Proactive Police Responses for Property Crime

    This study evaluates the impact of a proactive police response on residential burglary and theft from vehicle crimes in micro-time hot spots and examines whether displacement occurs. Micro time hot spots are defined as the emergence of several closely related crime incidents within a few minutes travel distance from one another that occur within one to two weeks. Micro time hot spots are identified with recent data (1-14 days), are short lived, and they occur in both high and low crime areas throughout a jurisdiction – they are essentially crime flare ups. 
    The goal of police response to micro crime hot spots is to reduce subsequent crimes once the micro time hot spot is identified. Research shows that short term police responses – specifically directed police patrol – are effective in reducing crime in long-term hot spots. The same types of interventions are evaluated in this study for short term hot spots. 
    This study was conducted with the Port St. Lucie, FL police department. Residential burglaries and thefts from vehicles are two of the major crime problems in this area, given there are no major malls or large business plazas in this area. All micro time hot spots that included both r either of these crimes were considered for inclusion in the study. The micro time hot spots were randomly assigned to treatment and control conditions as they were identified daily. Control hot spots did not receive the proactive police response. 
    To be considered a micro time hot spot, places had to have at least two residential burglaries or thefts from vehicles occurring within 14 days in a .20 mile radius or at least three of these crimes within a .40 mile radius. Crime analysts finalized each hot spot using qualitative crime data including victim/suspect relationship, method of crime, time of day, property taken, and other variables. Once a hot spot was identified a bulletin was created that was sent to the researchers on the project, and they randomized the spot to treatment or control. Normally, all bulletins would be sent to all police officers, but for this study, the control spot bulletins were held back and only the treatment ones were made known to officers. 
    The proactive strategy required that officers drive into the micro hot spot for 10-20 minutes for as many times as possible during their noncommitted time on shift. Officers were directed to drive around the micro hot spot and be seen rather than being stationary in one location. When possible, they were to stop and talk with suspicious persons, make traffic stops, talk with residents about crime prevention, and leave a crime opportunity card when they observed vulnerable targets. The department required a minimum of 14 days directed patrol after a bulletin was released. 
    During the two years of the experiment, 217 hot spots were identified and randomly assigned. 114 of those were allocated to the treatment condition. Most response time (80%) was spent on directed patrol with no suspicious activity reported. Evaluations show significantly less crime in the treatment hot spots than in the control spots within 15, 30, 60 and 90 days after the police response. Results indicate that the first 15 days after the bulletin is published accounts for most of the impact (79% less crime) than the second 15 days (67% less crime). There was no evidence of crime displacement in a .20 mile radius around the .40 radius of the hot spots. 
    This study has larger effect sizes than most hot spots policing studies, which may be due to the precise measurement and critical way crimes are linked together for micro hot spots. Another reason may be due to the department’s institutionalization of the crime reduction strategy into their daily routine practice, rather than simply conducting the intervention for the sole purpose of the research. This study was a zero-control experiment, unique to hot spots policing experiments. 

  • Overall, the micro time hot spots policing intervention had large crime reduction effects that lasted throughout the follow up period 
  • There was no evidence of crime displacement 
  • Institutionalization of this crime reduction strategy may have influenced the large effect sizes 

Santos, R., & Santos, R. (2020). Proactive Police Response in Property Crime Micro-time Hot Spots: Results from a Partially-Blocked Blind Random Controlled Trial. Journal of Quantitative Criminology.