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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    These police departments varied in terms of size and the crime type they prioritized for this project. PD-A served a residential population of nearly 400,000 while residential populations were over 1 million for both PD-B and PD-C. Comparing all seven partnering agencies, PB-B and PC-C served the largest populations while PD-A served the third smallest. For the applied intervention portion of the project, PD-B and PD-C planned to focus on violent crimes, targeting shootings and robbery respectively, while PD-A selected residential burglary as their priority crime.

  2. 2.

    In considering our experiences, we felt that multiple steps highlighted by Welsh and Harris (2016) were accomplished somewhat simultaneously at certain steps. For example, given the nature of the ACTION meetings (discussed subsequently), identifying goals and objectives, program design, and action planning operated concurrently. Thus, we decided to present these activities within a single “project design” phase in our study. Furthermore, Welsh and Harris (2016) conceptualized reassessment and review as the step during which evaluation results of pilot programs are used to make changes prior to full-scale implementation. Given the time constraints associated with the funding period for this project, we did not work with any agency on a full-scale, agency-wide implementation of risk-based policing. Therefore, we only include a discussion of our program evaluation efforts.

  3. 3.

    See http://www.infogroupdatalicensing.com/why-infogroup-data-licensing/what-we-do; http://www.infogroupdatalicensing.com/why-infogroup-data-licensing/how-we-do

  4. 4.

    “Packaged liquor stores” refer to businesses whose primary purpose is to sell liquor. “Liquor licensed retailers” are facilities that are in business to sell other items, but also sell liquor, such as convenience stores, grocery stores, etc.

  5. 5.

    While presentation of the evaluation findings is outside the scope of this study, we should note that in cities where measurement between experimental and control areas was possible, observed crime reductions were generally supportive of the risk-based interventions. Crime reductions in the overall target areas as compared to control areas were as high as 42%. In addition, several of the disaggregate intervention activities were associated with crime decreases at the street segment level. For a much more detailed presentation of the evaluation findings, see Kennedy et al. (2018, forthcoming).

  6. 6.

    In emphasizing crime analysts in evidence-based policing, we must acknowledge that this observation was made in the context of the United States. This raises the obvious question of how transferable these lessons are to agencies in other parts of the world. On the one hand, the crime analysis field has grown in prominence in many countries. For example, Santos (2013, p. 306-307) noted that many European countries as well as Japan, Australia, Brazil, and South Africa have formal crime analysis functions within their national or state police agencies. Robust crime analysis functions have additionally been documented in research conducted in countries such as Canada (Sanders et al. 2015), the United Kingdom (Innes et al. 2005; Keay and Kirby 2017), and New Zealand (Ratcliffe 2005). However, in countries where crime analysts are not as commonly utilized, a different entity may need to be the driver of the type of data-led practices discussed in this study. In such cases, the outside researchers may need to take a more active role in the day-to-day routines of police agencies, as per the embedded criminologists model that has been recently advocated in policing (Braga 2013). By becoming embedded in the police agency, researchers may be able to drive the research projects in a similar manner as the crime analysts discussed in the current study. Conversely, police pracademics, active police officers who have received academic research training (Huey and Mitchell 2016) can be the driving force of research-driven interventions.

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to Eric L. Piza.

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Piza, E.L., Kennedy, L.W. & Caplan, J.M. 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. Eur J Crim Policy Res 24, 489–513 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10610-017-9367-9

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Keywords

  • Risk Terrain Modeling
  • Program Implementation
  • Evidence-Based Policing