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The active and noticeable presence of police, logically, can be assumed as a measure that reduces the levels of crime in a given area. However, this conclusion has been doubted by many criminologists (Sherman & Weisburd, 1995). Fortunately, the relationship between the dosage of police patrols in certain areas and the prevalence of criminal activity there can be tested. In order to find out the actual crime dynamics that follow the increased number of police patrols, Sherman and Weisburd carried out their study that found that the initial assumption was true.
Purpose of the Study
The authors of this study were driven by an intention to determine whether or not it was correct that regular police patrols had little value in establishing safety and preventing crime (Sherman & Weisburd, 1995). In fact, as stated in the study, this perception was adopted not only by criminologists and members of the general public but also by police employees. Interestingly, the study by Andersen and Malleson (2014) found that motorized and foot patrols are perceived as effective for the minimization of crime activity even though they may cause its displacement.
The key question addressed by the authors revolves around the effectiveness of police patrols in crime hot spots. This aspect is challenged by the common perception that the presence of patrols makes little to no difference. In particular, Sherman and Weisburd mentioned that some criminologists based their denial of the effectiveness of police patrols on the absence of evidence of the impact their presence produces. As a result, it is possible to conclude that the key issue the authors aimed to address concerned the question whether or not there was an observable change in crime statistics that could be connected to the presence and number of police patrols.
Data and Methods
The study by Sherman and Weisburd (1995) was shaped as a randomized controlled trial that included a sample comprised of 110 crime hot spots in Minneapolis. The sample of hot spots was selected based on the rate of criminal activity reported in various areas of Minneapolis – the ones with heavy crime activity were included. These locations were randomly subdivided into experimental and control hot spots. Fifty-five experimental hot spots were provided with an increased number of police patrols. All hot spots were systematically observed for 7542 hours, and the obtained outcomes were compared. It was agreed to provide the experimental hot spots with three hours of patrolling a day seven days a week.
The outcome of this experiment were measured based on the police calls reporting criminal activity of different degrees of severity. It was found that the total number of police calls reporting all types of crimes was lower in experimental spots than in control spots. This difference was particularly noticeable in the statistics of “soft crime”. Consequently, it can be stated that the message of this research points to the overall effectiveness of police patrols even though it showed little impact on “hard” crime. However, all in all, the authors proved that it is incorrect to deny the patrols’ effectiveness completely.
One of the limitations of this study was the inability of the police department of Minneapolis to adhere to the agreed 3 hours of patrolling a day. Therefore, the expected dosage of the presence of patrols was not fulfilled. It is possible that this factor could have altered the final results of the study. Additionally, the fact that the project was undertaken in just one city is another limitation that weakens the reliability of the study which could be gained by means of replicating this project.
Anderson, M. A., & Malleson, N. (2014). Police foot patrol and crime displacement: A local analysis. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 30(2), 186-199.
Sherman, L. W., & Weisburd, D. (1995). General deterrent effects of police patrol in crime “hot spots”: A randomized, controlled trial. Justice Quarterly, 12(4), 625-648.