Neighborhood – Cid (2019)

Study Reference:

Cid, A. (2019). Saturation policing and robberies: Quasi-experimental evidence about the effect of sudden and quick operations. Justice Evaluation Journal2(2), 164-180.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Neighborhood; General; Proactive; Moderately Rigorous: Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study evaluated Operation “Red Light,” a saturation patrol program implemented in Montevideo, Uruguay, from April to October 2015. The intervention sought to increase police presence within targeted, high-crime neighborhoods to prevent or deter robberies. These additional patrol efforts, conducted from 17:00-01:00 every day, were carried out by a special team of 46 Republican Guard officers, a subset of officers who receive special training, use armored vans, and carry military-style rifles. The team was deployed in 15 vehicles, and officers were instructed to maintain continuous movement and make frequent stops of people and cars to heighten potential offenders’ perceptions regarding the risk of apprehension. The effectiveness of the intervention was assessed by comparing the reduction in robberies in Montevideo against Las Piedras and Toledo, two other cities within Uruguay.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The author evaluated the impact of Operation “Red Light” using a quasi-experimental difference-in-differences approach using data from 2012 through 2015. The study tracked changes in robberies within groups of street blocks in Montevideo compared to groups of street blocks in Las Piedras and Toledo, two smaller cities in Uruguay. In various analyses, the author examined the program’s effects on all parts of Montevideo and in selected portions of the city with the highest levels of robbery and program activity. Comparison areas in Las Piedras and Toledo were matched to those in Montevideo on a host of socio-economic variables, including unemployment, level of education, quality of housing, and the percentage of minors in the labor market.

What were the key findings?

When comparing the most dangerous 25% of areas in Montevideo to the control area, the author found a 31% decrease in robberies in Montevideo. The author reported a similar 20-30% reduction in robberies from Operation “Red Light” when examining the areas where the intervention was most active. Finally, the analysis also showed that there was a 27% decrease in robberies citywide in Montevideo when compared to control areas in the other cities. In sum, the author interpreted these analyses to indicate that Operation “Red Light” reduced robberies in targeted areas in Montevideo without displacing them to other areas of the city.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The author suggests that sudden and quick saturation interventions like Operation “Red Light” show promising results, at least in the short-term, for law enforcement agencies seeking to address violent crime hot spots. The author also indicates that this study makes an important contribution to the literature by evaluating a saturation policing initiative in Latin America, a region with the world’s highest level of reported robberies and where there has been little previous research. Finally, the author concludes that the findings of this study suggest that the effectiveness of saturation policing efforts may translate across different international contexts, but further research is needed to bolster the evidence base.

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