The Evidence-Based Policing Matrix

Abstract

The next phase of evidence-based policing requires both scholars and practitioners to move from lists of specific studies about “what works” to using that information strategically. This requires developing generalizations or principles on the nature of effective police strategies and translating the field of police evaluation research into digestible forms that can be used to alter police tactics, strategies, accountability systems, and training. In this article, we present a tool intended for such use: the Evidence-Based Policing Matrix. The Matrix is a consistently updated, research-to-practice translation tool that categorizes and visually bins all experimental and quasi-experimental research on police and crime reduction into intersections between three common dimensions of crime prevention—the nature of the target, the extent to which the strategy is proactive or reactive, and the specificity or generality of the strategy. Our mapping and visualization of 97 police evaluation studies conducted through December 31, 2009, indicate that proactive, place-based, and specific policing approaches appear much more promising in reducing crime than individual-based, reactive, and general ones. We conclude by discussing how the Matrix can be used to guide future research and facilitate the adoption of evidence-based policing.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Our online tool allows us to update this collection every year.

  2. 2.

    Earlier reviews of police research included Clarke and Hough’s (1980) compilation of papers on police effectiveness, a series of reviews by Sherman (1983, 1986, 1990, 1992), and a special issue of Crime and Justice: A Review of Research (Tonry and Morris 1992).

  3. 3.

    The committee included Wesley Skogan, David H. Bayley, Lawrence Bobo, Ruth Davis, John Eck, David A. Klinger, Janet Lauritsen, Tracey Maclin, Stephen D. Mastrofski, Tracey L. Meares, Mark H. Moore, Ruth Peterson, Elaine B. Sharp, Lawrence Sherman, Samuel Walker, David Weisburd, and Robert Worden.

  4. 4.

    Although many agencies claim to be doing hot spots policing (Police Executive Research Forum 2008; Weisburd and Lum 2005), much of what they term hot spots policing appears to be consistent with more traditional beat- and neighborhood-based strategies (Koper 2008).

  5. 5.

    This book chapter was accepted for publication in 2008 by the editors, but the main volume has been delayed.

  6. 6.

    The Matrix is available online at http://gemini.gmu.edu/cebcp/matrix.html.

  7. 7.

    We drew on contemporary and foundational research describing the range of police activities, including the special Crime and Justice: A Review of Research volume on policing (Tonry and Morris 1992) and, in particular, Reiss’s (1992) description of police organization, as well as Sherman’s (1995) review of the police role in Crime (Wilson and Petersilia 1995). More recent volumes were also consulted, such as Weisburd and Braga (2006), as well as the systematic reviews and police literature reviews mentioned above.

  8. 8.

    Indeed, there are other dimensions that could be used. For example, law and society scholars might be interested in a “constitutionality” continuum, which provides a measure of high- and low-constitutionality controversy. A “Herbert Packer” continuum might be added (see Packer 1964), which could be characterized as a continuum between individual rights and community rights/crime control. Mastrofski might add a “legitimacy” continuum (see Mastrofski 1999), which ranks interventions according to how much they might challenge the legitimacy of an agency (see also Tyler 2004). However, for our purposes here, these three dimensions represent the most commonly shared descriptives for policing.

  9. 9.

    See the “Code Book for Methodological Rigor and Effect Size Computation” at the end of the Appendix of the Maryland Report for these descriptions.

  10. 10.

    The Matrix will be updated yearly with new studies that fit these qualifications. The entire coding of each study is available with the Matrix tool to maximize both transparency and discussion about study placement.

  11. 11.

    These databases included Criminological Abstracts, Criminal Justice Periodicals, Criminal Justice Periodical Index, National Criminal Justice Research Service, Dissertation Abstracts, and Google Scholar. We consulted publications from NIJ, the Police Foundation, the Police Executive Research Forum, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, and the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing. We plan to re-search these databases on a regular basis to update the Matrix with new studies.

  12. 12.

    The studies were divided equally so that each author initially coded two-thirds of the studies.

  13. 13.

    This symbol appears red in color on the website.

  14. 14.

    Removing the neighborhood-based studies, which are generally weaker methodologically, would further strengthen the basis for this generalization.

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Lum, C., Koper, C.S. & Telep, C.W. The Evidence-Based Policing Matrix. J Exp Criminol 7, 3–26 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-010-9108-2

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Keywords

  • Evidence-based policing
  • Effectiveness
  • Matrix
  • Evaluation
  • Experiments
  • Hot spots policing