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Program Profile: Portland (OR) Burglary Prevention Project

Evidence Rating: Effective - One study Effective - One study

Date: This profile was posted on September 12, 2011

Program Summary

A community crime-prevention program in Portland, Oregon, that used a combination of private prevention techniques and neighborhood prevention efforts to protect neighborhoods from burglary. The program is rated Effective. Homes that participated in the program had lower burglary rates than those that did not. The results indicate that there was a citywide decline in burglary rates that could possibly be attributed to the program.

Program Description

Program Goals

The Portland (OR) Burglary Prevention Program was implemented in 1973 as part of the Impact Cities Initiative, which was funded by the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration. It was operated by the Crime Prevention Bureau (CPB), a division of Portland’s police department staffed by civilians. The program was intended to mobilize residents of neighborhoods to help develop a community crime-prevention strategy to reduce and prevent burglary in high-crime areas of Portland. More specifically, the program was intended to reduce burglaries at individual households, using private security techniques, and to promote safer neighborhoods by using collective prevention techniques.


Target Sites/Program Components

The CPB began by identifying high-crime areas in Portland and then canvassed selected neighborhoods door to door. CPB officials then held neighborhood meetings for those who chose to participate. During these meetings, details of the program were explained and materials were distributed.


First, the meetings provided recommendations for private protection techniques designed to protect individual homes. These techniques included the installation of different types of locks, alarms, and outside lighting; removal of hedges to increase visibility; and special precautions to take during vacations. Residents were also encouraged to mark their property with engravers, supplied by the CPB, which were intended to trace property if it was stolen. The residents were also encouraged to place a decal outside of their homes, to indicate that the home was protected and that property was marked. These techniques were designed to deter potential burglars and increase security for individual households.


The program meetings also concentrated on promoting neighborhood prevention efforts. During the meetings, residents were educated on burglary techniques to better protect themselves and neighbors. The program also provided information on suspicious behavior, actions to take if suspicious behavior or a crime in progress was observed, and general ways for residents to look out for one another’s safety. These techniques were intended to promote the safety of the neighborhood as a whole.


Key Personnel

The program was operated by the CPB and implemented using participation from members of the community.


Program Theory

The theory behind the Portland Burglary Prevention Program is that criminals calculate risks and benefits before committing a crime and that they will ultimately choose targets they perceive as low risk. Following from this idea, the program was designed to increase the risks for burglars to break into homes. Theoretically, if property is marked with obvious indications of protection, the offender will be less inclined to break into the home. Further, educating residents how to be more aware of suspicious activities in the neighborhood will reduce the likelihood that a burglar will strike in the area, since they are more likely to be noticed. In using these techniques, the idea of the program was to increase protection of individual households as well as the entire neighborhood.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Private Benefits/Burglary Rates among Participating Households

Schneider (1986) found that homes that participated in the Portland Burglary Prevention Program had lower burglary rates than those that did not. The two designated high-priority areas had the highest levels of participation; these areas also had the most significant reductions in burglary rates after program implementation. Before implementation of the program, the likelihood that a house in the high-crime areas of Portland, OR, would be burglarized was calculated to be 20 percent or higher. Participants in the Street Lighting Area had this rate reduced to 8.4 percent after beginning the program, while nonparticipating homes had a 24 percent chance of being burglarized. Participants in the Crime Prevention Bureau high-priority area had this rate reduced to 7.7 percent; while nonparticipating homes in this area had a 21 percent chance of being burglarized. These differences were found to be statistically significant, and no evidence of a self-selection bias was found.


For the entire city of Portland, participating homes had a 6.87 percent chance of being burglarized, while nonparticipants had a 10.1 percent chance of being burglarized. The overall difference between participants and nonparticipants was about 30 burglaries per 1,000 households. If it is assumed that participating households would have had the same rate as nonparticipants in the absence of the program, then the “reduction” in burglaries is about 32 percent. These differences were found to be statistically significant.


Collective Benefits/Burglary Rates Citywide

According to the two victimization surveys, the citywide burglary rate for Portland in 1972 was 151 burglaries per 1,000 households, and the rate dropped to 127 burglaries per 1,000 households in 1974. This could indicate a citywide reduction in burglary rates.


The official police statistics indicated that the burglary rate was 68.6 burglaries per 1,000 households in 1971 and increased to 90 per 1,000 households by the end of 1973 and early 1974. However, not all burglaries were reported to the police; thus, the victimization survey data was used to estimate the proportion of all burglaries reported to the police and was adjusted with the official statistics.


When all adjustments in official statistics are taken into account in the reporting, the official burglary rates showed a drop between 1971–72 and 1973–74. These results indicate that there was a citywide decline in burglary rates that could possibly be attributed to the Portland Burglary Prevention Program.

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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1

Schneider (1986) analyzed three sets of data using a preprogram–postprogram comparison.


To estimate the proportion of burglaries reported to the police, two victimization surveys were analyzed. The first survey was designed specifically for the evaluation and included questions on knowledge of and participation in crime prevention activities, attitudes toward crime, actions taken to avoid being victimized, and other various questions related to burglary prevention. The survey was administered in 1974 and had a recall period of May 1973 to April 1974. The interviews were conducted in person; approximately 3,950 interviews were conducted. Out of the total interviews, 1,909 were conducted within Portland, OR’s city limits; the remainder were conducted in suburban Portland. Two high-crime areas were selected as high-priority areas: the Street Lighting Area of Portland and another Crime Prevention Bureau (CPB)–designated high-priority area.


The second victimization survey contained previously collected data, which was obtained by the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) in 1972. However, Census Bureau rules prohibited the data from being divided into subareas within Portland. The rules also prohibited the Bureau from providing individual-level data, which could have been used for a historical control group. While there were some limitations in using this data in the analysis, the data was used for a pre–post examination of change in citywide burglary rates.


The third set of data used in the evaluation was police statistics on offense rates for burglaries and other Crime Index offenses for the entire city.


The evaluation sought to compare the private benefits of the program and the collective benefits of the program. Further, the displacement effect was also taken into account when conducting the evaluation. If certain residents take precautions to protect themselves, burglars may simply move to easier targets—whether they are in the same neighborhood or in other nearby areas. This would not actually reduce the volume of crime, which would simply be moved to other areas. To analyze possible displacement effects, subareas of Portland were included in the evaluation.


The private benefits were assessed by analyzing the effects of participating households compared with households that did not participate in the program. This was done using the victimization survey designed for the evaluation. Households were denoted as participants if they displayed antiburglary decals outside of their homes. Data on participants and nonparticipants who lived in the same section were compared, and—to isolate the effect of the program—statistical controls were introduced for other variables related to participation and burglary rate. The information was obtained by calculating the percentage of homes with stickers that had been burglarized one or more times after the stickers were displayed. The number of months of opportunity for burglaries to occur was calculated (based on dates when the stickers were displayed), and the rate was then adjusted to a yearly equivalent. To supplement the evaluation of private effects of the program, survey items that specially benefited the individual (as opposed to the neighborhood overall) were analyzed. Multiple regression analysis was then used to assess the independent effect of attending block meetings on these types of activities.


Collective benefits were assessed by estimating the change in burglary rates for the entire city of Portland. Since no baseline victimization data was available for specific areas within the city, preprogram citywide burglary rates were calculated using data from the LEAA victimization surveys. Postprogram victimization rates were assessed using the second victimization survey designed specifically for the evaluation. Using this data, survey victimization rates before implementation of the program (preprogram rates) were compared with survey victimization rates after the implementation of the program (postprogram rates). In addition, official police burglary statistics for preprogram and postprogram rates were analyzed for the entire city and adjusted for differences in reporting percentages as reflected in the victimization surveys.

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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
Schneider, Anne L. 1986. “Neighborhood-Based Antiburglary Strategies: An Analysis of Public and Private Benefits From the Portland Program.” In Dennis P. Rosenbaum (ed.). Community Crime Prevention: Does It Work? Beverly Hills, Calif: SAGE Publications, Inc., 68–86.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Neighborhood Watch
Also known as block watch, apartment watch, home watch, and community watch, these programs involve citizens trying to prevent crime in their neighborhood or community. Citizens remain alert for suspicious activities and report those activities to the police. The practice is rated Promising in reducing crime in the control area compared to the experimental area; and rated No Effects in reducing victimization.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Victimization - Multiple victimization outcomes
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Program Snapshot

Gender: Both

Geography: Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): High Crime Neighborhoods/Hot Spots

Program Type: Community Awareness/Mobilization, Neighborhood Watch, Community Crime Prevention , Situational Crime Prevention, General deterrence

Current Program Status: Not Active

Anne Schneider
Professor, School of Politics and Global Studies
Arizona State University
2210 E. Siesta Drive
Phoenix AZ 85042