• Exploring the relationship between foot and car patrol in violent crime areas

      Center for Public Health Law Research (Temple University Beasley School of Law) (2013-03-01)
      Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to describe how the Philadelphia Police Department instituted a large-scale randomized controlled trial of foot patrol as a policing strategy and experienced 23 percent fewer violent crimes during the treatment period. The authors examine whether activities patrol officers were conducting might have produced the crime reduction. The activities of foot and car patrol officers research takes a closer look at what types are examined separately and differences between car patrol activities pre-intervention and during the intervention are explored. Activities of foot versus car patrol officers during the study period are compared across treatment and control areas. Design/methodology/approach: Official data on police officer activity are used to compare activities conducted by foot patrol officers with those by car patrol officers in 60 treatment (foot beat) and 60 control areas consisting of violent crime hot spots. Activities of car patrol officers are described preintervention and during the intervention. Foot patrol officers’ activities are described within treatment and control areas during the treatment phase of the experiment. Car patrol officers’ activities are reported separately. The statistical significance of changes in car patrol activity pre and during intervention is evaluated using a series of mixed model ANOVAs. Findings: There were noticeable differences in the activities conducted by foot and car patrol. Foot patrol officers spent most of their time initiating pedestrian stops and addressing disorder incidents, while car patrol officers handled the vast majority of reported crime incidents. Car patrol activity declined in both treatment and control areas during the intervention but there was no statistically significant difference between the treatment and the control areas. Research limitations/implications: The major limitation of this study is the restricted set of data describing officer activity that is captured by official records. Future studies should include a more robust ethnographic component to better understand the broad spectrum of police activity in order to more effectively gauge the ways in which foot patrol and carbased officers’ activities interact to address community safety. This understanding can help extend the literature on “coproduction” by highlighting the safety partnerships that may develop organically across individual units within a police organization. Practical implications: The study provides evidence that individual policing strategies undertaken by agencies impact one another. When implementing and evaluating new programs, it would be beneficial for police managers and researchers to consider the impact on activities of the dominant patrol style, as necessary, to understand how a specific intervention might have achieved its goal or why it might have failed to show an effect. Originality/value: The research contributes to the understanding of the separate and joint effects of foot and car patrol on crime. In addition, it provides police managers with a clearer picture of the ways in which foot patrol police and car based officers work to co-produce community safety in violent inner city areas.