Neighborhood – Caeti (1999)

Study Reference:

Caeti, T. J. (1999). Houston’s targeted beat program: A quasi-experimental test of police patrol strategies (Doctoral dissertation, Sam Houston State University).

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Neighborhoods; General; Proactive; Moderately Rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study evaluated the Targeted Beat Program (TBR) conducted by the Houston Police Department between 1994 and 1996. The TBR was initiated to reduce Part I crimes in the seven highest crime beats that were located within four substations of the city. Funds were allocated to use overtime officers, who were freed from calls for service, to saturate these seven beats. Each substation developed a slightly different philosophy of how to best use the overtime officers based on local problems and needs. One substation adopted a high visibility approach (two beats), another a hot spots approach (one beat), a third engaged in zero tolerance (three beats), and the last substation developed a problem-oriented approach (one beat). In general, each beat received an additional 12 forty-hour units per week during the course of the program (equivalent to 12 full-time officers).

How was the intervention evaluated?

The study evaluated crime trends in the seven high-crime intervention beats, spanning four districts, over six years (from 1991 to 1996) and compared them to trends in beats that were very similar on various social characteristics but did not receive the program. UCR crime reports were utilized to measure crime and assess treatment effects. In addition, the study examined contiguous beats to evaluate potential crime displacement or diffusion of crime control benefits.

What were the key findings?

Despite implementation problems in some beats (e.g., a lack of clearly defined operational plans and inefficient time use), the study found significant reduction in crimes that resulted from the program in four beats, mixed results in two other beats (where some types of crime decreased but not others), and no intervention effect in the last beat. Tactics that involved hot spots and zero tolerance were more effective than either simple high visibility patrol or problem-oriented tactics. Additionally, officers working the targeted beats were positive about the program, even though some officers could have been more productive while on targeted patrol. Further, crime statistics indicated no geographic displacement occurred as a result of the additional resources devoted to the program. Rather, a “halo effect” (a diffusion of crime control benefits) was noted in several patrol beats contiguous to the program beats.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The author suggested that additional resources devoted to policing and crime interdiction in high crime areas are effective in reducing crime, and certain tactics such as hot spot policing are particularly effective. However, the author concluded that these types of programs require more emphasis on planning and coordination and on measuring and monitoring the productivity of officers.

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