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Program Profile: Directed Patrol and Self-Initiated Enforcement in Hot Spots (St. Louis, Missouri)

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on August 15, 2016

Program Summary

This is an experiment designed to assess the effectiveness of different hot spots tactics (i.e., directed patrol and self-initiated enforcement) on firearm violence. The program is rated Promising. Hot spots that received the self-initiated enforcement experienced a significant reduction in firearm assault rates. However, no differences were found on firearm robbery rates.

Program Description

Program Goals
In 2012, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) implemented an experiment to assess the impact of different hot spots-policing tactics (directed patrol and self-initiated enforcement) on firearm violence. The experiment was implemented as part of a “Public Safety Partnership,” which included the SLMPD, the mayor’s office, and researchers at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. The SLMPD’s Crime Analysis Unit (CAU), alongside university researchers, developed the experiment, which was designed to last for 9 months.

Although hot spots policing, in general, includes the increase of police presence in an area where crime typically occurs, there are different tactics that can be used by the officers to specifically address crime. Therefore, the overall goal of this experiment was to investigate the relative effectiveness of two different tactics: directed patrol and self-initiated enforcement.

Target Sites
The CAU selected 46 geographic areas in St. Louis with the highest amount and concentration of firearm violence and robberies occurring over several months during the year prior to the experiment. Firearm violence was determined by counts of homicides and nondomestic aggravated assaults committed with a firearm. From this list, the CAU selected four areas within each of the eight districts with the highest amount and concentration of firearm violence. 

Program Activities
Officers who were assigned to directed patrol were instructed to patrol slowly through the hot spots area and avoid engaging in self-initiated contact, unless a crime was in progress, or the safety of a citizen or fellow officer was in jeopardy. 

Conversely, officers who were assigned to self-initiated enforcement tactics were also instructed to patrol slowly through the hot spots area, but were also told to engage in forms of self-initiated activity. Self-initiated activity was defined as arrest, pedestrian checks, building checks, occupied vehicle checks, unoccupied vehicle checks, foot patrol, and problem solving. The experiment was limited to evening shifts (3:00 – 11:00 p.m.) and overnight shifts (11:00 p.m. – 7:00 a.m.), when the frequency of firearm violence was the greatest. 

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Firearm Assault Rates
Rosenfeld and colleagues (2014) found that hot spots areas that received self-initiated enforcement (Treatment 1) experienced a significant reduction in firearm assault rates, as compared with sites that received the directed patrol (Treatment 2) and sites that received the comparison condition.
 
Firearm Robbery Rates
Alternatively, the researchers found no difference between the treatment areas (Treatment 1 and 2), and the control area on firearm robbery rates. 
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
To determine the effectiveness of different hot spots-policing tactics (i.e., directed patrol in hot spots areas versus self-initiated enforcement in hot spots areas), Rosenfeld and colleagues (2014) used a quasi-experimental design with two treatment areas (directed patrol and self-initiated activity) and one comparison area. Officers who were assigned to the directed patrol areas (Treatment 1) were instructed to patrol slowly through the hot spots area and avoid engaging in self-initiated contact, unless a crime was in progress or the safety of a citizen or fellow officer was in jeopardy. Officers who were assigned to the self-initiated enforcement areas (Treatment 2) were also instructed to patrol slowly through the hot spots area, but were also told to engage in one or more forms of self-initiated activity. The officers assigned to the comparison areas were not given special instructions and were not notified of the experiment.  

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s (SLMPD)’s Crime Analysis Unit (CAU) and researchers from the University of Missouri, St. Louis used the ESRI ArcMap geospatial mapping to identify hot spots of firearm violence across street segments in each of the eight participating police districts during the year prior to the intervention. Hot spots areas were identified based on the allocation of homicides, firearm assaults, and firearm robberies. Areas whose crime concentration was two standard deviations above the mean crime concentration for that area were analyzed by summing the number of violent crime incidents per street segment. Street segments with numerous crime incidents the previous year were included in the experiment, which resulted in 32 hot spots within the eight police districts (four hot spots within each district). The four hot spots within each police district were then randomly assigned to the treatment and control conditions. For example, in one district, one hot spot would receive Treatment 1, one hot spot would receive Treatment 2, and the remaining two hot spots would be assigned to the comparison conditions.  

A difference-in-difference (DID) design was used to contrast the difference in outcomes between the treatment and comparison conditions both before and during the intervention. A DID design also allowed the researchers to determine the differences between two different hot spots-policing tactics (directed patrol and self-initiated enforcement). The outcomes of interest were firearm assault rates and firearm robbery rates. 

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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
Rosenfeld, Richard, Michael J. Deckard, and Emily Blackburn. 2014. “The Effects of Directed Patrol and Self-Initiated Enforcement on Firearm Violence: A Randomized Controlled Study of Hot Spot Policing.” Criminology 52(3): 428–49. 
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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: Urban

Setting (Delivery): High Crime Neighborhoods/Hot Spots

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

Current Program Status: Not Active

Researcher:
Richard Rosenfeld
Researcher
University of Missouri – St. Louis, Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice
529 Lucas Hall
St. Louis MO 63121
Phone: 314.516.6717
Fax: 314.516.5048
Website
Email