SHSU Study Tests Success of Hot Spot Deployments

Research

Dr. Larry Hoover and colleagues investigate success factors for hot spot policing.

Photo of hotspotHot spot policing is most successful in reducing street crimes in small area with the highest crime rates through long-term concentrated patrols, according to researchers at Sam Houston State University, College of Criminal Justice.

In an article published in Justice Quarterly, a team of researchers worked with the Houston Police Department to measure the effectiveness of concentrated patrols in areas throughout the city. While hot spot policing generally is recognized as a successful strategy in crime-ridden neighborhoods, the team wanted to identify the components of the program that proved most effective. The team included Drs. Larry Hoover, William Wells, Yan Zhang, Ling Ren, and Jihong Solomon Zhao from the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at SHSU.

“Just as Willie Sutton robbed banks ‘because that’s where the money is,’ police agencies gravitate to hot spots because that’s where the crime is,” said Dr. Hoover. “Both crime and call-for-service data indeed indicate that problems do cluster at so-called hot spots.”Photo of Dr. Hoover

The study measured several factors involved in hot spot policing, including the dimension of the hot spot patrol area, the dosage or number of patrol cars and time spent in the area on a weekly basis, the duration or length of time the intervention is used, the displacement or diffusion of crime in other areas, and the denouement or change in crime during and after the intervention. In Houston, the study was based on 13 areas of different sizes, 112 hours of patrol a week by two patrol cars, and interventions lasting between four to 24 weeks. The study was designed to measure optimal lengths of deployment periods.

“The recent economic downturn has placed serious constraints on police budgets,” said Dr. Hoover. “A report by the COPS office suggested budgetary strain will be long term— ‘American law enforcement is changing, and the effects are likely to last over the next 5 to 10 years, if not longer,’” said Hoover. “For the vast majority of police agencies, densely concentrated patrol is too expensive to be routinely employed. The overarching goal of the HEAP evaluation was to test a cost-effective level of concentrated patrol that could be deployed within existing resource constraints.”

The study found that only two of the 13 areas showed a significant reduction in crime based on the duration of the concentrated patrol. These areas were relatively small, ranging from 1.24 to 1.96 miles, and experienced some of the highest crimes rates in the city. These hot spots also received the longest duration of concentrated patrol at 24 weeks.

“These findings do not indicate that concentrated patrols at crime hot spots will not make a measurable difference,” said Hoover. “The evaluation was intended to test the minimal amount of concentrated patrol necessary to impact crime rates. The two beats where crime was definitely reduced represent that minimum.”
“Houston Enhanced Action Patrol: Examining the Effects of Differential Deployment Lengths with a Switched Replication Design,” is available from Justice Quarterly.

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