This article reports on the findings and methodology of a study that examined the community impact of collaborative problemsolving compared to directed patrol hot spots policing relative to standard policing practices, with a focus on how community perceptions of police are affected.
The study randomly assigned 71 crime hot spots to receive problemsolving, directed patrol, or standard police practices. The data were obtained through a panel survey of St. Louis County, MO, hot spots residents before the treatment, immediately following treatment, and 6 to 9 months later. Applying mixed effects regression, the study assessed the impact on residents' perceptions of police abuse, procedural justice and trust, police legitimacy, and willingness to cooperate with police. The residents who received directed patrol were most impacted, experiencing depleted growth in procedural justice and trust compared to residents receiving standard police practice and insignificant declines in police legitimacy immediately following the treatment period; however, in both cases, views of police returned to pre-treatment status over the long term after the treatment period ended. Residents affected by the police problemsolving approach did not experience significant backfire effects. There was no increase in perceived police abuse in the hot spots. Both treatment group residents, in the long term, were more willing to cooperate with police. The study notes that although there is strong evidence that hot spots policing is effective in reducing crime, it has been criticized as negatively impacting citizen evaluations of police legitimacy, leading to heightened perceptions of police abuse; however, the results of the current study suggest that there is no long-term harm to public opinion of police by implementing problemsolving or temporarily implementing directed patrol in hot spots. (publisher abstract modified)