Neighborhood – Smith (2001)

Study Reference:

Smith, M. R. (2001). Police-led crackdowns and cleanups: An evaluation of a crime control initiative in Richmond, Virginia. Crime and Delinquency, 47(1), 60-83.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Neighborhood; General; Proactive; Moderately Rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

In April 1999, the Richmond, Virginia Police Department, in conjunction with other city agencies, began a crackdown and cleanup initiative in seven city neighborhoods. This article reports on an evaluation of this “Blitz to Bloom” initiative that was conducted in the first of the seven neighborhoods. This program called for the police department to aggressively sanitize a selected hot spot over a period of 30 days in preparation for other city agencies and civic organizations to ”more thoroughly and permanently address the quality of life and social problems”. The area’s normal complement of uniformed patrol officers was supplemented by the police department’s Street Enforcement Unit, Motorcycle Officers Strike Team, Mounted Patrol, Bicycle Unit, Narcotics Unit, and Mobile Command Post. These officers engaged in a variety of proactive patrol activities that included field interrogations, issuing summonses for traffic and other minor offenses, surveilling and arresting street-level drug dealers and buyers, and maintaining a high-visibility presence. Thus, the purpose of the “blitz” was to reduce drug dealing and related crime in a targeted geographic area so that the “bloom” of neighborhood and social intervention could maintain the reductions in crime and disorder created by the police department’s efforts.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The purpose of this study was to measure the effects of Blitz to Bloom on reported crime and calls for service in and around the targeted hot spot. The study examined crimes reported to police and citizen calls for service during the pre-intervention period of November 1998-March 1999, the “blitz” period of April 1999, and the post-blitz (“bloom”) period of May 1999 through October 1999. The study compared changes in the target area during this period to changes in a comparison area similar in racial composition and crime characteristics that did not receive the program. The evaluation explored both initial and residual deterrence in separate analyses.

What were the key findings?

A 92% reduction in reported crime occurred in the target area during the month-long crackdown period. Six months after the blitz period ended, crime had returned almost to its pre-intervention levels within the target area. Significant reductions in reported crime persisted in some parts of the neighborhood surrounding the area up to 6 months after the crackdown ended. No displacement was observed into the surrounding neighborhood. Although reductions in crime were recorded, calls for service increased in the neighborhood both during and after the intervention. Reported crime in the comparison area was unchanged during the crackdown month. Additionally, the comparison beat showed no significant change in calls for service during the one-year measurement period.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The findings suggest that crackdown operations can produce significant short-term crime reductions in targeted areas, though they may also increase citizen calls for service.

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