Demonstration Project

Dr. James Frank


Strategies in American Policing: The Case for Directed and Focused Approaches in Preventing and Controlling Crime

Submitted by

Charles T. Pelz

December 2, 2008


            Police perform their role through law enforcement, service delivery, and order maintenance. While the perception is that police officers enforce the law, the reality is they spend most of their workday maintaining order (Wilson, 1968). Research shows that most police work requires officers’ involvement in domestic problems, drug, alcohol, and other social problems. This type of work takes them away from what they believe is their primary mission, crime control. Crime control is an important charge for the police. Police declare that this is what they do but the research shows otherwise. How police utilize their resources gives a broader picture of what they really do. The main goal of policing is to control crime. Crime control as a police function is a myth (Walker, 1984). How effective police are in controlling crime depends on the strategies employed. In controlling crime, Kelling and Moore (1988) contend that police departments, in order to be effective, must separate themselves from politics and that one of the best ways to deal with crime is through directed patrols (Kelling and Moore, 1988). This paper explores several police strategies and the evidence will show that directed and focused approaches to crime control are superior to unfocused random police patrol.

            Early policing in America was characterized by providing services to the public that consisted of sheltering immigrants, working in soup lines, and performing other social services. While their role was viewed as preventing crime and order maintenance, their authority was derived from the local politicians. In this “Political Era” of policing, police officers were predominantly assigned to foot patrols where their responsibility was to deal with crime and disorder. The demand for their services came from politicians and citizens. Although the organizational design of the police department was supposed to be centralized and quasi-military, the true practice was a decentralization of the department. Precincts were ruled by the local ward politicians who ran them as they saw fit, strong-arming the precinct commanders. Police were used by the local politicians to gather information on fellow citizens for political or personal reasons. Policing in this era was more of the community policing style but its effectiveness as a strategy was fraught with corruption. Police officers accepted bribes for not enforcing laws and physically abusing citizens. Central command had no control over the precincts because of the ward politicians. Thus, there was little control over rouge officers (Kelling and Moore, 1988).

            The “Reform Era” of the 1920s and 1930s saw a new legitimacy to policing and a rejection of the political influence seen in the past. Political involvement in policing was viewed as bad business. Police departments needed to separate themselves from the political machine in order to do their job. Many cities developed ways to get around political patronage that had been so evident in years past. The argument was sound that police departments should be autonomous and insisting that the enforcement of the law be left to them, not at the whim of politicians. The function of police in this era was to control crime and not perform social services. Subsequently, police would become part of the criminal justice system. Centralization of control and departmentalization were key components of the organization with a focus on patrol. In confronting crime, central command created tactical units to address special crime problems in the precincts. The idea was to take away the remaining vestiges of power that precinct commanders had. In this era, police became detached from the citizens. This impersonal policing model was much like what was seen in the television series, “Dragnet.” The professional model of policing was bent on establishing police as professionals who took care of law enforcement much like a doctor, as a professional, would take care of health problems, etc. Police needed to establish themselves as the buffer between the good citizens and danger meaning that it was their responsibility to enforce the law. In order to achieve the goal of crime control, police needed to separate themselves from providing the social services that citizens had become so dependent upon. This professionalization dismissed foot patrol, for example, as an effective way to prevent crime. 911 systems and rapid response to police calls were more important than the other services that had been provided. Preventive patrols by automobile and rapid response to calls were now the new strategies to shorten the distance between police and the criminal, who was also now using the automobile. The theory of preventive patrol in an automobile was based on the belief that patrol cars randomly patrolling the city would reduce crime because of the police visibility. Thus, this visibility would deter criminality and make citizens feel safer (Kelling and Moore, 1988). However, as will be pointed out later, random patrol, as a police strategy for crime prevention, does not work.

            The reform era was doomed in the 1960s and 1970s because police could not measure their effectiveness in preventing crime. Crime was on the rise during this period and even though police had increased their work force and improved their technologies, the research shows that random patrol and rapid response to calls failed to achieve the goal of controlling and preventing crime. The strategies had the unintended consequences of instilling fear of crime in some parts of the cities with low crime rates while in other parts of the cities, fear of crime was low despite a high crime rate. There was the belief that minorities received less police protection and were treated differently than other citizens. Finally, citizens sought alternatives to their protection through the private security sector and community efforts at crime control. Social changes in the 1960s and 1970s also led to the demise of the reform era. The Civil Rights movement, the Viet Nam War, an increase in the juvenile population, court interventions, and generally a liberal movement for due process gave way to a new era known as community policing (Kelling and Moore, 1988).

            Community policing reintroduced the police tactic of foot patrol. Major cities returned to foot patrols. In Flint, Michigan, the idea was so popular with citizens that they voted twice to increase taxes to have more police on foot. In other major cities, politicians again came into the mix supporting this strategy. While some research would support foot patrol as a tactic in crime prevention, police were again providing social services to citizens, a practice that was discarded during the reform era. Nonetheless, foot patrol provided police officers with interaction with citizens without the political interference that was so pervasive during the political era. Along with community policing, problem-oriented policing was introduced with the goal that police would become even more professional by collaborating with citizens and other agencies to solve crime problems. The emphasis on decentralization was to provide all a voice in the decision-making process when it came to officers buying into crime reducing interventions. Community policing depends on a strong relationship between citizens and the police (Kelling & Moore, 1988). The community policing strategy of increased contact with the public without a clear focus on crime prevention does not work (Sherman, 1997). Thus, in this sense, community policing is not a focused approach to crime control. Rather, as will be seen, the more focused approach of a combination of community policing and problem-oriented policing better serves the needs of the community in understanding what crime control means. An understanding of what approaches best serve this need would benefit from a discussion and understanding of criminal behavior and responses to them.

            Rational choice theory portends that individuals are free thinkers and weigh the costs and benefits of committing crime. Crime is an activity that one chooses to be involved in (Eck, 1993). Routine activities theory, a subset of rational choice theory, states that in order for a crime to be committed, there must be a likely offender, a suitable target (a person or object), and the absence of a guardian. A heterogeneous society offers many opportunities for crime. Despite the aging of the baby boomers and increased penalties for crime, the crime rate has increased. The evidence shows that there is a positive relationship between an improving economy and an increase in crime because there is more commercial and personal property to steal. Thus, routine activities explain the increased crime rate. One of the things about routine activities is the mobility of the offender to seek out targets where there is no guardianship (Felson, 1987). Police are capable of diverting the flow of routine activities by more focused approaches such as directed patrols, where police presence is increased at “hot spots” at “hot times” of criminal activity, giving the perception that this concentrated patrol presence will mean less crime in these areas (Sherman, 1997). However, while hot spots can be identified through routine activities, the concept is of particular interest to city planners and environmental designers when designing cities. Properly designed neighborhoods provide opportunities for crime prevention (Felson, 1987).

            Felson (1987) describes four types of crime. (1) The exploitative or predatory crime necessitates that a minimum of one person injure or take the property of another. (2) The mutualistic crime involves two or more people collectively committing a crime that benefits both, such as prostitution or gambling. (3) The competitive offense involves two people acting in identical roles, such as a fight. (4) The individualistic offense is a single person committing an offense where there is no other person involved, such as drug use or suicide. What Felson explained was that routine activities reach not only to the exploitative offenses but also to the other three types of crime. They can all meet the element of routine activity in space and time without guardianship. As in routine activities, Felson points out those juveniles who, for the most part, have “handlers” that enforce some informal social control, commit crime when they are outside the reach of their handlers and thus, find suitable targets without guardianship. These offenders would appear to be stupid and lazy taking the “Principle of Least Effort” which states that offenders take the path of least resistance in finding a suitable target. The idea is not to be caught committing a crime thus, the offender finds the shortest route where the least time is spent in acquiring what they want. In this sense, offenders do not stray from the easiest route, afraid of being trapped inside unfamiliar territory. The “Principle of the Most Obvious” states that the offender exposes himself to very little risk when there is a quick in and out, such as a diversion into a neighborhood from a main thoroughfare and not venturing too far off the beaten path (Felson, 1987).

            Skogan and Antunes (1979) contend that crime prevention efforts are dependent on the information that police receive (Skogan and Antunes, 1979). One of the tenets of community policing is that police and citizens exchange information about offenders, suspects, and crime events. It is this information that assists police in apprehending criminals and solving crimes. The evidence indicates that police must do a better job of compiling and analyzing information given to them by victims and witnesses. Most crimes cannot be solved unless citizens cooperate with police. Quickly apprehending criminals provides the needed deterrent effect of certainty of punishment and is more important than the severity of punishment. That is why information is so important. Burglary, for example, is a very difficult crime to solve. Routine activities allow the offender to attack a target that is oftentimes absent a guardian. Crimes of violence have a better chance of being solved because there is a victim(s) and possible witnesses. In a RAND Corporation study, it was shown that the information a victim provides to the patrol officer who responds to the scene of the crime determines whether the case will be solved. In other words, if the victim is able to give a good description of the perpetrator, the chances of apprehension are increased (Skogan and Antunes, 1979).

            Eck (1993) describes that displacement is a concept whereby offenders act in response to blocked criminal opportunities. In other words, where police clamp down on criminal activity, such as a “hot spot,” offenders may remain after altering the way they do things or move to another area to resume their illegal activities (Eck, 1993). In routine activities of place, it is believed that crime is not displaced simply by displacing offenders, but that offenders must move to other areas with new targets (Sherman, Gartin, and Buerger, 1989). Eck (1993) describes six different types of crime displacement, temporal, spatial, target, method, crime type, and perpetrator. Temporal displacement means that the offender changes the time of day when they commit their crimes. In spatial displacement, the offender moves to another area to commit crime. Target displacement refers to the offender changing targets, perhaps in the same area or an adjacent area. Method displacement states that the offender changes the way they attack a target, a person or place. An offender may change from one type of crime to another, which is crime type displacement. Finally, offenders are arrested and are replaced by other criminals and resume criminal activities in a place. This is identified as perpetrator displacement where offenders are cycled (Eck, 1993).

            Theories of crime suggest that offenders will seek unblocked opportunities of crime and that increased law enforcement will not deter them. Deterrence might work if offenders, who commit crimes by choice, were offered legitimate opportunities to succeed. Because offenders weigh the costs and benefits of crime, they may not be displaced by increased enforcement. The empirical evidence supporting displacement is weak. While there may be evidence of a reduction in crime, displacement has been difficult to detect. While displacement might be a threat to enforcement programs at hot spots, this threat cannot be seen as watering down any gains in crime prevention. The automobile has offered new opportunities for crime. Adult offenders are able to move about better than juvenile offenders. Therefore, target distance plays a major role in whether or not it will be attacked (Eck, 1993).

            “Diffusion of benefits” describes what happens in adjacent areas next to a hot spot of crime receiving a focused intervention. What occurs is that crime is reduced in the adjacent areas as a benefit of the intervention at the hot spot or target area. Here too, like displacement, there have been few studies that have measured its effectiveness with any reliability. Problem-oriented policing, as a strategy, could prove to be useful in understanding the theory of displacement and its threats (Eck, 1993).

            The concept of place is intertwined in the definition of routine activities. Place is not a social position or a broader community but rather, a permanent tangible setting that can be seen. Places also have routine activities that are regulated, such as sexually oriented places of business and bars being near residences, schools and churches. Place can be used as a unit of analysis in measuring crime. Victimization surveys and self-report studies, two methods for measuring crime, do not provide data on place crime. Police crime reports provide descriptions of place and oftentimes, this data is not reliable because of poor recordkeeping. New sources of crime data such as 911 and other police call data provide a more complete record of place crime. Combining with the other two methods, measuring crime becomes more complete. Researchers have to be careful that call data is not duplicated. One criminal event can produce several calls to the police (Sherman, Gartin and Buerger, 1989).

            Police call data can provide valuable information in identifying potential “hot spots” of crime and designing focused patrol responses as was done in an experiment in Minneapolis in 1985-1986. In Minneapolis, police have used the problem-oriented approach to minimize the meeting of offenders and suitable targets, absent guardianship, of places that have a pattern of violence (Sherman, Gartin and Buerger, 1989). There are other directed and focused approaches to crime prevention that work.    

            One hypotheses of crime prevention is that if there are more police, there will be less crime. Others believe that informal social control and the influence of the social domains have a more powerful effect on crime prevention. In other words, police have little ability to prevent crime. Actually, additional police may have an influence in preventing crime dependent on how well they are allocated to areas of serious crime. What is known through the research is that just hiring more police officers does not thwart serious crime. There is no strong empirical evidence that hiring more police officers reduces crime. Even though police strikes may spike the crime rate, there are no comparison groups to indicate cause and effect. Assigning police officers to hot spots, as a focused approach, has shown to reduce crime. How police are allocated does matter. The evidence also shows that having more police officers does not reduce the time that police respond to emergency calls. Random patrol dosage shows no reduction in crime as well (Sherman and Eck, 2002). Directed patrols on the other hand, reduce crime. Increased numbers of officers on directed patrol in high crime places, times or areas prevent crime. Reducing patrols in low crime areas and increasing directed patrols in high crime spots is a proactive allocation of resources to prevent crime (Sherman and Eck, 2002). Sherman and Weisburd (1995) state that patrol dosage is considered from the point of view of the offender or the police. The criminal is also observing in time and places either by being displaced or shifting the time they commit crimes (Sherman and Weisburd, 1995). Others believe that increased presence in hot spots simply displaces the offenders to other areas, however, there is no evidence that this occurs (Sherman and Eck, 2002).

            Strategies, like community policing, without planning and direction will have no effect on crime. What the research does show is that directed and focused approaches like directed patrols, proactive arrests and problem solving at high crime areas or “hot spots” does prevent crime. On the other hand, police can create risk factors for crime simply by being rude to the public. There is a tendency that people will not obey the law if treated unfairly by the police. If police are viewed as legitimate, then people are more willing to obey the law, particularly juveniles (Sherman and Eck, 2002).

            Besides numbers of police, there are other hypotheses about police and crime prevention. As noted earlier in this paper, in the reform era of policing, rapid response to calls meant that if police respond quickly to the scene of a crime, there would be less crime in the future. The idea is that if police quickly arrive at the crime scene the more likely, that the crime will still be in progress and the assailant arrested. If the assailant is arrested, then the theory of deterrence is invoked because of the certainty of arrest and subsequent incapacitation. In the early years of policing, patrol officers were closely supervised within their beats. Directed patrol gave way to random patrol as officers responded to emergency calls that took them beyond their assigned beats. The idea of random patrol was that police would be at locations across the city at unexpected times giving the impression that they were always present. The theory was that random patrol would deter crime. Directed patrols on the other hand, were viewed as a directed and focused approach to address crime patterns. The concept argued that more police patrols at high crime areas at certain times would prevent crime. Random patrol would be unable to effect any meaningful crime prevention (Sherman and Eck, 2002).

            The Kansas City Preventive Patrol experiment was a year-long study that assessed the long-established policing strategy of routine patrol. Such outside testing can sometimes appear to threaten the domain of police administrators who view, as do other insiders, outside research as an unnecessary intrusion into the organizational culture. Fortunately, Kansas City’s police chief was an innovative administrator who welcomed the experiment. It was a wide held belief that visible police presence deterred criminality and assuaged the public’s fear of crime. The conclusion of the experiment revealed that routine patrol had no major effect on the crime rate or making citizens feel safer. What the experiment did suggest was that how police are deployed made a big difference. Focused patrols in specific crime prevention areas were a strategy that paid some dividends as opposed to random or routine preventive patrol (Kelling, Pate, Dieckman, and Brown, 1974).

            Reactive arrests, usually in response to citizen complaints, widen the net by informing people that they can be arrested at any time for any law violation. However, the evidence shows that police employ their discretion by not arresting most people even if the arrest would have been legal. Citizen groups were of the belief that more arrests would reduce crime. Arresting people for minor offenses could have the unintended consequence of increasing crime because arrested citizens would develop disrespect for authority. Reactive arrests can lead to repeat offending, especially among juvenile offenders. Youth become defiant the more they have contact with the police. Most juveniles have no more than one police encounter. The more a juvenile suspect is processed through the legal system, the higher the rate of recidivism. Repeat offending is also found among those who are unemployed as opposed to those who are employed (Sherman and Eck, 2002).

            Proactive arrests which the police initiate, are focused, like directed patrol, to a smaller number of targets that are high-risk. Certain offenses and offenders are targeted at high-risk places at certain times. Among high-risk targets for arrest include chronic serious offenders, probable robbery suspects, drug selling areas, and high-risk areas and periods for drunk driving. Zero tolerance is based on the “broken windows theory” that a broken window invites crime or an area that appears to be disorderly will succumb to an increase in violent crime. This focused approach states that more arrests reduce crime in these “hot places” at “hot times.” In the age of automobility, the evidence points out that robbery rates are reduced with traffic arrests. Routine activities would point out that the offender then had no suitable target. Proactive arrests in drunken driving crackdowns are promising as well, as it provides a deterrent after effect for some time. Zero tolerance tactics are controversial and can be detrimental to police-community relations. How zero tolerance is applied determines public reaction. Arresting people for minor offenses engenders resentment toward the police and while there may be short-term reductions in serious crime, particularly gun violence; the long-term effect may be an increase in serious crime (Sherman and Eck, 2002). Arrests for minor offenses promote more offending, which suggests there needs to be other alternatives (Sherman, 1993). Arresting employed offenders for minor violations tends to darken their public reputation. Having an arrest record is often a hindrance to present and future employment and leads offenders, their families, and friends to distrust the police. Generally, proactive arrests, as a directed approach, serve the purpose of crime prevention when aimed at high risk and repeat offenders and when used in drunken driving crackdowns. There is little evidence that proactive arrests reduce violent crime or drug crimes (Sherman and Eck, 2002).

            Less focused approaches to crime prevention are community policing and problem-oriented policing. Nonetheless, they are popular strategies although some observers contend that community policing is a waste of time and money. A boost to the community policing concept was the infusion of federal grants to hire 100,000 police officers. As noted earlier in this paper, community policing arose from the civil disorders and crime increases of the 1960s. In the reform era, as also noted, police were detached from the citizenry. Thus, because of these problems, police were urged to make more contact with citizens and become less formal or legalistic. The hypotheses of community policing is that getting into the neighborhoods and commiserating with the community would reduce crime. Problem-oriented policing combined with community policing as police administrators were searching for new solutions, internally, to prevent crime as random patrols, rapid response, and greater numbers of police had been proven ineffective in preventing crime. Community policing, as a crime prevention strategy, occurs in several ways (Sherman and Eck, 2002).

            Neighborhood watch programs increase the interaction between police and citizens by using citizen volunteers to watch their neighborhoods believing that these watches prevent crime. In routine activities, the potential offender realizes that though there is a suitable target, there is a guardianship present. Community-based intelligence allows citizens to communicate with the police information they have accumulated regarding suspicious person, offenders and offenses, which aid the police in their crime prevention efforts. Police can also give citizens needed information about recent crime events and patterns in a form of reverse 911, a means of electronic communications to businesses and residences. As noted earlier, community policing provides a means of police legitimacy, something that was lost during the reform era of the 1960s and 1970s. Citizens who view the police as the good guys are more likely to obey the law.     The evidence indicates that community policing is not an effective approach for crime prevention although, there is some promise for increasing the legitimacy of police in the community. Neighborhood watch programs are fruitless in crime prevention because neighborhoods with high crime rates are unwilling to coordinate the effort. In other words, there is less sense of community as opposed to Middle-class neighborhoods that have little reason to organize neighborhood watch programs, as crime is low in those areas. Other researchers find that such programs can increase people’s fear of crime. There is strong evidence that door-to-door visits by police can have some influence on crime prevention. Reduction in car thefts and other property crime is probably due to police educating citizens on locking car doors, homes and other areas of a residence (Sherman and Eck, 2002).

            However, gains in crime prevention were more evident in white middle-class homes as opposed to those in the minority communities. Home visits are also shown to reduce fear of the police. Problem-oriented policing, as a strategy, gives the department the ability to solve problems in-house. Researching crime patterns and developing directed and focused approaches to the problem can reduce and prevent future crime. Police storefronts as a tactic in community policing have failed to have any impact on crime prevention. Information from the police to citizens in the form of newsletters fails to produce any crime prevention benefits. Police legitimacy is promising in preventing crime as citizen encounters with the police become more positive. When police take the time to explain to citizens why they are being arrested and are treated respectfully, this increases police legitimacy. Canberra, Australia police experimented with a restorative justice like approach called “community accountability conferences” with juvenile offenders, which fostered a greater respect for police. As a focused approach, this type of community policing may hold promise to reducing crime. Involving all parties in a “village-like” atmosphere could prevent crime (Sherman and Eck, 2002).

            Problem-oriented policing (POP) appears to be more promising than community policing. Here, police solve problems through the scientific method. Problem solving in police work centers around places. Hot spots tend to be the bulk of police work with this strategy. Directed approaches are developed to prevent crime. Police analyze crime data, develop an intervention, and test it in the field. However, the cooperation of community, other governmental and non-governmental officials, and businesses are fundamental in the success of problem-oriented policing. The evidence is strong that problem-oriented policing reduces crime, particularly at hot spots at hot times where firearms are involved. POP summons police to be more resourceful in solving problems rather than accepting and shelving them. Using expertise within a police agency can help the police to be more assertive in problem solving and place them in an affirmative stature in the community (Sherman and Eck, 2002; Goldstein, 1979).

            What works are increased directed patrols at hot spots, proactive arrests of high risk or repeat criminals, drunken driving offenses, and problem-oriented policing. Neighborhood watches, arresting juveniles for minor violations, arresting the unemployed for minor offenses, community policing with no apparent focus on crime prevention, and increasing the number of police without a clear purpose are strategies that do not work in reducing and preventing crime (Sherman and Eck, 2002).

            Skogan and Attunes (1979) argue that policing strategies may well determine the certainties of arrest. Preventive patrol and rapid response are two strategies discussed but the efficacy of these strategies in effecting arrests and preventing crime is questioned. Again, there is the assumption that the presence of patrol cars and rapid response prevents crime, when in fact, the evidence shows that police can observe just so much and that most crimes in progress are not interrupted by visible patrols. What the authors provide is that appropriate policing strategies may raise the level of certainty. The deterrence effect may be found in places where security guards work and where facilities control the ingress and egress of people. The bottom line is that crime prevention is the responsibility of both police and citizens because police are not omnipresent (Skogan and Antunes, 1979).

            It has been observed that random motorized police patrol does little to prevent crime and even increased numbers of police fail to reduce crime unless they are concentrated in high crime areas or more specifically, hot spots at hot times and with a specific purpose. The Kansas City, Missouri Police Department conducted a yearlong experiment in the early 1970s to determine the effect routine preventive patrol or random patrol had on crime and public fear of crime. This major study was known as The Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment (Kelling, Pate, Dieckman, and Brown, 1974). The primary goal of the experiment was to measure whether or not random patrol deterred crime. What the study found was that despite reduced visibility, normal visibility, and increased visibility of motorized patrol, there was no major impact on the level of crime or the public’s fear of crime. Critics of the study stated that Kansas City was not representative of more populous major cities. There were no claims made in the experiment that the findings were generalizable to any other major city. What the study did suggest, however, is that police departments should use different deployment strategies in addressing specific crime problems instead of relying on random patrol to prevent crime (Kelling et al., 1974). Police departments must explore different strategies to prevent and control crime.

            Mentioned earlier was the policing strategy of problem-oriented policing. It is here that police identify, research, and analyze specific crime patterns and other problems and develop appropriate responses to them. In addition, this strategy encourages the participation of the public, businesses, and other organizations in the prevention and control of crime and disorder in the community. Goldstein (1979) argues that in the 1960s police focused their efforts on professionalization by modernizing the department with a business-like approach. However, the late 1960s was a tumultuous period in America as noted earlier and police agencies were being criticized for their impersonal style and ostracizing citizens. Citizens were demanding more services from the police who had earlier abandoned performing social services. Police were more concerned with professionalizing their ranks. The problem was developing that while police agencies were becoming more professional, they lost sight of their mandate of preventing crime. Citizens do not seem to be concerned with all the frills of a modern police department. They simply want the services. They view the end product of policing as handling behavioral and social problems, and regular police work such as, handling robberies, domestic disturbances, and traffic problems (Goldstein, 1979).

            The essence of problem-oriented policing is that the police must acknowledge problems and develop a systematic process of identifying these problems citizens expect them to solve. This requires assessment and research of the problem and what the results are. In the search for solutions, police must come up with the most logical response and test it in the field. Police identify patterns of crime with the goal of developing strategies to reduce crime. Police have to change their attitudes of complacency and exploit the expertise within their agency and become more aggressive cohorts with other public organizations (Goldstein, 1979).

            As noted earlier, problem-oriented policing and community policing work hand in hand. Both strategies employ working with the community in partnership to prevent crime. Eck (2001) states there are three important specifics regarding problem-oriented policing, what he refers to as “ravenous wolves,” “sitting ducks,” and “dens of inquiry.” The wolf is the repeat offender, the sitting duck is the repeat victim, and the dens of inquiry are repeat places. All symbolize routine activities theory that says when offenders, targets and places correspond repeatedly, and handlers and guardians do not interfere, there is a crime problem (Goldstein, 1979).

            There has already been some discussion of “hot spots” policing where police pay extra attention to a small number of areas or places of high-risk crime. It has also been discussed that the threat of displacement is minor in areas where police concentrate their efforts in controlling and preventing crime. Displacement of crime is a main argument in not allocating those extra resources to hot spots. The research showed that there is no proof that displacement was a problem across every crime category. Displacement is a rival hypothesis as to why crime declines at a hot spot (Sherman and Weisburd, 1995).

            Sherman and Weisburd (1995) designed a study in partnership with the Minneapolis Police Department to study hot spot patterns and using them as a unit of analysis. It was important that all police officers buy into the project. The project was propagandized through meetings, pizza parties, and t-shirts exploiting the project. Hot spots bore the definition of small areas with serious and not so serious calls to police. Police call data was mentioned earlier as a powerful tool for police to use in identifying hot spots of crime. The hypothesis was that significant increases in police patrol at hot spots could reduce crime in these locations. What the evidence showed was that there was some general deterrence observed at hot spots with significantly increased police presence. A better explanation is that there is a “micro-deterrence” effect at “place-specific” areas. Rational choice theory again explains that even if crime is displaced to other areas because of hot spot intrusion, it is explained by those costs and benefits of committing crime. Directed patrol may be objectionable to police who prefer to arrest offenders after the crime has been committed. Problem-oriented policing with a dose of community policing forces officers to interact with the community, something, historically they would rather not do. Directed police patrolling from hot spot to hot spot may be the more preferable strategy in addressing police boredom. The Minneapolis experiment has not been generalized to any other major city police department but does offer the evidence that directed police patrol does have an effect on crime (Sherman and Weisburd, 1995).

            Hot spot policing, a directed patrol strategy has been shown to be an effective strategy in controlling and preventing crime. Problem-oriented policing enables police departments to gather information on these crime patterns, analyze them, and produce testable hypotheses to reduce crime at hot places at hot times. In another Kansas City, Missouri study, developed in 1991 and conducted for 29 weeks in 1992-1993, police were able to significantly reduce gun crime with directed patrols at hot spots without much displacement to surrounding control areas. Hot spots where repeat offenders carry guns are also problematic. Nonetheless, the Kansas City findings are in harmony with the hypothesis that gun violence can be reduced with extra law enforcement against carrying guns by high-risk individuals at hot times and hot places. Few major city police departments have tested this hypothesis. Gun seizures in this instance have been after crimes have been committed. The Kansas City study primarily focused on guns and their outcomes on gun crimes. Generally, hot spot enforcement may have a residual deterrent effect after the intervention ceases therefore, it is important to monitor these areas and initiate a maintenance program. Directed patrol in the hot spots of course, increases the visibility of the police and provides general deterrence. There is the shared concern among some scholars that studies or experiments that have not been generalized to other police agencies are not worthy of publication. Sherman and Rogan (1995) believe otherwise, that police are the best judge of this strategy. What they do advise, however, is that gun patrols in certain areas may hurt relations between the police and the community. Because the study showed that citizens were now less fearful of crime, there was the problem of gun patrols being discriminatory toward minorities, causing them to become defiant, and thus committing more crime (Sherman and Rogan, 1995). Again, police may find that being proactive in gun seizures is boring work and as previously mentioned, prefer reacting to crime rather than preventing it. In supporting this hypothesis and if routine activities is accurate, there should be little displacement and yet may even support a diffusion of crime benefits.

            The Jersey City Drug Market Analysis Experiment of 1995 looked to business owners and citizens to assist in crime control efforts in reducing drug crime through police crackdowns. What the study concluded was that hot spot enforcement reduced drug offending with little evidence of displacement. In fact, there was evidence of diffusion of benefits around the treatment areas. Again, some scholars have been of the opinion that crime control efforts by police simply mean more police interfering in people’s lives and that the police function is maintaining order and not preventing or controlling crime. Even very prominent scholars, such as Gottfredson and Hirschi, believe that no strategy the police use will have any influence on crime rates. Others, like Goldstein, suggest that a more focused approach to specific crime problems can decrease severe crime and other associated problems. In the Drug Market Analysis (DMA) program, businesses and citizens were used to help identify the most disorderly areas and identify offenders in the hot spots. Evident, was target hardening of known offenders who routinely dealt drugs in these areas. Because there was little evidence of displacement, it must again be stated that this may be due to offenders not wanting to drift too far from their comfort zone and if they did, there was some evidence of diffusion of benefits. The overall conclusion of this randomized experiment suggested that specific and focused police approaches to crime and disorder work in controlling and preventing crime. It is important that police focus interventions on hot places at hot times, and on hot crimes. Problem-oriented policing was an important strategy in this experiment (Weisburd and Green, 1995).

            Directed patrol, as mentioned earlier, involves allocating officers to specific high crime areas and their hot spots. These directed patrols do not respond to calls for service. Evidence shows that traffic stops are the most common approach in directed patrols. The idea is that increasing patrols is a general deterrent because it increases detection of criminal activity (McGarrell, Chermak, and Weiss, 2002). Today, racial profiling is a new topic of research regarding traffic stops.

            Hence, directed patrols geared toward traffic enforcement with the specific purpose of detecting suspicious individuals in high-risk areas, moves from a general deterrence strategy to a specific or targeted deterrence strategy. In a 2002 Indianapolis Police Department study of reducing gun violence, it was shown, like the 1992-1993 Kansas City experiment, that when police recognize a crime problem and take a focused approach to the problem, they could control and prevent crime. The Indianapolis study also confirmed that there was no displacement and that the intervention did not damage police-community relations. As indicated earlier in this paper regarding target hardening, the Indianapolis study showed that directed patrol using a specific or targeted deterrence approach in high-risk areas could have substantial effects on violent crime. What the study also concluded was that problem-oriented policing helped guide the department in creating valuable interventions (McGarrell et al., 2002).

            In 1994, the Saint Louis Police Department introduced a new program to reduce gun violence among youth. Citizens and police met to find ways to curb this violence. What resulted was a consent-to-search strategy where police were invited by parents into their homes in high crime neighborhoods to search for guns that might have been stashed by their children. There were no criminal prosecutions for guns that were confiscated. Help from agencies and community organizations were offered to parents and children should they wish them. Community support was high for this program. This was a good example of police using strategies of problem-oriented and community policing, simultaneously. The program fell apart after a new police chief took office. After several years of starting and stopping the program, it faded away in 1999 (U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, November 2004).

            Another gun intervention program was Operation Ceasefire in Los Angeles. This program was meant to send a message to gang members who used guns in the commission of a crime. The criminal actions of one gang member using a gun would bring consequences to all members of the gang. There was coordination of 19 public and private agencies involved with the Los Angeles police in constructing a response to the gun violence. The strategy was that police would increase patrols in gang-infested areas. The message had already been put out or “retailed” that there would be consequences for any violence with guns. Directed patrols did have the intended effect of reducing violent crime in the identified hot spots. The program also confirmed that problem-oriented policing is a proven strategy. Using data, analyzing that data, developing interventions, and collaborating with other agencies and the community can control and prevent crime (U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, February 2005).

            Herman Goldstein introduced problem-oriented policing (POP), mentioned earlier, in 1979. It continues to be an overarching police strategy. One of the problems with POP is police officers can be reluctant to buy into the strategy. Police officers would rather be doing something else. The San Diego Police Department instituted POP in the early 1990s. POP states that police should spend more of their time on problems as opposed to incidents. Problems or patterns of crime may very well represent a collection of incidents that beg for a solution or intervention. Addressing the problem means police can address causes as well. The idea of POP is to “work smarter, not harder.” Initial assessments of POP indicated that problems were not sufficiently identified and analysis of the data was inadequate. Interventions were inclined to be more routine enforcement strategies. Other research has indicated improvements were made as police agencies became more comfortable with the concept. San Diego officers felt the best use of POP was in dealing with drug houses, and “broken windows” neighborhoods. The conclusion of the San Diego project was that POP has some improvements to make before officers fully embrace the concept. Most of their problem solving is not really POP. Officers are encouraged to engage citizens in problem solving and that is a part of community policing as well. As has been seen, real POP is much more analytical. Even in San Diego, true POP was rare (Cordner and Biebel, 2003).

            The Boston Gun Project of 1995 was a POP project designed to reduce youth homicide, those 24 years and younger. The project was later known as Operation Ceasefire. The research began to show that the favorite weapon of youth were semiautomatic pistols. Homicides were generally confined to repeat offending street gang members. The conclusions of the study revealed that there was a significant decline in youth violence in Boston during this intervention. POP is credited with the decline of youth violence because of the involvement of law enforcement, social services, and other organizations (Braga, Kennedy, Waring, and Piehl, 2001).

            It has been asserted in this paper that focused approaches consist of directed patrols, proactive arrests and problem-oriented policing. It is known that crime does not occur evenly across places and times and that crime is generally concentrated in small areas. That is why it is important that in controlling and preventing crime, police must focus their labors to those areas to realize the greatest benefits of reduced crime. When police can prevent criminals from meeting victims, they can reduce crime. Police do little to prevent crime with such strategies as random patrols and rapid response. The empirical evidence clearly shows that when police focus on specific high-risk areas rather than random patrol or rapid response across large expanses of the city, there is crime reduction. Interventions used to prevent crime at hot spots are a combination of POP, directed patrols, and crackdowns. Braga (2001) reviewed several programs already discussed in this paper. His conclusion was that directed, focused approaches at high-risk crime places or hot spots can control and prevent crime, and that such focuses do not displace crime. Some studies also showed a diffusion benefits (Braga, 2001).

            Aggressive policing strategies, like zero-tolerance, are meant to impose order and decrease crime with the support of citizens. Strict enforcement of laws is the foundation of this strategy. There is no evidence of a causal relationship between aggressive law enforcement and serious crime. In fact, as has been mentioned before, aggressive law enforcement strategies can lead to reoffending and defiance toward police particularly, in minority neighborhoods. While there are some short-term reductions in crime, crime is sure to increase (Eck and Maguire, 2000).

            The evidence concludes that directed patrols, proactive arrests, and problem solving at hot spots reduces and prevents crime. Crimes such as robbery, gun violence, drunk driving, domestic violence, and disorder can be prevented under certain conditions and with certain methods. Community policing that lacks clear goals does not prevent crime (Sherman and Eck, 2002). Police deal with the community on a continuing basis. Most empirical evidence shows that foot patrols, storefronts, and neighborhood watches do little to control and prevent crime. Residents believe that disorder, such as loud noise, dirty streets, and badly maintained buildings, etc., are more severe that crime. In problem-oriented policing, police look for the cause of crime, a more focused approach to study crime patterns or problems, analyzing the data, creating an intervention with help from individuals, the public, and other agencies to control and prevent crime (Eck and Spelman, 1987). Zhao and Thurman (2001) take issue that increased numbers of police do not reduce crime. Their 2001 study on the effects of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) federal grants to states concluded that hiring more police had contributed to decreasing crime in cities of over 10,000 populations (Zhao and Thurman, 2001).

             In conclusion, it has been shown what works and what does not work in controlling and preventing crime. Directed and focused approaches to crime control are superior to unfocused random police patrol. The evidence is conclusive that directed patrols at hot places at hot times prevent crime. Proactive arrests indentify repeat offenders and incapacitate them. Drunk drivers are taken off the road through proactive arrests in designed crackdowns. Problem-oriented policing can be directed to address many problems. The POP approach depends on and supports the concept of community policing, but is not identical to community policing. As has been demonstrated, random patrol, neighborhood watch programs, arresting juveniles for minor offenses, arrests of the unemployed for minor violations, community policing without clear objectives, and increased numbers of police, have little or no effect in reducing crime. Focused efforts have seen significant gains in taking guns off the street. Property offenses receive little attention because police do not consider them serious crime therefore, concentrated patrols would be viewed as wasting resources better spent on high-risk, high crime places.


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