Spatial displacement and diffusion of benefits among geographically focused policing initiatives: a meta-analytical review

Abstract

Objectives

To undertake a systematic review of the extent to which geographically focused policing initiatives appear to displace crime (simply relocate it to other places) or diffuse benefits (lead to reductions elsewhere).

Methods

Evaluation research which assessed whether such schemes may have led to displacement or diffusion of benefit to nearby areas was identified, obtained and coded. Research reports were assessed in terms of their methodological rigor and the quantitative estimates of outcomes collected. A hierarchy for estimates of displacement was established. For 16 studies, meta-analysis was used to produce a collection of results that had two sets of outcome information in terms of effect sizes (the success of the intervention and the extent to which it may have caused displacement or diffusion).

Results

The main findings of the meta-analysis suggested that on average geographically focused policing initiatives for which data were available were (1) associated with significant reductions in crime and disorder, and (2) that, overall, changes in catchment areas were non-significant but there was a trend in favor of a diffusion of benefit.

Conclusion

The results demonstrate that in the case of geographically focused police efforts, displacement is far from inevitable, and in fact, on balance, that the opposite, a diffusion of crime control benefits, appears to be the more likely outcome. This in turn demonstrates that such endeavors on average have an overall reductive impact on crime.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Note that these figures relate to the total number of studies using this data source; some studies used more than one source of data.

  2. 2.

    These sizes were inductively determined by noting the geographical scope of the intervention. Across the studies reviewed, size of intervention area information was conveyed in a number of different ways, such as population, physical extent, or administrative boundary. Once collected, relative categories of small, medium, and large geographical areas were partitioned. Small intervention areas ranged from one household to 5 blocks in size; Medium intervention areas ranged from the area of a single housing estate up to comparable areas equivalent to about three square miles; Large intervention areas were those that involved a scheme that covered any geographical area larger than three square miles. Note that because studies reported intervention area size in different ways, some subjective determinations were made by the authors.

  3. 3.

    For a fixed effect model, the weighted mean OR was 1.11 (CI: 1.05-1.18).

  4. 4.

    It could be reasonably argued that POP and community policing should be analysed separately. There was only 1 study of the latter type, however, so this precluded statistical analysis of these as separate subcategories. Note although each studies had a main intervention classification, in some cases elements fell into another category. This is why the number of cases across the three intervention type categories in table 4 add up to more than 16.

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Acknowledgments

This project was supported by an award from the National Policing Improvement Agency (UK) and The Center for Evidenced-based Crime Policy at George Mason University. Thanks to our colleagues from those organizations and to the anonymous reviewers for their assistance. The opinions, findings and conclusion expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the funding agencies.

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Correspondence to Kate J. Bowers.

Appendices

Appendix 1 Electronic databases searched

The following databases were searched for relevant studies:

  1. 1.

    Criminal Justice Periodicals

  2. 2.

    Criminal Justice Abstracts

  3. 3.

    Criminology: A SAGE Full Text Collection

  4. 4.

    National Criminal Justice Reference Services (NCJRS) Abstracts

  5. 5.

    HeinOnline

  6. 6.

    JSTOR

  7. 7.

    Sociological Abstracts

  8. 8.

    Social Sciences Full Text

  9. 9.

    Social Science Citation Index

  10. 10.

    PsycINFO

  11. 11.

    Dissertations and Theses

  12. 12.

    Electronic Theses Online Service (ETHOS)

  13. 13.

    Index to Theses

  14. 14.

    Australian Digital Theses Program

  15. 15.

    Government Publications Office, Monthly Catalog (GPO Monthly)

  16. 16.

    Australian Institute of Criminology – CINCH Database

  17. 17.

    National Improvement Policing Agency (NPIA)

  18. 18.

    National Police Library (UK based)

  19. 19.

    SCOPUS

  20. 20.

    IBSS (International Bibliography of Social Sciences)

We also searched the publications of the following groups:

  1. 1.

    Center for Problem-Oriented Policing (Tilley Award and Goldstein Award winners)

  2. 2.

    Institute for Law and Justice

  3. 3.

    Vera Institute for Justice (policing publications)

  4. 4.

    Rand Corporation (public safety publications)

  5. 5.

    Police Foundation

  6. 6.

    Police Executive Research Forum (PERF)

  7. 7.

    The Campbell Collaboration reviews and protocols (C2)

Publications from national policing agencies were also searched. These included:

  1. 1.

    Home Office (United Kingdom)

  2. 2.

    Australian Institute of Criminology

  3. 3.

    Swedish Police Service

  4. 4.

    Norwegian Ministry of Justice and the Police

  5. 5.

    Royal Canadian Mounted Police

  6. 6.

    Finnish Police (Polsi)

  7. 7.

    Danish Natoinal Police (Politi)

  8. 8.

    The Netherlands Police (Politie)

  9. 9.

    New Zealand Police

Appendix 2 Keywords used to search

Searches of electronic databases used the following Boolean search terms:

(displac* OR “diffusion of benefit” OR “diffusion of benefits” OR “multiplier effect” OR “free side benefit” OR “ halo effect” OR “spill over*” OR “free rider effect” OR “bonus effect” OR “spill-over”)

AND

(police OR policing OR law enforcement)

AND

(“hot spot policing” OR ‘hot spots policing” OR crackdown* OR “problem oriented policing” OR “problem solving” OR “focused policing” OR “targeted policing” OR “directed patrol” OR “enforcement swamping” OR “intelligence led policing” OR “broken windows” OR “compstat” OR “community policing”)

AND

(evaluat* OR impact OR assessment OR test)

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Bowers, K.J., Johnson, S.D., Guerette, R.T. et al. Spatial displacement and diffusion of benefits among geographically focused policing initiatives: a meta-analytical review. J Exp Criminol 7, 347–374 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-011-9134-8

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Keywords

  • Diffusion of benefits
  • Displacement
  • Evaluation
  • Focused policing initiatives
  • Meta-analysis