Neighborhood – Uchida & Swatt (2013)

Study Reference:

Uchida, C. & Swatt, M. L. (2013). Operation LASER and the Effectiveness of Hotspot Patrol: A Panel Analysis. Police Quarterly, 3(16): 287-304.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Neighborhoods; Focused; Proactive; Moderately Rigorous; Mixed findings

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study evaluated the impact of Operation LASER (Los Angeles’ Strategic Extraction and Restoration program), a program conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department Newton Division to target gun violence. This operation has two components, a chronic offender component and a chronic location component, with five primary goals: targeted arrests of offenders from specific neighborhoods and areas, restore peace to neighborhoods and communities, remove anonymity of gun offenders, remove anonymity of gang members, and reduce gun and gang-related crime in the Newton Division. The centerpiece of the offender-based strategies involved the creation of a crime intelligence detail (CID), composed originally of two sworn officers and one crime analyst. The CID’s mission is to gather information from all available sources to produce proactive intelligence briefs called Chronic Offender Bulletins. The bulletin contains pertinent information on each individual, such as description, physical idiosyncrasies (tattoos), gang affiliation, prior crimes committed, parole or probation status, and locations of where the individual was stopped in or near Newton Division. The bulletins, which are updated every quarter, are accessible through the officers’ patrol car computers and are intended to assist officers in identifying crime trends and solving current investigations, and to give officers a tool for proactive police work. Location-based strategies included directed patrols, bike officer and foot patrols, and more extensive use of CCTV cameras. The chronic offender component of the intervention occurred in each reporting district in the Newton Division, however, the location-based components were targeted at five hot corridors within the division.

How was the intervention evaluated?

LASER was assessed at the reporting district (RD) level using a panel design to investigate specific declines in gun crime for the first 10 months after the operation began. Based on the study’s implementation strategy, three separate indicators for intervention effects were created. The first indicator measured whether an RD received any intervention. The second indicator measured whether the RD received both the chronic offender and chronic location intervention. The third indicator measured whether only the chronic offender intervention was received. Experimental RDs were compared to control RDs from the other seven divisions. This study used data from all Part I and Part II incidents reported to the LAPD where a firearm was involved from January 2006 to June 2012.

What were the key findings?

Operation LASER resulted in a 5.2% decrease in gun crime across the RDs in the Newton Division. To further investigate the nature of this effect, the intervention effect was disaggregated into the RDs in Newton that received only the chronic offender intervention and the RDs receiving both the chronic offender and chronic location interventions. Results from this model indicated that the intervention effect was confined to only the RDs that received both interventions. Specifically, gun crime in these RDs decreased an additional 7.2% per month after the intervention.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors suggest that four key elements of LASER can be attributed with its success: (1) the creation of the CID, (2) a focus on both chronic offenders and chronic locations, (3) directed patrol required officers to work in specific target areas each week and, (4) the program was monitored and evaluated by a research partner.

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