The Indianapolis (Indiana) Directed Patrol program was designed after the Kansas City (MO) Gun Experiment of 1992–93, which used aggressive traffic enforcement to seize illegal weapons in a high-crime area. After the success of this experiment in seizing illegal firearms to reduce violent crime, the Indianapolis Police Department implemented its own version of the program in 1997.
The main goal of directed patrol was to reduce crime in Indianapolis, particularly violent firearm–related crimes, by increasing police presence in high-crime areas. This proactive approach allowed officers to concentrate on suspicious activities and high-risk offenders, and to provide a deterrent effect in high-crime areas. This would ultimately incapacitate dangerous offenders and remove illegal guns from the streets.
After an analysis of crime rates in different areas of Indianapolis, several police beats with high crime rates were selected as the target sites for directed police patrol.
Program Components/Key Personnel
During directed patrol, officers are relieved of the duty of responding to calls for service and instead assigned to a specific high-crime area to allow them to conduct proactive investigations of suspicious activities. Aggressive traffic enforcement and traffic stops are frequently used to investigate suspicious activities.
In the East District’s target police beats, traffic stops were increased to maximum levels to create a sense of increased police presence in order to provide a general deterrent effect. The police department also anticipated that these stops would result in numerous seizures of illegal weapons and drugs. Officers were trained to focus on traffic violations, such as speeding, the running of stop signs, expired license tags, broken tail lights, and other similar violations.
In the North District’s target police beats, traffic stops were used to target specific suspicious offenders and activities to provide a specific deterrent effect. The main focus was to arrest dangerous offenders and seize illegal weapons and drugs. A “targeted offender” approach was used, whereby officers targeted individuals suspected of being involved in illegal behavior. In another component of this specific deterrence strategy, officers paired up with probation officers to conduct home visits of offenders.
Collaboration between patrol officers and the research team was vital in implementing this program.
The theory behind directed police patrol is that increased police presence reduces criminal activity. If a general increase in the number of police has a negative impact on crime, then increasing the level of police in high-crime areas should produce even stronger crime-control results. Directed police patrol uses a proactive strategy of policing to prevent crimes from occurring, as opposed to a reactive strategy that makes arrests after a crime has already been committed.
To reduce crime, directed police patrol focuses on theories of deterrence, both general and specific, as well as incapacitation. The theory of general deterrence is that if police presence is increased, the likelihood that criminal activity will be detected is also increased. Therefore, the risks for committing crime are higher, and people are deterred from wrongdoing. The theory behind specific deterrence is that focusing on arresting and processing high-risk offenders in high-crime areas will deter these offenders from future wrongdoing. The theory of incapacitation is to remove dangerous offenders from the street, as well as to reduce the number of firearms that can end up in the hands of a dangerous offender.