Neighborhood – McGarrell et al. (2001) [Targeted Offender Approach]

Study Reference:

McGarrell, E. F., Chermak, S., Weiss, A., & Wilson, J. (2001). Reducing firearms violence through directed police patrol. Criminology and Public Policy, 1, 119-148.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Neighborhood; Focused; Proactive; Moderately Rigorous; Effective

*This is one of two entries from this report. The other is "Neighborhood - McGarrell et al. (2001) [Directed Patrol]".

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study examines the use of a directed police patrol strategy to reduce firearm violence in Indianapolis. Implemented within two police beats in the north district of the city, the intervention involved the targeted use of traffic and pedestrian stops to conduct investigations, searches, and seizures. This was considered a targeted offender approach, as the idea was to identify individuals suspected to be involved in illegal behavior, and to maximize seizures of illegal weapons and drugs through more thorough investigation. In addition to directed patrols, police and probation officers paired up to conduct home visits within the treatment area.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The authors compared the treatment area to a two-beat comparison area identified as being the most similar available area in the city, as well as to city-wide crime trends. In one analysis, a 90-day intervention period for the treatment and control areas were compared with the same 90-day period of the previous year to control for seasonal effects. In a second analysis, the researchers developed time-series models to test whether changes observed during the intervention period were significantly different from pre- and post-intervention trends in violent crime, comparing the targeted and comparison areas. Firearm-crime related outcomes examined included homicide, aggravated assault with a gun, armed robbery, as well as a total gun crimes measure.

What were the key findings?

The intervention was associated with significant reductions in gun crime. Aggravated assaults with a gun and armed robberies decreased by 40% in the treatment beats, a trend which significantly differed from that of the comparison beats. Additionally, time series analyses suggested significant reductions in weekly levels of violent crime for treatment beats (of roughly 2 crimes per week), compared to significant increases in the comparison beats (of roughly 1 crime per week).

What were the implications for law enforcement?

This research suggests that targeted offender/specific deterrence approaches may be an effective mechanism for reducing firearm-related violence. This finding is consistent with prior research that suggests that crackdowns that focus on specific types of crime in specific locations have the most effect on crime. The authors caution, however, that in light of the impact of traffic and pedestrian stops on racial and ethnic minorities and communities, that such strategies should be implemented with respect and dignity, and in consultation with community members and leaders in targeted communities.

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