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Testing Hot-Spots Police Patrols Against No-Treatment Controls: Temporal and Spatial Deterrence Effects in the London Underground Experiment

NCJ Number
Criminology: An Interdisciplinary Journal Volume: 58 Issue: 1 Dated: 2020 Pages: 101-128
Date Published
28 pages

This article examines the impacts of hot-spot police patrol tactics on crime deterrence; it describes the research methodology and outcomes; and discusses implications.


Our understanding of causality and effect size in randomized field experiments is challenged by variations in levels of baseline treatment dosage in control groups across experiments testing similar treatments. The clearest design is to compare treated cases with no-treatment controls in a sample that lacks any prior treatment at baseline. In this paper, the authors describe their application of that strategy in a randomized test of hot-spots police patrols on the previously never-patrolled, track-level platforms of the London Underground (LU). In a pretest–posttest, control-group design, they randomly assigned 57 of the LU's 115 highest crime platforms to receive foot patrol by officers in 15-minute doses, four times per day, during eight-hour shifts, four days a week for six months. The effect of 23,272 police arrivals at the treatment hot spots over 26 weeks was to reduce public calls for service by 21 percent on treated platforms relative to controls, primarily when police were absent (97 percent of the measured effect). This effect was six times larger than the mean standardized effect size found in the leading systematic review. This finding provides a benchmark against the baseline counterfactual of no patrol in hot spots, with strong evidence of residual deterrence and no evidence of local displacement. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2020