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Program Profile: Effect of Hot Spots Policing Strategies on Citizen-Officer Interactions (St. Louis, Missouri)

Evidence Rating: No Effects - One study No Effects - One study

Date: This profile was posted on August 27, 2018

Program Summary

This hot spots policing intervention used two strategies, problem solving or directed patrol, independent of one another, to improve citizen satisfaction with police and police legitimacy. The program is rated No Effects. Overall, there were mixed effects of the two policing strategies. The preponderance of evidence suggests that both hot spots policing strategies had little to no impact on measures of citizen satisfaction with police.

This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.

Program Description

Program Goals/Target Sites
The goal of the hot spots intervention, named the St. Louis County Hot Spots in Residential Areas (SCHIRA), was to improve citizen-officer interactions, specifically by improving citizen cooperation with police, police legitimacy, and procedural justice, and decreasing excessive use of force by officers. This intervention was implemented to examine and address some common criticisms of hot spots policing. Such policing practices have been criticized as having a negative impact on community outcomes such as citizen perceptions of police legitimacy and procedural justice. Because police resources are concentrated on a small geographic area rather than evenly distributed across a jurisdiction, the practice may be viewed as inequitable by community members (Kochel and Weisburd 2017). Thus, to help address such criticism, this program used two different hot spot policing strategies in targeted residential areas in St. Louis County, Missouri, that suffered from high levels of crime incidents: a problem-solving approach and a directed patrol.

Program Components
The two strategies applied in this intervention, though notably different in their components, are both comprised under the larger strategy of hot spots policing.

Problem Solving (PS)
Officers engaging in PS used the problem-oriented policing SARA model, which includes the following four stages: Scanning, identifying and selecting a problem; Analysis, analyzing the problem; Response, responding to the problem; and Assessment, assessing the impact on the problem (Schmerler et al. 2006). Officers received three days of training in the PS strategy and the SARA model and were offered on-call consultation and a crime analyst. The analyst provided analyses of incidents and calls for service types and counts in each hot spot to the assigned officers and worked with officers on identifying and selecting a problem. Some examples included property crime, violent crime, and drug and gang problems. Officers were required to partner with at least one stakeholder and to link response strategies with what they learned about the conditions contributing to the problem. Some activities that the officers used to do this included door-to-door resident surveys, in- person and video observations of problem areas at different times of the day, and interviews with property managers and landlords. Officers then developed a response strategy, including educating residents about the problems and applying target-hardening strategies; securing vacant residences; removing abandoned vehicles, trash, and overgrowth; conducting intensive follow up with troubled juveniles; and increasing communication with a variety of agencies.

Directed Patrol (DP)
Officers engaging in DP aimed to double the usual amount of time spent at their respective hot spots. Automated vehicle location (AVL) data was used to record time spent at each hot spot. Efforts were made to target “hot times” (i.e., times of increased criminal activity) by conducting 11- to 15-minute patrols each targeted hour. Officers were asked to make themselves visible in the hotspots and to record time spent and activities conducted, which they were free to determine. Some activities that officers conducted included roving or stationary patrols, completing reports, vehicle enforcement, foot patrols, pedestrian stops, conversing with residents, and sitting car to car.

Program Theory
The problem-solving approach is based on the routine activities theory, which requires that three elements be present at the same time and space for a crime to occur: 1) a motivated offender with criminal intentions and the ability to act, 2) a suitable victim, and 3) the absence of a capable person to stop the offense (Schmerler et al. 2006). Assigning officers to specific hot spots, as the PS approach did, limits opportunities for crimes to occur.

Directed patrol used a general deterrence theory by assigning more officers on the streets. Deterrence theory assumes that individuals consider the consequences of their actions and are also affected by consequences. Additionally, rational individuals weigh the cost and benefit of committing a crime (Paternoster 2010). Thus, potential offenders, in the face of increased police presence, would perceive an increased cost of offending (i.e., increased risk of being apprehended) and be deterred.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1  
Overall, the preponderance of evidence suggests that two hot spots policing strategies, problem solving and directed patrol, have little to no impact on measures of citizen satisfaction with police. The problem solving (PS) strategy had no statistically significant impact on measures of procedural justice, police abuse, and legitimacy. The PS and directed patrol (DP) strategies had no impact on cooperation following the intervention, but there was a statistically significant increase in cooperation with the police at the 6- to 9-month follow up. The DP strategy also had a statistically significant impact on police abuse at both measurement points. But there was no statistically significant impact on legitimacy. For procedural justice, there was a statistically significant decrease in measures in areas that received the DP strategies following the intervention, but not at the 6- to 9-month follow up.

Directed Patrol Approach
Procedural Justice
Immediately following the intervention, Kochel and Weisburd (2017) found that the DP strategy was associated with a negative, statistically significant effect on procedural justice (i.e., residents felt they were being treated less justly by police), compared with residents in the standard policing areas.

At the 6- to 9-month follow up, the DP strategy had no impact on procedural justice for residents in the treatment areas, compared with residents in the standard policing areas

Police Abuse
Immediately after the intervention, DP was associated with a statistically significant decline in police abuse for residents in the treatment areas, compared with residents in the standard policing areas.

At the 6- to 9-month follow up, DP was associated with a statistically significant decline in police abuse for residents in the treatment areas, compared with residents in the standard policing areas.

Legitimacy  
The DP strategy had no impact on police legitimacy for residents in the treatment areas, compared with residents in the standard policing areas, immediately after the intervention.

At the 6- to 9-month follow up, the DP strategy had no impact on police legitimacy for residents in the treatment areas, compared with residents in the standard policing areas,.

Cooperation  
The DP intervention had no impact on cooperation with police for residents in the treatment areas, compared with residents in the standard policing areas, immediately after the intervention.

DP had a statistically significant impact at the 6- to 9-month follow up, with residents in the treatment areas reporting more cooperation with police than residents in the standard policing areas.

Problem Solving Approach
Procedural Justice  
Kochel and Weisburd (2017) found that the PS strategy, for residents in the treatment areas, had no impact on procedural justice immediately following the intervention.

The PS strategy for residents in the treatment areas also had no impact on procedural justice at the 6- to 9-month follow up, compared with residents in the standard policing areas.

Police Abuse
The PS strategy had no impact on police abuse for residents in the treatment areas, compared with residents in the standard policing areas, immediately following the intervention.

The PS strategy had no impact on police abuse for residents in the treatment areas, compared with residents in the standard policing areas, at the 6- to 9-month follow up.

Legitimacy  
The PS strategy had no impact on police legitimacy for residents in the treatment areas, compared with residents in the standard policing areas, immediately following the intervention.

The PS strategy had no impact on police legitimacy for residents in the treatment areas, compared with residents in the standard policing areas, at the 6- to 9-month follow up.

Cooperation
The PS strategy had no impact on cooperation with police for residents in the treatment areas, compared with residents in the standard policing areas, immediately following the intervention.

A statistically significant impact was found at the 6- to 9-month follow up, with residents in the PS strategy treatment areas reporting more cooperation with police than residents in the standard policing areas.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Kochel and Weisburd (2017) conducted a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the impact of hot spots policing strategies on police-citizen interaction, specifically residents’ opinions of police. A total of 71 hot spots in St. Louis County, Missouri, were randomly assigned to receive one of three conditions: 1) problem solving (PS), 2) directed patrol (DP), or 3) standard policing practices. The PS treatment group included 20 hotspots where officers enacted the problem-oriented policing SARA model, the directed patrol treatment group included 20 hotspots, and the control group included 31 hotspots where officers were to continue policing activities as usual, which typically consisted of response calls and preventative patrols. A random sampling of St. Louis County hot spot residents were selected to participate in a panel survey before the intervention (Wave 1), immediately after the intervention (Wave 2), and 6 to 9 months after the intervention (Wave 3). Survey participants included those who answered the door at the residence.

The surveyed residents in the PS treatment group were mostly female (59 percent) and black (84 percent), followed by 12 percent white, and 4 percent mixed race or other. The surveyed residents in the control group were mostly female (59 percent) and black (72 percent), followed by 23 percent white, and 5 percent mixed race, other, or Hispanic. Statistically significant differences in demographic baseline characteristics (specifically home ownership, average time living at the address, and race) were controlled for in the model.

Surveyed residents in the DP treatment group were mostly female (57 percent) and black (74 percent), followed by 21 percent white, and 5 percent mixed race, other, or Hispanic. The same control group described above was used. Surveyed residents in the control group were mostly female (59 percent) and black (72 percent), followed by 23 percent white, and 5 percent mixed race, other, or Hispanic. Statistically significant differences in demographic baseline characteristics were controlled for in the model. The same statistical analysis techniques and outcome measures were also employed.

A multilevel mixed regression model measured the impact of each treatment condition on measures of resident satisfaction with police, including measures of procedural justice, police abuse, legitimacy, and cooperation. Specifically, the procedural justice outcome measured whether, according to resident surveys, police acted fairly, impartially, and respectfully. The police abuse outcome measured the perceived frequency of police abuse such as stopping people without reason, using excessive force, and insulting people. The legitimacy outcome measured whether police authority was considered valid and should be respected and adhered to. And the cooperation outcome measured whether residents were willing to cooperate with police by providing information and reporting crime and suspicious behavior. No subgroup analyses were conducted.
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Cost

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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Kochel, Tammy Rinehart, and David Weisburd. 2017. “Assessing Community Consequences of Implementing Hot Spots Policing in Residential Areas: Findings from a Randomized Field Trial.” Journal of Experimental Criminology 13: 143–70.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Paternoster, Raymond. 2010. “How Much Do We Really Know About Criminal Deterrence.” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 100(3): 765–824.



Schmerler, Karin, Matt Perkins, Scott Phillips, Tammy Rinehart, and Meg Townsend. 2006. A Guide to Reducing Crime and Disorder Through Problem-Solving Partnerships. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
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Related Practices

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Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated practices that are related to this program:

Hot Spots Policing
Used by many U.S. police departments, hot spots policing strategies focus on small geographic areas or places, usually in urban settings, where crime is concentrated. The practice is rated Effective. The analysis suggests that hot spots policing efforts that rely on problem-oriented policing strategies generate larger crime reduction effects than those that apply traditional policing strategies in crime hot spots.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types



Problem-Oriented Policing
These analytic methods are used by police to develop crime prevention and reduction strategies. The practice is rated Promising and led to a significant decline in crime and disorder.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Geography: Suburban

Setting (Delivery): High Crime Neighborhoods/Hot Spots

Program Type: Community and Problem Oriented Policing, Hot Spots Policing, General deterrence

Current Program Status: Not Active