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Can Policing Disorder Reduce Crime? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

NCJ Number
Journal of Research in Crime an Delinquency Volume: 52 Issue: 4 Dated: 2015 Pages: 567-588
Anthony A. Braga; Brandon C. Welsh; Cory Schnell
Date Published
22 pages

The authors of this document reviewed research to determine the effectiveness of various disorder policing strategies on crime control, and conclude that further research is needed to better understand the key elements that maximize a strategy’s ability to prevent crime.


Crime policy scholars and practitioners have argued for years that when police address social and physical disorder in neighborhoods they can prevent serious crime, yet evaluations of the crime control effectiveness of disorder policing strategies yield conflicting results. This article reports on the results of the first systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of disorder policing on crime. Systematic review protocols and conventions of the Campbell Collaboration were followed, and meta-analytic techniques were used to assess the impact of disorder policing on crime and investigate the influence of moderating variables. The authors identified 30 randomized experimental and quasi-experimental tests of disorder policing. Their meta-analysis suggests that policing disorder strategies are associated with an overall statistically significant, modest crime reduction effect. The strongest program effect sizes were generated by community and problem-solving interventions designed to change social and physical disorder conditions at particular places. Conversely, aggressive order maintenance strategies that target individual disorderly behaviors do not generate significant crime reductions. The types of strategies used by police departments to control disorder seem to matter, and this holds important implications for police–community relations, justice, and crime prevention. Further research is needed to understand the key programmatic elements that maximize the capacity of these strategies to prevent crime.