A randomized controlled trial of different policing strategies at hot spots of violent crime
Focusing police efforts on “hot spots” has gained acceptance among researchers and practitioners. However, little rigorous evidence exists on the comparative effectiveness of different hot spots strategies. To address this gap, we randomly assigned 83 hot spots of violence in Jacksonville, Florida, to receive either a problem-oriented policing (POP) strategy, directed-saturation patrol, or a control condition for 90 days. We then examined crime in these areas during the intervention period and a 90-day post-intervention period. In sum, the use of POP was associated with a 33% reduction in “street violence” during the 90 days following the intervention. While not statistically significant, we also observed that POP was associated with other non-trivial reductions in violence and property crime during the post-intervention period. In contrast, we did not detect statistically significant crime reductions for the directed-saturation patrol group, though there were non-significant declines in crime in these areas during the intervention period. Tests for displacement or a diffusion of benefits provided indications that violence was displaced to areas near the POP locations, though some patterns in the data suggest this may have been due to the effects of POP on crime reporting by citizens in nearby areas. We conclude by discussing the study’s limitations and the implications of the findings for efforts to refine hot spots policing.