Manchester police use "hot spot" technique
I just received this press release announcing an experiment in which a UK police department will adopt hot spot crime fighting techniques as part of a controlled experiment in Manchester. While it sounds intuitive, "hot spots" and the concept of "cops on dots" are a relatively recent development in policing, created in the mid-1990s in New York City, and it's been a big part of Baltimore's crime fighting strategy since around 2000. Here's the press release from the University of Cambridge:
US crime hotspots technique could revolutionise policing
Cambridge University field study by leading US academic could change face of modern policing
Police in one of the most crime-hit areas of the United Kingdom are to launch the first controlled experiment in history based on a successful technique pioneered in the US. The results could have implications for policing around the world.
Professor Lawrence Sherman, Wolfson Professor of Criminology at the University of Cambridge in England and the Albert M. Greenfield Professor of Human Relations in the Department of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, pioneered the technique of policing crime hotspots in the the US in the late 1980s.
In 1987, he discovered that just 3% of the street addresses in Minneapolis produced more than half of all calls to police. In parts of the US, concentrating police on these streets has since successfully cut crime by two-thirds within the hotspots. What remains unknown from US studies is how much this strategy may encourage offenders to commit crimes at other locations.
The UK initiative, which is due to begin in the spring with results scheduled to be published early next year, is highlighted in a film released today [Tuesday 12th January] on the University of Cambridge’s website and YouTube. It will focus on the Greater Manchester area in the north of England, which has one of the highest crime rates in the country.
Researchers believe that by focusing resources on hundreds of small areas through Greater Manchester and focusing police officers on these “pressure points” with highest rates of violent crime, it may be possible to reduce crime more significantly than if they were to patrol a wider area.
Professor Sherman says it will be the first time that research has been conducted into whether this pressure point style of policing just serves to displace crime to other areas and could have implications for policing styles around the world.
“This will be the first controlled experiment in history which allows us to assess not only whether this patrol design will reduce crimes in those areas, but also whether it it just encourages offenders to go elsewhere,” he said.
“We believe that simply by having a police officer stationed in the middle of one of these pressure points can spoil the party for would-be offenders and stabilise the area. If the experiment produces the results we hope it will, we could end up revolutionising policing by putting officers not on neighbourhood beats, but focusing them heavily on these pressure points.”
Because street layouts and other factors are quite different in the US to the UK, it could be that the effects may not be the same as in the US. This will be the first experiment to answer whether the general effectiveness of the technique.
The experiment will divide 200 hotspots into two groups. The first will be policed normally but in the second, the police presence will be intensified with officers stationed in pressure points for many more minutes during high-crime periods. Researchers will then test the comparative effects over the course of about a year, measuring the average change in crime over time in one group with that of the other.
Professor Shermans says: “In theory, if you can prevent offenders from committing crime in these areas, it may be possible to stop them altogether. The question is whether that theory works, which is what we are aiming to find out.”
Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Peter Fahy said: “This experiment will allow us to test out the impact of concentrating on some very particular areas and see whether it has the same effect as in some American cities.”
The study is the first in a unprecedented series of experiments in which researchers from the Jerry Lee Centre for Experimental Criminology at Cambridge will collaborate with several forces over the next few years.
The film, which covers the new initiative in Manchester and features an interview with Professor Sherman, can be found at http://www.youtube.com/cambridgeuniversity.