A Study of the Efficacy of Hot Spot Police Patrols on Crime Essay

AbstractThere are hardly easy answers to fighting crime but use of police patrols is definitely one of them and even if it was not, it has been a popular method employed by many a police force. This proposal puts the efficacy of police patrols on balance and asses its merits and shortcomings. The study would draw on both secondary data from police records but also obtain primary data by conducting surveys on the public from whom respondents would be chosen using non probability methods.

The likert scaling method would too be used to gather data.  Data would then be using standard deviations as well as bar charts.Introduction            Crime is undoubtedly one of the pressing problems with a crying need for urgent solutions and it’s popularly believed that heightened police activity in hot spot areas is an effective way to deter and prevent crime. Law enforcement agencies have been adamant about the effectiveness of their methods pointing to specific examples where crime rates plummeted following increased police activity and intelligence gathering. This claim is well backed too with recent researches on the subject. Even so, critics believe the method to be wasteful and rather than driving down crime, it actually leads to displacement of criminal activities to other locations with less patrols thusly society hardly gains (Moore & Shepherd, 2007)            This study would attempt to bring more evidence into the debate by studying the effect of scaling back police patrols by 30% on the public perceptions of crime as well as the actual crime reports drawn from the official police records. The data analysis would seek to draw any relationships between the crime rates and patrol activities which would in turn be applied to test the study’s hypothesis whether confluence increases crime, whether police patrols reduce crime and whether public perceptions on crime change with changes in patrol activities.

Literature ReviewEffective police patrols rely on reliable intelligence gathering that would identify the hot spots in which those patrols are to be targeted (Braga. 2007), (Champion, and D. J. 2006).

Correct identification of areas with heightened crime activities allows the police an ability to anticipate, detect as well as better respond to the crimes. But even with the information, a proper means of intervention need be chosen which would include the use of patrols among others. According to the broken windows theory, increased police activity should hence be directed to trouble areas paying attention to even the slightest signs of disturbance. Would patrols be any effective?According the economist Gary Becker, people choose to commit crime based on their perceptions of risk and returns of crimes, people weigh the utility they could gain by using their time and resources in crime against the possible risk and costs of being caught. One will choose to engage in crime if the expected utility by way of benefits from crime outweighs the risks, but both the risks as well as the expected utilities are highly dependent on probability, and the probability of being caught which increases risk would be elevated with increased police patrols. Thusly, patrols tip the balance between utility and risk and ultimately deterring crimes from happening in the first place (Becker, 1996).

This has been seized on by police departments across the world with remarkable success stories.The application of the broken windows concept by the NYPD resulted in a dramatic 60% fall in the levels of all crimes across the city. Aware that criminals were more comfortable committing petty offences, the police intensified their pursuance of petty offences like fare offenders on the subway coupled with increased intelligence gathering as well as increased patrols which acted as an effective deterrent to the commission of crimes (Champion, 2006).Evaluations conducted in several American cities and an Australian suburb involving different policing strategies aimed at identifying the effectiveness of patrols and the possible displacement of crimes to other areas.

In Minneapolis, uniformed police patrols were scaled up in hot spots and resulted in a reduction in crime as well as falls in levels of disorders while in New Jersey planned, or court ordered crack downs on street drug markets was used along with the deterrent patrols which in turn resulted a fall in reported crimes and calls for service and without a marked rise in the crime displacement rate (Lab, 2007).In Kansas City, authorities resorted on stricter enforcement of laws including harsher sentences for offenders while Houston used police beats each with a separate character where three beats used zero tolerance enforcement techniques, three more used highly visible police officers and an extra beat used police officers that enlisted the community’s assistance in helping reduce crime rates and the varied beats recorded differing results but there was no evidence in the displacement of crime to other areas without noticeable police presence (Meyers et al, 2005).Some argue that reductions in the crime levels owing to increased patrols results from the displacement or crime to other areas or simply a short ceasing of criminal activities that would resurge in the long term thusly rendering police patrols on effective in the short tern and unsustainable. A study conducted by Skogan, ruled out the tendency for increased police presence to displace crimes to other areas.

Interviews with offenders who included prostitutes and drug dealers among others indicated that familiarity of the crime areas coupled with the social networks of criminals made relocation to other areas difficult even with elevated opportunities for crime in those other places (McGarrell, Giacomazzi & Thurman, 1997).Another empirical evaluation of the efficacy of patrols conducted by Shennele Et al which studied the effects of raising police presence on a specific crime, home burglary and found an inconsiderable effect on crime levels. This present study aims at establishing any evidence as the efficacy of patrols.Research QuestionsDo extra police patrols in high crime hot spots reduce crime in those places?Hypothesis 1:Police presence is inversely related to criminal occurrencesHypothesis 2:Police presence is inversely related to perceptions of insecurity among the public.Hypothesis 3:Confluence is directly related to criminal activity and crime types – in specific, assault and robbery are proposed to be the related crimes to the areas selected for evaluation.

 Evaluation Sites             This study has selected two evaluation sites out of a possible eight locations across South East Queensland.  The chosen sites are:-Fortitude Valley, which is located close the Brisbane CBD. It has an estimated population of 12,432 with a mean income of $5,214. 11%Surfer’s Paradise, Gold Coast.

It has a population of 8,745 with a mean income of $ 4,824.Both these sites are centers of numerous activities which draw large amounts of people (Places of confluence) and are characterized by high night activity. The sites were chosen because there have consistently reported high rates of crimes and thusly would be appropriate for establishing the effects of increased effects on crime of elevated police patrols in a relatively short duration (Babbie & Earl, 2005). An average of 4.2 part one crimes occurred per day in the two zones compared to average of 2.3, of other zones.

Part 1 crimes consist of homicides, petty larceny, assault, robberies and burglaries among others.The focuses of interest in Fortitude Valley as well as Surfers paradise are the Police Beat Shop fronts located at the following addresses respectively:Fortitude Valley Mall275-277 Brunswick StreetFortitude Valley, QLD 4006For Surfers’ Paradise:191/192AParadise CentreCavill MallSurfers Paradise Qld 4217Evaluation DesignThe evaluation is proposed to be designed around a pre-post quasi-experiment. This so owing to the difficulty of deciding which members of the public are to be part of the experiment, those to receive the treatment and those that those that actually give the feed back.

Data will be collected from the public to elicit their perceptions of crime rates using structured interviews. Although such interviewing may be expensive, it has been chosen since members of the public may not understand some of the questions and thusly interviewers should be on hand besides curbing bias on the part of interviewers since there is a pre determined set of questions to be asked. Similarly likert scale method has been selected owing to the difficult of putting a figure on the perception of crime by lay public members. The experiment is proposed to be carried out in three phases.1)      Data collection from sites at present2)      Reduction of visible police presence by 30% in target areas for eight weeks, followed by data collection.3)      Resumption of normal police patrol levels, and data collected again after another eight weeks.The study would use both the primary data drawn from the samples of the public as well as secondary information obtained from police records.StepsTactical police units do exist in many a major police departments and stations meant at carrying out specific assignments.

This study will cut three tactical vehicles for patrol in the selected areas, leaving only seven vehicles. The patrol cars would be issued with instructions to only take emergency calls or calls where crimes are being committed and then the amount of time taken by the squads responding to calls would be recorded. To target, the hot spots, the patrol cars would be given intelligence and reports on a daily basis as regards the areas of the selected sites, reporting high levels of part 1 crime (Moore & Shepherd, 2007).

Independent monitoring of the patrol activities would be undertaken by the research staff by fitting the patrol cars with techno graphic instruments. These instruments transmit information about the locations of the patrol cars, speeds, application of emergency lights and the distances covered by the vehicles. This information would then be compared to the locations of the calls to service or those reporting cases of crime. Samples would also be obtained from victims of crime which would then be matched with the locations of patrol. In addition, in the interest of reliability, the reports by investigative officers would be cross checked at random against the classification of the crimes to make certain that classifications of crimes remain the same throughout the experiment.Tracking of patrol cars locations and correlating them with service calls and reported crime incidences would ensure checks for repeatability. The aim is to create a higher level of certainty and repeatability in the evaluation, and also in order to create reliable outcomes.The evaluation process is based on previous evaluations in similar studies, where data collection was successful in Beenleigh/Browns plains (Criminal Justice Commission, 1998), Toowoomba (Criminal Justice Commission, 1995).

The proposed reduction is to be of the visible police only, with full numbers of officers available on call, or in patrolling in plainclothes. This is due to ethical concerns about making vulnerable the citizens in the areas of study.The design is appropriate for the research question because of the difficult nature in quantifying crime in a short period of time, in an open system such as the selected hot spots. The evaluation design is aimed at getting reliable results in a short time, around four months, at low cost in order to present a clear picture of the effect of police patrols and presence in crime hot spots. In addition, quasi experimental design is quite effective in controlling possible threats to external validity which include pervasive effects of historical changes, selection, and setting of the study since it will be conducted in the natural setting of the study among others.Quasi experimental design is however limited in that it is prone to the threats to internal validity. Pre test results may affect subsequent results after the treatment, the effects of other events on the crime levels for instance the existence or private security, or installation of burglar alarms may affect the results of the study.

Population and sampleThe sample is primarily expected to be men and women aged 16-40, because of this being the predominant demographic group in the chosen settings. In generalizing to the larger population, there will be a bias towards the younger end of the spectrum. A secondary sample is staff at establishments, especially those in high contact with the public, at supermarkets, restaurants and bars.

This sample is again biased towards the younger end of the spectrum, because they are retail and hospitality staff.The first sample is indicative of general public experience and would be drawn from surveying members of the public. The second sample will be drawn from police officers as well as records. Sampling the official crime data and police officers has been chosen for increased reliability of data, because of regular daily patterns of staff, variances in crime are more reliably reported by them (Warr, 1984).The study will be twofold – looking at crime rates during the study period, as well as public perception of safety during the period. The reason for collecting data on public perception is because assaults do not always get reported, intimidating behavior is rarely a police complaint, and public perception can be indicative of environmental changes that quantitative crime reports miss (Caeti, 1999). Hypothesis1 states that assaults and robberies will be the two most reported and dealt with crimes during the study period, based on current data (Courier Mail, 2010).

The data would be collected over the  period of two months on the following variables to be considered in the study would include the following; number of service calls, reported crimes, incidences of part 1 crimes and the perception of risk among the public. The evaluation of the study is interested in possible changes to in these variables before and during and after the treatment.Data will be collected from surveying both the public and staff at establishments in the locality and will include the following; number of responses, incidences of shoplifting, rates of perceived security during the day as well as at night, opinions on the desirability of police presence, observed police presence, perceptions on the changes in aggressive or intimidating behavior.Collection of data from the police will be through the records during the evaluation period. The advantage here is the reliability of the data collected, and this method has been widely used in other such similar studies (Braga, Weisburd, Waring, Mazerolle, Spelman, & Gajewski, 1999; Braga A.

A., 1997). The disadvantage is that the data does not present the complete picture of change in criminal activity in the environment, over this short duration (eight weeks).Collection of data from the public will be through anonymous questionnaires, applied and collected by volunteers. People will be approached and requested to fill out the questionnaire, with the volunteer identifying the survey as a review of the ‘safety of the area’. There may be incentives provided to people filling out surveys – a can of coke or similar.

A sample questionnaire is attached in the appendix.The data collected from both locations is proposed to be analyzed, and in line with hypothesis 1, there should be an increase in criminal activity, and/or decrease in public’s perception of safety during the control period. The types of criminal activity to increase the most would be assault and robbery, as proposed in hypothesis 2.Data Analysis            This study involves a number of variables, four in number. These variables would determine the method of analysis. The likert scale too will have a bearing on the type of analysis to be applied to the different variables; the scale would have to be processed to determine representative responses before further analysis can be undertaken.

The main approach would include comparison of the variable values with the ideal situations. The study proposes that a 30% reduction in patrols would lead to a 40% rise in part 1 crimes and a 25% rise of a sense of insecurity among the public. The data collected would then be assessed as to its deviations from the expected score. The correlations in the standard deviations would then be used to test the hypothesis (Likert & Rensis, 1932).Ethics            Participants should protected form the study effects must be borne in mind in designing and implementing the study.

In the first place scaling down the patrol vehicles may lead to a rise in crimes which would expose the public to risks. Confidentiality of interviewees should as well be ensured, besides ensuring that normal life goes on at the sites selected for the study since police presence may disrupt activities affecting the businesses negatively.Potential harmful effects of hot spot policing may result into the public perceiving police efforts aggressive and thusly increased hostility from the public. This study hopes to show that there are gainful effects from hot spot policing than simply displacing crimes to other places. Do residents question the fairness of police patrols or the legitimacy of police presence in their neighborhoods?Project Management            The study team would comprise of five people led by the director of the project who would be charged with coordinating the entire research. The team would set of by mapping out all the project activities from the beginning to the end including the acquisition of the necessary material. Since the study draws on both secondary as well as primary data sources, the secondary sources would be identified by the team and studied after which gathering of the primary data would commence.            Training as well as instruction and supervision of the interviewers would be under the director assisted by the team.

Interviewers would not be given a strict criterion to determine the manner in which to identify respondents since the study does not rely on probability based sampling methods but they would be required to cover a specified numbers of individuals in given age groups.            Once data gathering is done, in an estimated period of one and half months, the analysis of data would commence and is expected to take a further two weeks.            The research is estimated to cost $10,000 of which $ $5000 would be used to pay the study team as well as the interviewers  as follows; Director, $1000, four team members $ 400 each and the rest would go to the interviewers. The study materials including questionnaires, $800 traveling expenses and allowances, meeting facilities, $800, computer, $1500 telephone bills, $300, equipment for the office $ 600 while other miscellaneous expenses are estimated at $ 750.

ConclusionRecent review of police activities reveals that largely general policing practices like preventive patrolling as well as mounting raids on suspected locations or places are less effective relative to other measures that emphasize community involvement like working with business owners and landlords to pin point areas of crime that can then be targeted by police activities.Hot spots policing holds great potential for crime reduction but the understanding of the effects of such policing have remained general and more research need be carried out to determine impacts of different policing strategies and more studies need be focused in this area as well on the cost implications necessary to increase patrols.Reference:Braga. (2007). Police Enforcement Strategies to Prevent Crime on Hot Spots.

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