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Program Profile: Tactical Police Responses to Micro-Time Hot Spots for Thefts from Vehicles and Residential Burglaries (Port St. Lucie, Florida)

Evidence Rating: Effective - One study Effective - One study

Date: This profile was posted on November 13, 2018

Program Summary

This program relies on hot spots policing strategies to prevent thefts from vehicles and residential burglaries in “micro-time” hot spots in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The program is rated Effective. There was a statistically significant reduction in thefts from vehicles and residential burglaries in micro-time hot spots that received tactical police responses, compared with micro-time hot spots that received police patrol as usual.

Program Description

Program Goals/Target Sites
The Tactical Police Response to Micro-Time Hot Spots intervention aims to deter residential burglaries and thefts from vehicles by deploying short-term responses to micro-time hot spots identified by crime analysts. The program was implemented in Port St. Lucie, which is in southeast Florida along the coast. As of 2014, the population included 170,000 residents. The city does not have any major malls or large business plazas; therefore, the majority of burglaries and thefts from vehicles occur in residential neighborhoods (Santos and Santos 2015a).

Program Activities
The first step used by the Port St. Lucie Police Department is to have crime analysts identify eligible micro-time hot spots using an established method. Hot spots refer to small geographic areas where there is a high concentration of crime. Micro-time hot spots refers to geographic concentrations of crime occurring within a short time period. The department defines a micro-time hot spot as a location in which two or more residential burglaries or thefts from vehicles occur within 1 to 14 days of each other, and within a 0.5-mile radius or 0.79 square miles.

Trained crime analysts identify micro-time hot spots on a daily basis, using an established crime analysis method. The crime analysts then produce a one-page bulletin that includes information such as date; time; location of the crimes; method and suspect information; known offenders who live in the micro-time hotspot; field interview information; and whether evidence, such as fingerprints and DNA, was collected at the scene. Additionally, they include a map that illustrates locations of the crimes, field contacts, and known offenders’ residences. The bulletins are posted into an intranet system. For those micro-time hot spots that are assigned a response, police officers enter their response information in real time through laptops in their police cars. All theft from vehicle or residential burglary incidents occurring within the micro-time hot spots that are reported to the police are responded to by sending a patrol officer to the home, taking a report, doing a preliminary investigation, and following up when appropriate.

Next, one or more of the following three tactical responses is employed: 1) directed patrol, 2) contacting potential victims, or 3) contacting known offenders. The directed patrol response involves police officers either being stationary or driving in the micro-time hotspot area for 15 minutes (depending on the circumstances and level of resources). Directed patrol can result in field interview cards, vehicle traffic stops, citations, searches, or contacts with potential victims. Contacting potential victims consists of a “reverse-911” call, in which the police department calls residents living in the micro-hotspot area and leaves a tailored message about the crime that is occurring. A volunteer response team also distributes flyers and talks to citizens about crime happening in their neighborhoods. Contacting known offenders refers to reaching out to offenders living in micro-time hotspots to determine if they are suspects or to deter them from committing crime.

Responses are implemented based on available resources. Each response is implemented for 14 days after the last recorded crime in the micro-time hot spot. If a crime is committed after the 14 days, then the tactical response is implemented again in the area. The micro-time hot spots are tracked by the crime analysts until there are no more crimes, within 21 days of the last crime, occurring within a 0.5-mile radius. If there are more crimes, the analysts produce and disseminate an updated bulletin that might depict a new radius.

Program Theory
The following theories apply to the micro-time hot spots policing intervention: rational choice theory (Cornish and Clarke 1987), routine activity theory (Cohen and Felson 1979), and environmental criminology (Brantingham and Brantingham 1991). Rational choice theory assumes that offenders are self-interested and weigh the costs and benefits of offending before making the choice to offend. Routine activity theory suggests that crime is the convergence in time and space of a motivated offender, a suitable target, and a lack of capable guardianship. Environmental criminology is concerned with criminal events and the importance of the characteristics of the places where crime happens (Braga 2007). Hot spots policing emerged, in part, from these criminological theories.

The intervention was also designed based on research into repeat victimization, which suggests that places that have been victimized in the past have a higher likelihood of being victimized again (for example, where houses next to a burgled home are at substantially higher risk for burglary) (Farrell and Pease 1993; Bowers and Johnson 2005b).

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Theft from Motor Vehicles
Santos and Santos (2015a) found that at Time 2, the mean number of thefts from vehicles in the treatment group was 2.08, compared with 3.44 in the comparison group. This difference was statistically significant. These results suggest that the tactical police responses implemented in the treatment group micro-time hot spots resulted in fewer thefts from vehicles, compared with the comparison group that did not receive these tactical responses.

Study 2
Residential Burglaries
Santos and Santos (2015b) found that there was a statistically significant difference in the incidence of residential burglaries between micro-time hot spots that applied tactical police responses and micro-time hot spots that did not. Specifically, at Time 2 there was an average of 1.04 residential burglaries in the treatment group, compared with 2.19 residential burglaries in the comparison group.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Santos and Santos (2015a) used a quasi-experimental design to evaluate the impact of various tactical police response techniques on residential theft from vehicles in micro-time hot spots in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Data were collected from the Port St. Lucie Police Department for five years (between 2008 and 2012). Crime analysts identified 323 residential thefts from vehicle micro-time hot spots during that period, including 166 that received a tactical response (directed patrol, contacting potential victims, and/or contacting known offenders) and 157 that did not receive a tactical response. Because the majority of thefts from vehicles occurred at residences, all micro-time hot spots that were located in commercial areas were not included in the analyses.

Propensity score matching was used to match the comparison and treatment groups. Cases were matched one-to-one, such that a case in the treatment group could be matched to only one case in the comparison group. Relevant covariates were used to match the control cases to the treatment cases using the following characteristics: year, season, district, radius, number of potential targets, initial number of crimes, time span, and known offenders. Because not all hot spots could receive police responses due to limited resources, the treatment group included micro-time hot spots with the most responses. Of the 166 micro-time hot spots that received a tactical response, 95 were selected for inclusion in the matching procedure that was used to select a comparison group. The authors then used propensity score matching to select a comparison group. This process resulted in a final sample of 172 cases, including 86 in the treatment group and 86 in the comparison group.

The primary outcome of interest was the number of theft from vehicle incidents that occurred in micro-time hot spots after a response was or could have been employed by police (i.e., crime occurring after the bulletin from crime analysts was published). To evaluate the effectiveness of police responses in micro-time hot spots, the study used t-tests to compare the mean number of thefts from vehicles in the treatment and comparison groups at Time 2. The Time 2 follow-up period varied across micro-time hot spots based on how long it took each micro-time hot spot to “cool off” (i.e., no reported theft from vehicle crime for 21 days). No subgroup analyses were conducted.

Study 2
Santos and Santos (2015b) used a quasi-experimental design to evaluate the impact of various tactical police response techniques on residential burglaries in micro-time hot spots in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Data were collected from the Port St. Lucie Police Department for five years (between 2008 and 2012). There were 223 residential burglary micro-time hot spots identified. Of the 223 hot spots, 118 were in the treatment group that received one of three tactical responses (directed patrol, contacting potential victims, or contacting known offenders), and 105 were in the comparison group that did not receive a tactical response.

Propensity score matching was used to match the treatment and comparison groups. The researchers used one-to-one matching, which means that each case from the treatment group was matched with only one case in the comparison group. Researchers also used several covariates to improve the matching process. These covariates included year, season, district, radius, number of potential targets, initial number of crimes, time span, and number of known offenders. Because not all hot spots could receive police responses due to limited resources, the treatment group included micro-time hotspots with the most responses. For the 118 micro-time hot spots that received a tactical response, 65 were selected for inclusion in the matching process. After the propensity score matching was completed, the final sample included 108 cases, including 54 in the treatment group and 54 in the comparison group.

The primary outcome of interest was the number of residential burglary incidents that occurred in micro-time hot spots after a response was or could have been employed by police (i.e., crime occurring after the bulletin from crime analysts was published). To evaluate the effectiveness of police responses in micro-time hot spots, the study authors used t-tests to compare the mean number of residential thefts in the treatment and comparison groups at Time 2. The Time 2 follow-up period varied across micro-time hotspots based on how long it took each micro-time hotspot to “cool off” (i.e., no reported residential burglary crime for 21 days). 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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Other Information

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Santos and Santos (2015a) reported that the tactical responses of police officers to the micro-time hot spots for thefts from vehicles were distributed as follows: 68.0 percent involved directed patrol only (no additional contact); 27.0 percent involved directed patrol with additional activity (e.g., citizen contact, field interview); and about 5.0 percent involved known offender contacts, citizen contact by volunteers, and reverse-911. Overall, 95 percent of the Port St. Lucie Police Department’s responses to thefts from vehicles at micro-time hot spots involved directed patrol activities. Santos and Santos (2015b) reported that the tactical response of police officers to the micro-time hot spots for residential burglaries were distributed as follows: 76.15 percent involved directed patrol only (no additional contact); 20.47 percent involved directed patrol with additional activity (e.g., citizen contact, field interview); and 3.37 percent involved known offender contacts, citizen contact by volunteers, or reverse-911. Overall, nearly 97 percent of the Port St. Lucie Police Department’s responses to residential burglaries at micro-time hot spots involved directed patrol activities.
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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
Santos, Robert G., and Rachel Boba Santos. 2015a. “An Ex-Post Facto Evaluation of Tactical Police Response in Residential Theft from Vehicle Micro-Time Hotspots.” Journal of Quantitative Criminology 31:679–98.

Study 2
Santos, Robert G., and Rachel Boba Santos. 2015b. “Practice-Based Research: Ex Post Facto Evaluation of Evidence-Based Police Practices Implemented in Residential Burglary Micro-Time Hotspots.” Evaluation Review 39(5):451–79.
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Additional References

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

Bowers, Kate J., and Shane D. Johnson. 2005. “Domestic Burglary Repeats and Space-Time Clusters: The Dimensions of Risk.” European Journal of Criminology 2:67–92.

Braga, Anthony A. 2007. “The Effects of Hotspots Policing on Crime.” Campbell Systematic Reviews 1.
http://www.campbellcollaboration.org/lib/download/118/

Brantingham, Paul, and Patricia Brantingham. (eds.). 1991. Environmental Criminology. 2nd ed. Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland Press.

Cohen, L., and M. Felson, 1979. “Social Change and Crime Rate Trends: A Routine Activity Approach.” American Sociological Review 44:588–605.

Cornish, D., and R. V. Clarke. 1987. “Understanding Crime Displacement: An Application of Rational Choice Theory.” Criminology 25:933–47.

Farrell, Graham, and Ken Pease. 1993. Once Bitten, Twice Bitten: Repeat Victimization and its Implications for Crime Prevention. London, UK: Home Office.
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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
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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

Current Program Status: Active

Researcher:
Roberto Santos
Assistant Professor
Radford University
P.O. Box 6934
Radford VA 24060
Phone: 772.224.5784
Website
Email