This study examined the quality of implementation, cost, and impact of the Safe Public Spaces program (SPS), as well as its effect on the displacement of crime or diffusion of benefits to the area immediately outside the school.
SPS, developed and delivered by Engaging Schools, establishes a safe and supportive whole-school environment by equipping all staff with the knowledge and skills they need to prevent, analyze, interpret, manage, and respond to a wide range of disciplinary infractions at their schools. In 2016 and 2017, SPS schools participated in half-day summer retreats for administrators and the Student Support Team to review diagnostic draft and develop a plan for Safe Public Spaces in the following year. The current study was conducted in 24 New York City middle schools that were recruited in cooperation with the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Safety and Youth Development and the Mayoral Development and Leadership Team on School Climate and Discipline. An implementation evaluation analysis was conducted, along with a cost study and an impact evaluation. To measure the effect of SPS on student and school outcomes, a randomized trial was conducted. The community crime study examined the frequency of juvenile arrests before, during, and after SPS implementation and examined evidence for displacement of juvenile crime or diffusion of benefits to the geographic area immediately around the schools. This carefully implemented, rigorous study showed that the SPS intervention was well-implemented in study schools but failed to find significant effects of SPS on student outcomes. Possible reasons for these findings are discussed.