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The Possible Backfire Effects of Hot Spots Policing: An Experimental Assessment of Impacts on Legitimacy, Fear and Collective Efficacy

NCJ Number
Journal of Experimental Criminology Volume: 7 Issue: 4 Dated: 2011 Pages: 297-320
Date Published
24 pages

This paper analyzes the impacts of broken windows policing strategies that targets areas of crime and social disorder; it discusses the research methodology, observed outcomes, and policy implications.


The authors report on research that had the goal of examining the impacts of broken-windows policing at crime hot spots on the following: fear of crime; ratings of police legitimacy; and reports of collective efficacy among residents of targeted hot spots. Their methodology involved a block randomized experimental design with a police intervention targeting disorder delivered to 55 treatment street segments with an equal number of segments serving as controls. Main outcomes were measured using a panel survey of 371 persons living or working in these sites. Results indicated that the broken windows police intervention delivered to crime hot spots in this study had no significant impacts on fear of crime, police legitimacy, collective efficacy, or perceptions of crime or social disorder. Perceptions of physical disorder appear to have been modestly increased in the target areas. Therefore, the authors conclude that recent criticisms of hot spots policing approaches which focus on possible negative “backfire” effects for residents of the targeted areas may be overstated. The study shows that residents are not aware of, or much affected by, a three hour per week dosage of aggressive order maintenance policing on their blocks, in addition to routine police responses in these areas. The authors suggest that future research should replicate these findings focusing on varied target populations and types of crime hot spots and examining different styles of hot spots policing. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2011