Hot spots policing and crime reduction: an update of an ongoing systematic review and meta-analysis

Abstract

Objectives

This updated systematic review assesses the effects of focused police crime prevention interventions at crime hot spots. The review also examined whether focused police actions at specific locations result in crime displacement or diffusion of crime control benefits.

Methods

Systematic review protocols and conventions of the Campbell Collaboration were followed to identify eligible hot spots policing studies, and meta-analytic techniques were used to assess the impact of hot spots policing on crime and investigate the influence of moderating variables.

Results

The search strategies identified 65 studies containing 78 tests of hot spots policing interventions. Meta-analyses revealed a small statistically significant mean effect size favoring the effects of hot spots policing in reducing crime outcomes at treatment places relative to control places. Crime displacement and diffusion effects were measured in 40 tests. Meta-analyses favored a small statistically significant diffusion of crime control benefits over displacement.

Conclusion

The extant evaluation research provides fairly robust evidence that hot spots policing is an effective crime prevention strategy. Focused police intervention at hot spot locations does not seem to result in the spatial displacement of crime into areas immediately surrounding targeted locations. Rather, crime control benefits seem to diffuse into proximate areas.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Additional details on the methods of this updated systematic review are included in the full report to the Campbell Collaboration (Braga et al. 2019).

  2. 2.

    The terms were: “hot spots AND police”, “crime place AND police”, “crime clusters AND police”, “crime displacement”, “place-oriented interventions”, “high crime areas AND police”, “high crime locations AND police”, “targeted policing”, “directed patrol”, “crackdowns”, and “enforcement swamping.”

  3. 3.

    These databases were: Criminal Justice Abstracts, Sociological Abstracts, NCJRS Abstracts, Educational Resources Information Clearinghouse, Google Scholar, Proquest Dissertation and Theses A&I, Westlaw Next, Government Publications Office – Monthly Catalog, Informit, Web of Science Core Collection, Academic Search Premier, C2-SPECTR (original review only), HeinOnline, Social Sciences Premium Collection, and Rutgers University’s Gray Literature Database.

  4. 4.

    These journals were: Criminology, Criminology & Public Policy, Justice Quarterly, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Journal of Criminal Justice, Police Quarterly, Policing, Police Practice and Research, British Journal of Criminology, Journal of Quantitative Criminology, Crime & Delinquency, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, and Policing & Society. Hand searches covered January 1979 to February 2017.

  5. 5.

    Ms. Phyllis Schultze of the Gottfredson Library at the Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice.

  6. 6.

    These activities included roadblocks, patrol with license plate reader technology, zero-tolerance policing, and increased gun searches and seizures.

  7. 7.

    Readers interested in reviewing the details of the eligible studies should consult the full report to the Campbell Collaboration. In that report, Table 2 summarizes the treatments, hot spots definitions, and research designs. Table 3 summarizes the main effects of the intervention on crime and disorder measures, treatment effects as measured by other non-official data sources, and, if measured, the immediate spatial displacement and diffusion of crime control benefits effects. A narrative review of the 65 hot spots policing studies and the 78 tests contained in the eligible studies is provided in Appendix C. (see Braga et al. 2019).

  8. 8.

    For the overall main effects meta-analysis, Q = 362.714, df = 72, p < 0.001 and I2 = 80.150.

  9. 9.

    Random effects models were used to estimate the overall standardized mean effect sizes. For the largest effect size meta-analysis, Q = 437.268, df = 72, p < 0.001, I2 = 83.534. For the smallest effect size meta-analysis, Q = 431.914, df = 72, p < 0.001, I2 = 83.330.

  10. 10.

    Random effects models were used to estimate the overall displacement and diffusion standardized mean effect sizes: Q = 22850.673, df = 39, p < 0.001, I2 = 99.829.

  11. 11.

    We used a random effects model for this comparison. For the quasi-experiments, Q = 267.626, df = 37, p < 0.001, I2 = 86.175. For the randomized controlled trials, Q = 69.379, df = 34, p < 0.001, I2 = 50.994. For the overall analysis, the Between Group Q = 8.159, df = 1, p < 0.004, suggesting that the type of evaluation produced statistically-significant differences in observed crime outcomes. The moderated overall effect size was .128 (Standard error = 0.017, p < .001, 95% CI = .094, .162).

  12. 12.

    For problem-oriented policing programs, Q = 179.543, df = 24, p < 0.001, I2 = 86.632. For increased policing programs, Q = 162.328, df = 47, p < 0.001, I2 = 71.046. The between Q = 20.852, df = 1, p < 0.001, suggesting that the hot spots policing program type produced statistically-significant differences in observed crime outcomes. The moderated overall effect size was .120 (Standard error = 0.017, p < .001, 95% CI = .086, .153).

  13. 13.

    The 29 gray literature studies included 32 independent tests of hot spots policing programs and the 36 journal article studies included 41 independent tests of hot spots policing programs. For gray literature studies, Q = 73.908, df = 31, p < 0.001, I2 = 58.056. For journal article studies, Q = 228.913, df = 40, p < 0.001, I2 = 82.526. The between Q = 42.342, df = 1, p < 0.001, suggesting that the publication type produced statistically-significant differences in observed crime outcomes. The moderated overall effect size was .125 (Standard error = 0.018, p < .001, 95% CI = .089, .161).

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Braga, A.A., Turchan, B.S., Papachristos, A.V. et al. Hot spots policing and crime reduction: an update of an ongoing systematic review and meta-analysis. J Exp Criminol 15, 289–311 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-019-09372-3

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Keywords

  • Police
  • Crime hot spots
  • Hot spots policing
  • Meta-analysis
  • Systematic review
  • Policing experiment
  • Crime displacement
  • Crime prevention