Robert has taught college-level criminal justice courses and has a Masters degree in Criminology and a Doctorate in Public Policy.
Police Responses to Crime: Increasing Patrols
Recently, you've noticed an increase in the number of suspicious looking people hanging around in your neighborhood. Furthermore, reports of crime have also increased in your neighborhood, and two of your neighbors have had their cars burglarized in the last week. You are concerned that you may be victimized. You call your local police department to see if they will increase the number of police patrols in your area in the hope that it will reduce crime. To your surprise, the cop on the phone tells you that they are well aware of the problem and have increased the number of police patrols in your area.
Why haven't you noticed? Importantly--and even with an increase in marked police patrols--why does there seem to be an increase in crime? Why aren't enhanced police patrols more obvious to you or to the criminals targeting your neighborhood?
In this lesson, you will gain a better understanding of how the Kansas City Preventative Patrol Experiment attempted to address this set of important public concerns. You will also explore the basic assumptions of deterrence theory and understand the limits of deterring crime through increased police patrols.
The Kansas City Preventative Patrol Experiment (1972-1973)
Marked police patrols are the backbone of policing. Agency leaders, policymakers and the general public place a great deal of importance on the use of marked police patrols as a deterrent to crime.
Deterrence theory assumes, in part, that offenders make a thorough and knowledgeable cost-benefit calculation prior to the commission of a crime. In other words, it is assumed that offenders know all of the risks as well as the rewards they will receive if they get away with a crime. From this perspective, an increase in police patrols would increase the potential risk of getting caught and thereby decrease the number of offenders willing to commit a crime in the patrol area.
The Kansas City Preventative Patrol Experiment was designed to test the assumptions of deterrence theory in relation to marked police patrol. In particular, researchers wanted to see if an increase in police patrols could lead to a decrease in crime and a decrease in the public's fear of crime.
The researchers split the South Patrol District in Kansas City into three areas, or 'beats,' in which police patrols would be intentionally altered. In the first beat, proactive patrols were used - police patrols were increased by two or three times the usual level. In the second beat, reactive patrols were used - there were no routine patrols used at all (though officers continued to respond to calls for service). The third beat acted as a control beat - all routine patrols were kept at the same level they were prior to the start of the experiment.
In order to understand the patrol experiment's impact on crime, researchers used data from four sources: victimization surveys, crime data (as reported to the agency), departmental arrest data and data drawn from a survey of businesses in the patrol experiment area. Using these data, researchers were able to somewhat mitigate the problems inherent in using only one source of data and come to a few conclusions about the effect of police patrol on crime.
Findings and Limits of Research
Researchers found that citizens did not perceive a difference in police patrols and the level of police patrol had no impact on crime or fear of crime among citizens. Crime did not increase in areas where there was no routine patrol and did not decrease in areas where there was an increase in routine patrol. As researchers are careful to point out, however, this does not necessarily mean that police patrol or the presence of marked police cars have no effect.
Researchers concluded that there was a 'residual deterrence' effect. Simply, this is the effect caused by police units (parole and probation; juvenile units, and 911 calls to the area by outside agencies or participating agencies) entering the experimental area in order to respond to calls for service or go about their normal daily routine. The public, seeing these responses, simply assumed that police patrols were the same as they always were.
The Kansas City Preventative Patrol Experiment may have been distorted by a few factors. To begin with, maintaining experimental conditions (such as scientists do in a laboratory), is very difficult (if not impossible) in an active policing situation. Primarily, this is because law enforcement officers must respond to routine and emergency calls regardless of experimental protocols. Problems arose when officers responsible for responding to emergency calls and when conducting necessary and routine law enforcement work interfered with the experiment by crossing through (or into) the experimental areas. This factor, in large part, is why the public did not seem to notice a difference in police presence.
Additionally, there were problems, initially, with officers becoming bored on the reactive beats--which means they likely weren't adhering to research protocols. In order to remedy this, reactive officers were given permission to take a more active role if they saw crime or the potential for criminal activity. In other words, the research protocols were 'loosened' in order to reflect the reality of policing. This may have led to an increase in proactive policing by cops assigned to reactive beats.
The Kansas City Preventative Patrol Experiment found that increasing or decreasing the level of police patrol had no impact on crime or public perceptions of crime and did not reduce public fear of crime. In fact, the public was unaware of any change in police patrol at all. Primarily, this is because responses to emergency calls by marked police cars and other police agency activity in the experimental areas created an impression that police patrol had not changed at all - people believe that there are patrols if they see any marked police cars at all, regardless of what those police cars are actually doing.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack