Neighborhood – Lindsay & McGillis (1986)

Study Reference:

Lindsay, B., & McGillis, D. (1986). Citywide community crime prevention: An assessment of the Seattle program. In D. Rosenbaum (Ed.), Community crime prevention: Does it work? (pp. 46-67). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Neighborhood; Focused; Highly Proactive; Moderately Rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

The Seattle Community Crime Prevention Program (CCPP) used three prevention strategies: (1) personally identifying all valuables on a premise (to include property marking), (2) improving locking hardware on doors and windows, and (3) forming neighborhood block organizations. The primary goal of the CCPP was to produce a statistically significant decrease in residential burglary among participant households. A secondary goal was to show a statistically significant increase in the number of burglary-in-progress calls from targeted areas (which might help improve the apprehension of burglars). (The police did not run this program, but they worked very closely with the community group that did.)

CCPP provided systematic, block-by-block service delivery, targeting single-family and duplex dwellings in neighborhoods with significant levels of burglary. The first step in delivering services involved making contact with the police and local civic organizations, while CCPP staff developed a “community profile” which included crime data and demographic information about its residents. Project staff accompanied police through the target area to become familiar with the neighborhoods and police patrol patterns. The first citizen contact occurred by mail, followed by community organizers canvassing homes door to door. The most important function of CCPP was to perform primary services: block watch organizing, property marking, and household security inspections.

How was the intervention evaluated?

Census tracts with relatively and steadily high burglary rates were targeted for CCPP services and, where possible, those areas were matched with control census tracts that had comparably high burglary rates but did not receive the program. Data from three victimization surveys and police dispatch records were examined to assess the program’s success in reducing burglaries, increasing burglary-in-progress calls, and meeting service objectives.

What were the key findings?

Within the experimental areas, burglary rates of CCPP homes and non-participating homes were virtually identical prior to the program. However, a comparison of the post-treatment data for CCPP and non-CCPP residences showed a significantly lower burglary rate for CCPP participants. The reduction in burglary in CCPP residences was 61%, and this produced a marginally significant overall reduction in burglary rates within the experimental areas (combining CCPP residences and non-CCPP residences). There was no such change in the control (non-program) areas. Burglary reporting rates were also significantly higher for CCPP participants (68% versus 40% for non-participants). A significant increase in the ratio of burglary in-progress calls to all burglary calls was observed in the program areas, with no significant change in non-program areas. Finally, arrests resulting from burglary calls increased slightly and the amount of suspect descriptive information also increased as a result of the program (both increases were insignificant).

What were the implications for law enforcement?

Working with community organizations to reduce burglary through target hardening and community mobilization can be effective. The researchers concluded that the success of the Seattle program can be attributed to the use of trained civilians experienced in community organization, a proactive methodology that targeted a specific community, a focus on reducing one type of crime, and a block-by-block approach to organizing small groups of citizens.

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