Neighborhood – García et al. (2013)

Study Reference:

García, J. F., Mejia, D., & Ortega, D. (2013). Police reform, training and crime: Experimental evidence from Colombia ́ s plan cuadrantes. Universidad de los Andes-CEDE.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Neighborhoods; General; Proactive; Moderately Rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study examined Colombia's Plan Cuadrantes police reform, which combines community and problem-oriented policing elements, by focusing on the role of a police training program for over 9,000 police officers in its eight major cities. This training aimed to enhance officers' readiness for tasks associated with the reform, with an emphasis on developing communication and interpersonal skills for effective community engagement and coordination with other divisions and institutions. Under the police reform, the eight cities were subdivided into well-defined, small geographical areas (i.e., quadrants). Each quadrant was patrolled by a team of six officers, working in three shifts. These officers work in shifts, tasked with identifying and addressing key crime and security issues. This approach signifies a shift from reactive to proactive policing. The initiative also aimed to enhance the technical and managerial infrastructure of the police force by equipping stations with strategic information centers and decentralizing decision-making to empower patrol teams in each quadrant, ensuring comprehensive coverage and responsiveness to local security needs.

How was the intervention evaluated?

A phased-in training schedule was used to construct randomly assigned cohorts of police stations, enabling experimental variation and a robust evaluation of the Plan's effectiveness​​. Specifically, 104 stations in the eight cities were randomly assigned: 38 to the first cohort, 32 to the second cohort, and 34 to the third cohort, with each training lasting 7 weeks. The training program's impact was evaluated by comparing the change in crime rates at the experimental police stations during the four months post-training to the rates from the same period in the previous year. This comparison was made relative to control stations that had not yet received the training, with the analysis focusing on the period right after the first cohort's training and before the start of the second cohort's training. Surveys were conducted before and after the training program to examine whether the training program affected police persononnel’s perceptions of their job.

What were the key findings?

The training program led to significant reductions in several types of crime, including homicides and brawls, particularly in high-crime areas. The reductions in these areas accounted for a 22% overall reduction in homicides. Survey results suggested that these effects were attributed to an increased sense of accountability and motivation among patrol officers​​.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

Training programs aimed at enhancing officers’ accountability and motivation, even those with relatively low costs, can lead to significant improvements in crime reduction, especially in high-crime areas. The success of the Plan Cuadrantes in Colombia suggests that similar training programs, which incorporates problem-oriented and community policing elements, could be beneficial​​.

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