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Citizens’ Reactions to Hot Spots Policing: Impacts on Perceptions of Crime, Disorder, Safety, and Police

NCJ Number
Journal of Experimental Criminology Volume: 11 Dated: 2015 Pages: 393-417
Jerry H. Ratcliffe; Elizabeth R. Groff; Evan T. Sorg; Cory P. Haberman
Date Published
25 pages

This article reports the findings and methodology of a study that examined whether the use of foot patrol, problem-oriented policing, and offender-focused policing at violent crime hot spots negatively impacted the community’s perceptions of crime and disorder, perceived safety, satisfaction with police, and their perceptions of procedural justice.


A repeated cross-sectional survey was mailed before and after the deployment of concentrated police interventions in 60 small areas of Philadelphia, PA, as part of the Philadelphia Policing Tactics Experiment. Eighty-one violent crime hot spots were randomly allocated to one of three treatments (20 each), or to a control assignment (21). Impacts on the community via seven scales were analyzed using OLS models with orthogonal contrast-coded treatment variables and demographic covariates. The OLS models that estimated changes in the community’s opinions from pre- to post-intervention found no statistically significant changes on any of the dependent variables compared to control locations, irrespective of the treatment type. Even though one experimental treatment condition (offender-focused) reported statistically significant violent crime reductions, the police activity that produced the crime reduction did not noticeably change community perceptions of crime and disorder, perceived safety, satisfaction with police, or procedural justice. As implemented in Philadelphia, none of the policing tactics had measurable changes in resident perception within the communities that were targeted. The results do not support the suggestion that hot spots policing negatively impacts the community. At the same time, no positive benefits resulted. 58 references (publisher abstract modified)