Assessing community consequences of implementing hot spots policing in residential areas: findings from a randomized field trial
This paper reports on the results of an experiment examining the community impact of collaborative problem solving versus directed patrol hot spots policing approaches relative to standard policing practices. The focus is the impact on community perceptions of police.
We randomly assigned 71 crime hot spots to receive problem solving, directed patrol, or standard police practices. The data are a panel survey of St Louis County, MO, hot spots residents before the treatment, immediately following treatment, and 6 to 9 months later. Applying mixed effects regression, we assessed the impact on residents’ perceptions of police abuse, procedural justice and trust, police legitimacy, and willingness to cooperate with police.
The residents receiving directed patrol were most impacted, experiencing depleted growth in procedural justice and trust relative to standard practice residents and nonsignificant declines in police legitimacy immediately following the treatment period. However, in both cases, views recover in the long term, after treatment ends. Problem-solving residents did not experience significant backfire effects. There was no increase in perceived police abuse in the hot spots conditions. Both treatment group residents, in the long term, were more willing to cooperate with police.
Though there is strong evidence that hot spots policing is effective in reducing crime, it has been criticized as negatively impacting citizen evaluations of police legitimacy, and leading to heightened perceptions of police abuse. However, our results suggest that there is no long-term harm to public opinion by implementing problem solving or temporarily implementing directed patrol in hot spots.