, on average, than would have been expected without the policy in place. The reduction in proactive arrests was sustained across the 10 months post-intervention that were analyzed in the study, while the observed effect on misdemeanor arrests was only statistically significant through four months, despite a continued reduction for the remainder of the observation period. No impact on the racial composition of arrests was found. Finally, they report a 35% increase in citizen complaints in the 4-7 months after the policy’s implementation n, but find that this pattern disappeared after the eighth month, suggesting a temporary effect.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors suggest that the neighborhood policing approach may have changed officers’ attitudes towards arrest and signaled a deprioritization by departmental leadership in using arrests as a performance metric. They conclude that reducing low-level arrests using neighborhood policing programs could be a worthy goal, particularly given the negative consequences for those who are arrested and also for police-community relations.

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