Neighborhood – Stone (1993)

Study Reference:

Stone, S. S. (1993). Problem-oriented policing approach to drug enforcement: Atlanta as a case study (Publication No. 9323182) [Doctoral dissertation, Emory University]. ProQuest Dissertation Publishing.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Neighborhoods; General; Highly Proactive; Rigorous; Mixed effects

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study evaluated the Problem-Oriented Policing Project implemented in public housing projects in Atlanta, Georgia, from January 1989 through June 1989. The goals of the project were to establish a more effective way of addressing the drug problem in the communities, improve the problem-solving abilities of line officers, and to improve police relations with the public. To achieve those goals, a few large-scale activities were prioritized: improve cooperation among agency members and across agencies, aid in the creation of an inter-agency council, attend community meetings, establish a mini precinct, and procure resources for the community. More specific problem-solving tasks were established to help mitigate barriers that prevented effective drug enforcement: fix poor lighting, remove trash/litter, remove abandoned cars, repair clotheslines that were broken/improperly placed, and address the inadequate supervision of and available programs for children in the community.

How was the intervention evaluated?

A quasi-experiment was used to evaluate the intervention. Four public housing communities in Atlanta were selected for the study. However, only two of these developments received the problem-oriented policing intervention. The two treatment developments were purposely selected due to their close location to one another, their high concentration of drug-involved gang members, and because they were about to undergo major renovations that would require police involvement. The remaining two developments closely resembled the treatment locations (according to demographic, socio-economic, mobility, informal social control, and crime/disorder/fear variables, although there were slight differences in formal social control) and served as a control location since they did not receive the intervention. Using data from residential surveys, official police data, hotspot maps, interviews, observations, and case studies, the study investigates the impact of the intervention on crime, disorder, resident’s perceptions, and informal social control. Treatment and control locations were compared across pre- (1988) and post-intervention (1989) data to assess the effect of the intervention.

What were the key findings?

Post intervention, violent crime and drug arrests decreased in the intervention hot spots while increasing in the control locations. However, when looking at individual treatment sites only one of the housing developments experienced significant decreases in violent crime and drug arrests, with the other development experiencing non-significant changes. There was also an improvement in the disorder and crime problems in the area immediately surrounding the newly created mini precinct (located in the treatment developments). However, there were no significant differences between treatment and control housing communities in the pre-post changes of total crime and drug crime. Surveys of community members, however, tell a different story; self-reported violent crime victimization increased in the treatment sites significantly more than the control site during the post-intervention period. However, changes in fear of crime and satisfaction with police were not significantly different between treatment and control sites.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The author concludes there is mixed evidence regarding the effectiveness of the Problem-Oriented Policing Project implemented in Atlanta as a result of varying degrees of successful implementation. For example, only some of the problems identified by the management team as potential barriers to drug enforcement were successfully addressed in the intervention. While efforts were made to increase engagement with the public, this did not translate into improvements in resident’s satisfaction with the police. Further, supervisors seemed unwilling to support or encourage officers to engage in problem-solving activities. The author does note, however, that inter- and intra- agency relationships improved because of the intervention and may be one of the more promising outcomes that stemmed from the project.

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