Neighborhood – Police Foundation (1981)

Study Reference:

The Police Foundation. (1981). The Newark Foot Patrol Experiment. Washington, DC: Police Foundation.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Neighborhoods; General; Reactive; Moderately Rigorous; No evidence of an effect

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study tested the impact of increased foot patrol on crime in Newark between February 1978 and January 1979. The program included several requirements stipulated by its use of Safe and Clean Neighborhoods Program funds. Foot patrol officers were required to remain in uniform and on foot, except when traveling to and from their posts, or when assisting a motor patrol officer in an emergency or arrest situation. All officers were required to be visible on the street as much as possible, not spending more than a few minutes inside stores or homes on their posts. Additionally, the maximum size of foot patrol beats is comparable across cities implementing the Safe and Clean Neighborhoods Program because of the requirement that officers be able to cover their beats in 45 minutes. When officers were asked about the types of activities then engaged in during foot patrol, respondents most often referred to crime prevention activities, attending community meetings, contacting business people, providing escort service for business people, meeting with people, making security checks, and being at school crossings. Generally, officers assigned to foot patrol were rookies or volunteers.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The study used matched sets of beats in Newark to compare the effects of continuing and discontinuing foot patrols. In Newark, assignment logs of all existing foot posts were examined to determine which had been patrolled on foot consistently since the beginning of the Safe and Clean Neighborhoods program. There were eight such beats. These beats were matched into four sets of two beats each, based on the number of residential and nonresidential units found on each beat. Out of each pair of beats, foot patrol continued on one beat and was discontinued on the other. In addition, foot patrol was instituted in four areas (similar to those previously patrolled on foot) which had not had it before. Outcome measures included reported crimes, arrests, and victimization.

What were the key findings?

The foot patrol intervention did not have a significant impact on overall crime, arrests, or victimization. One exception to this was observed: resident respondents in the retained foot beats experienced a significantly greater reduction in the number of thefts that occurred in their neighborhoods while they were away from home.  Additionally, the intervention did increase the citizen’s perception of safety.

What were the implications for law enforcement?         

The authors suggest that while foot patrol had no effect on recorded crime rates, citizens feel threatened by noncriminal (disorderly) behavior as well, and that this threat of victimization may dramatically alter their lives. Foot patrols could be made more effective by providing special training and raising the status of foot patrol officers. Other suggestions are to increase their integration into neighborhood activities, their use for service calls, and also their use at times of highest street activity.

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