European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 489–513 | Cite as

Facilitators and Impediments to Designing, Implementing, and Evaluating Risk-Based Policing Strategies Using Risk Terrain Modeling: Insights from a Multi-City Evaluation in the United States

  • Eric L. PizaEmail author
  • Leslie W. Kennedy
  • Joel M. Caplan


The contemporary policing literature contains numerous examples of partnerships between academic researchers and police agencies. Such efforts have greatly contributed to evidence-based policing by increasing the knowledge base on effective strategies. However, research has demonstrated that successful collaboration between researchers and practitioners can be a challenge, with various organizational and inter-agency factors presenting difficulties at various stages of the process. Additionally, applied research can oftentimes face implementation challenges when the time comes to convert research into practice. The current study contributes to the literature by discussing researcher/practitioner partnerships and program implementation in the context of a multi-city risk-based policing project in the United States. We conceptualize police interventions as contingent on four distinct phases: 1) problem analysis, 2) project design, 3) project implementation, and 4) project evaluation. In this project, the research partners were able to successfully complete each phase in certain cities while the project experienced difficulty at one or more phases in other cities. We discuss these disparate experiences, identifying factors that facilitate or impede successful completion of each step. Policy implications and recommendations for future risk-based policing interventions are discussed.


Risk Terrain Modeling Program Implementation Evidence-Based Policing 



This article is based upon the authors’ experiences participating in researcher/practitioner partnerships funded by the National Institute of Justice, grant numbers 2013-IJ-CX-0053 and 2012-IJ-CX-0038. We thank the analysts, officers, and command staff at each of the police agencies referenced in this article for their willingness to partner with us and their hard work on this project. All opinions are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Institute of Justice or any of the mentioned police agencies.


  1. Ariel, B., & Partridge, H. (2016). Predictable policing: Measuring the crime control benefits of hotspots policing at bus stops. Journal of Quantitative Criminology.
  2. Ariel, B., Weinborn, C., & Sherman, L. (2016). “Soft” policing at hot spots—Do police community support officers work? A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 12(3), 277–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barnum, J., Campbell, W., Trocchio, S., Caplan, J., & Kennedy, L. (2016). Examining the environmental characteristics of drug dealing locations. Crime & Delinquency.
  4. Barnum, J., Caplan, J., Kennedy, L., & Piza, E. (2017). The crime kaleidoscope: A cross-jurisdictional analysis of place features and crime in three urban environments. Applied Geography, 79, 203–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berman, G., & Fox, A. (2010). Trial & error in criminal justice reform. Learning from failure. Washington: Urban Institute Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bowers, K., & Johnson, S. (2010). Implementation failure and success: Some lessons from England. In J. Knutsson & R. Clarke (Eds.), Putting theory to work. Implementing situational prevention and problem-oriented policing. Crime prevention studies (vol. 20, pp. 163–198). Boulder: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
  7. Braga, A. (2010). Setting a higher standard for the evaluation of problem-oriented policing initiatives. Criminology & Public Policy, 9(1), 173–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Braga, A. (2013). Embedded criminologists in police departments. Ideas in American Policing. Washington: Police Foundation.Google Scholar
  9. Braga, A. (2016). The value of “pracademics” in enhancing crime analysis in police departments. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 10(3), 308–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brown, R. (2010). The role of project management in implementing communty safety initiatives. In J. Knutsson & R. Clarke (Eds.), Putting theory to work. Implementing situational prevention and problem-oriented policing. Crime prevention studies (vol. 20, pp. 37–64). Boulder: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
  11. Buerger, M. (2010). Polcing and research: Two cultures separate by an almost-common languague. Police Practice and Research. An International Journal, 11(2), 135–143.Google Scholar
  12. Caplan, J., & Kennedy, L. (2013). Risk terrain modeling diagnsotics utility (version 1.0). Newark: Rutgers Center on Public Security.Google Scholar
  13. Caplan, J., & Kennedy, L. (2016). Risk terrain modeling. Crime predictions and risk reduction. Oakland: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  14. Caplan, J., Kennedy, L., & Miller, J. (2011). Risk terrain modeling: Brokering criminological theory and GIS methods for crime forecasting. Justice Quarterly, 28(2), 360–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Caplan, J., Kennedy, L., & Baughman, J. (2012). Kansas City’s violent crime initiative: A place-based evaluation of location-specific interventon activites during a fixed time period. Crime Mapping, 4(2), 9–37.Google Scholar
  16. Caplan, J., Kennedy, L., Barnum, J., & Piza, E. (2015). Risk terrain modeling for spatial risk assessment. Cityscape: A Journal of Policy Development and Research, 17(1), 7–16.Google Scholar
  17. Cissner, A., & Farole, D. (2009). Avoiding failures of implementation. Lessons from process evaluations. New York: Center for Court Innovation. Washington: Bureau of Justice Assistance.Google Scholar
  18. Comeau, M., Duda, J., Petitti, N., & Klofas, J. (2011). Analysis of 2010 Rochester-City pawn shop transactions. Working paper: 2011–03. Rochester: Center for Public Safety Initiatives, Rochester Institute of Technology.Google Scholar
  19. Drawve, G., & Barnum, J. (2017). Place-based risk factors for aggravated assault across police divisions in little rock, Arkansas. Journal of Crime and Justice.
  20. Drawve, G., Moak, S., & Berthelot, E. (2016). Predictability of gun crimes: A comparison of hot spot and risk terrain modelling techniques. Policing and Soceity, 26(3), 312–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Eck, J., & Spelman, W. (1987). Problem-solving: Problem-oriented policing in Newport News. Washington: Police Executive Research Forum.Google Scholar
  22. Goldstein, H. (1979). Improving policing: A problem-oriented approach. Crime and Delinquency, 25, 236–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Goldstein, H. (1990). Problem-oriented policing. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  24. Hagan, J. (1989). Why is there so little criminal justice theory? Neglected macro- and micro-level links between organization and power. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 26(2), 116–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Heffner, J. (2013). Statistics of the RTMDx utility. In J. Caplan, L. Kennedy, & E. Piza (Eds.), Risk Terrain Modeling Diagnostics (RTMDx) Utility user manual (version 1) (pp. 26–34). Newark: Rutgers Center on Public Security.Google Scholar
  26. Huey, L., & Mitchell, R. J. (2016). Unearthing hidden keys: Why pracademics are an invaluable (if underutilized) resource in policing research. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 10(3), 300–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Innes, M., Fielding, N., & Cope, N. (2005). ‘The appliance of science?’ The theory and practice of criminal intelligence analysis. British Journal of Criminology, 45, 39–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Johnson, S., Tilley, N., & Bowers, K. (2015). Introducing EMMIE: An evidence rating scale to encourage mixed-method crime prevention synthesis reviews. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 11(3), 459–473.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Keay, S., & Kirby, S. (2017). The evolution of the police analyst and the influence of evidence-based policing. Policing, A Journal of Policy & Practice.
  30. Kelling, G., & Coles, C. (1996). Fixing broken windows: Restoring order and reducing crime in our communities. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  31. Kennedy, D. (1997). Pulling levers: Chronic offenders, high-crime settings, and a theory of prevention. Valparaiso University Law Review, 31, 449–484.Google Scholar
  32. Kennedy, L., Caplan, J., & Piza, E. (2011). Risk clusters, hotspots, and spatial intelligence: Risk terrain modeling as an algorithm for police resource allocation strategies. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 27(3), 339–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kennedy, L., Caplan, J., Piza, E., & Buccine-Schraeder, H. (2016). Vulnerability and exposure to crime: Applying risk terrain modeling to the study of assault in Chicago. Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy, 9(4), 529–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Klofas, J., Hipple, N., & McGarrell, E. (Eds.). (2010). The new criminal justice. American communities and the changing world of crime control. New York and London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  35. Leigh, A., Read, T., & Tilley, N. (1996). Problem-oriented policing. Paper 75. London: Crime Detection and Prevention Series. Police Research Group, Home Office.Google Scholar
  36. Lersch, K. (2017). Risky places: An analysis of carjackings in Detroit. Journal of Criminal Justice.
  37. Lewin, K. (1947). Group decision and social change. In T. Newcomb & E. Hartley (Eds.), Readings in social psychology (pp. 202–203). New York: Holt and Company.Google Scholar
  38. Lum, C., & Koper, C. (2017). Evidence-based policing: Translating research into practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. MacQueen, S., & Bradford, B. (2017). Where did it all go wrong? Implementation failure—And more—In a field experiment of procedural justice policing. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 13(3), 321–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mastrofski, S., & Willis, J. (2011). Police organization. In M. Tonry (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of crime and criminal justice (pp. 479–508). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Mock, L. (2010). Action research for crime control and prevention. In J. Klofas, N. Hipple, & E. McGarrell (Eds.), The new criminal justice. American communities and the changing world of crime control. New York and London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  42. Moreto, W., Piza, E., & Caplan, J. (2014). A plague on both your houses? Risks, repeats, and reconsiderations of urban residential burglary. Justice Quarterly, 31(6), 1102–1126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Nagin, D., Solow, R., & Lum, C. (2015). Deterrence, criminal opportunities, and police. Criminology, 53(1), 74–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Papachristos, A. (2011). Too big to fail. The science and politics of violence prevention. Criminology & Public Policy, 10(4), 1053–1061.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Piza, E. (2017). The effect of various police enforcement actions on violent crime: Evidence from a saturation foot-patrol intervention. Criminal Justice Policy Review.
  46. Piza, E., & Feng, S. (2017). The current and potential role of crime analysts in evaluations of police interventions: Results from a survey of the International Association of Crime Analysts. Police Quarterly.
  47. Piza, E., Feng, S., Kennedy, L., & Caplan, J. (2016). Place-based correlates of motor vehicle theft and recovery: Measuring spatial influence across neighbourhood context. Urban Studies, 1–24.
  48. Ratcliffe, J. (2005). The effectiveness of police intelligence management: A New Zealand case study. Police Practice and Research, 6(5), 435–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Read, T., & Tilley, N. (2000). Not rocket science? Problem-solving and crime reduction. In Crime reduction research series, paper 6. London: Home Office, Policing and Reducing Crime Unit.Google Scholar
  50. Rengifo, A., Stemen, D., & Amidon, E. (2017). When policy comes to town: Discourse and dilemmas on implementation of a statewide reentry policy in Kansas. Criminology.
  51. Sanders, C., Weston, C., & Schott, N. (2015). Police innovations, ‘secret squirrels’ and accountability: Empirically studying intelligence-led polcing in Canada. British Journal of Criminology, 55, 711–729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Santos, R. B. (2013). Crime analysis with crime mapping (3rd ed.). SAGE: Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  53. Santos, R. B. (2014). The effectiveness of crime analysis for crime reduction: Cure or diagnosis? Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 30(2), 147–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Santos, R. B., & Taylor, B. (2014). The integration of crime analysis into police patrol work: Results from a national survey of law enforcement agencies. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management Article Information, 37(3), 501–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Scott, M. (2010). Implementing crime prevention: Lessons learned from problem-oriented policing projects. In J. Knutsson & R. Clarke (Eds.), Putting theory to work. Implementing situational prevention and problem-oriented policing. Crime prevention studies (Vol. 20, pp. 9–36). Boulder: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
  56. Secret, M., Abell, L., & Berline, T. (2011). The promise and challenge of practice-research collaborations: Guiding principles and strategies for initiating, designing, and implementing program evaluation research. Social Work, 56(1), 9–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Shane, J. (2007). What every chief executive should know: Using data to measure police performance. Flushing: Looseleaf Publications.Google Scholar
  58. Sherman, L., & Weisburd, D. (1995). General deterrent effects of police patrol in crime "hot spots": A randomized controlled trial. Justice Quarterly, 12(4), 625–648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Sorg, E., Wood, J., Groff, E., & Ratcliffe, J. (2014). Boundary adherence during place-based policing evaluations: A research note. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 51(3), 377–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sparrow, M. (2008). The character of harms.Operational challenges in control. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sparrow, M. K. (2011). Governing science. New Perspectives in Policing. Harvard University Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Program in Criminal Jusitce Policy and Management Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice.Google Scholar
  62. Sparrow, M. (2016). Handcuffed. What holds policing back, and the keys to reform. Washington: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  63. Taylor, B., Kowalyk, A., & Boba, R. (2007). The integration of crime analysis into law enforcement agencies: An exploratory study into the perceptions of crime analysts. Police Quarterly, 10(2), 154–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Visher, S., & Weisburd, D. (1998). Identifying what works: Recent trends in crime prevention strategies. Crime, Law and Social Change, 28, 2230242.Google Scholar
  65. Weisburd, D., Mastrofski, S., McNally, A., Greenspan, R., & Willis, J. (2003). Reforming to preserve: COMPSTAT and strategic problem solving in American policing. Criminology & Public Policy, 2(3), 421–456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wellford, C. (2009). Criminologists should stop whining about their impact on policy and practice. In N. A. Frost, J. D. Freilich, & T. R. Clear (Eds.), Contemporary issues in criminal justice policy (1st ed., pp. 17–24). Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage.Google Scholar
  67. Welsh, W., & Harris, P. (2016). Criminal justice policy and planning. 5th edition. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Willis, J., Mastrofski, S., & Weisburd, D. (2007). Making sense of COMPSTAT: A theory-based analysis of organizational change in three police departments. Law & Society Review, 41(1), 147–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wright, R., & Decker, S. (1994). Burglars on the job. Boston: Northeastern University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric L. Piza
    • 1
    Email author
  • Leslie W. Kennedy
    • 2
  • Joel M. Caplan
    • 2
  1. 1.John Jay College of Criminal JusticeCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.School of Criminal JusticeRutgers UniversityNewarkUSA

Personalised recommendations