Research on Policing and the Prevention of Crime

The assumption is that putting more officers on the street will lead to reduced crime. This strategy is referred to as preventive patrol. However, this assumption has been tested to see if it works. The first such research project was conducted in 1974 and was called the Kansas City Preventive Patrol Project. Conducted to test the degree to which preventive patrol affected such things as offense rates and the level of public fear, the experiment was relatively simple (Walker, 1992).

The southern part of Kansas City, Missouri, was divided into 15 areas. Five of these areas were patrolled in the usual fashion, five others featured doubled patrols, and the last five saw patrols eliminated altogether (no officers were assigned to these five areas and officers only went into those areas when they were called).

The results? Surprisingly, in the three sections of the city there were no significant differences in the rate of offending in terms of burglaries, robberies, auto thefts, larcenies, and vandalisms. Furthermore, citizens didn’t seem to realize any changes in the patrol patterns, and there seemed to be no difference in citizen’s fear of crime during the study (Schmalleger, 2012). This study called into question the wisdom of random preventive patrol. However, the Kansas City experiment did usher in an era of more evidence-based policing in which police practices have been put to the test to see which are effective and which are not.

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