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Synthesizing and Extending the Results of Police Patrol Studies

NCJ Number
R C Larson; M F Cahn
Date Published
179 pages
This report highlights some of the problems evident in police patrol research and practice. Research hypotheses are presented for preventive patrol, response time, and alternative organizational and manpower allocation schemes.
Research studies of preventive patrol have collectively produced inconclusive results. No studies have clearly depicted the presence (or absence) of a relationship between police patrol and crime deterrence. Research examining issues of response time has generated some interesting results. In particular, the notion that for a typical call for service citizen satisfaction with the police depends largely on police response time has essentially been disproven. Rather, research has shown that the difference between experienced and anticipated response time is a major determinant of citizen satisfaction. Thus, police should provide citizens with realistic estimates of how long it will take for a police unit to arrive on the scene. On the whole, the studies demonstrating an inverse relationship between response time and probability of apprehension are more credible than those demonstrating the absence of such a relationship. The important issue to be resolved is whether or not response time and probability of apprehension are causally related. A review of research on alternative organizational and manpower allocation schemes covered one- versus two-officer patrol, split-force, women on patrol, team policing, and a recently completed management of demand program. Theoretical and empirical results favor the notion that one-officer patrol is more efficient than two-officer patrol. The split-force and management of demand concepts were shown to be productive alternatives to routine patrol. Collective findings of team policing studies are inconclusive, while studies comparing male and female officers found no significant differences between the police-related performance of male and female officers. Thus, it would appear that women may be used as patrol officers without sacrificing police patrol quality. Recommendations address both methodological concerns with patrol research and specific areas in which future research could be beneficial. Attention is focused on the importance of developing an overall research framework by which otherwise independent studies may be related. Tables and study excerpts are provided. Appendixes include a 64-item annotated study bibliography and a bibliography listing over 180 citations.