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by Peter Moskos

August 28, 2011

Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment!

Rarely to get exciting reading articles in academic journals (whether that says bad thing about me or the journals I leave to you), but this is exciting: "The Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment: A Randomized Controlled Trial Of Police Patrol Effectiveness In Violent Crime Hotspots." It's in the current issue of Criminology (like most academic journals, unavailable to the general public).

The Newark Foot Patrol Experiment was researched in the 1970s. And though it showed foot patrol in a more positive light than many people remember it for, it was hardly the unequivocal support for foot patrol I would have expected.

Now I know foot patrol works, but get a bunch of academics in a room and ask a simple question like, "Does foot patrol work?" and you'll get a lot of "we don't know" and "no" and "more research is needed." Even in the police world, opinion is split.

Well finally somebody has done a proper study of foot patrol. The bottom line? In high-crime areas, foot patrol decreased serious violent crime by 23 percent. This happened just after three months of foot patrol. No big difference was found in lower-crime areas, but then we fall back on the Newark Experiment and reduced public fear.

I bet you'll never hear of a study showing the crime-reduction benefits of officers remaining "in service" to answer radio calls.


Dan said...

Wouldn't foot patrols, by their nature, require a greater police presence in an area? I'd also suspect there are more cops in patrols cars nearby then there would be normally because the cops on foot are more exposed. Is there truth to my suspicion?

Is there any way to really analyze the effect of cops on foot compared to cops in cars when overall police presence is equal?

PCM said...

I think that's the next step.

But the first step is showing that foot patrol is beneficial. Even though it (may) seems obvious, it had not be shown before in a scientific experiment.

PCM said...

And we already know that "random-patrol" does not have any impact on anything.

I think the real comparison that needs to be made is between rapid response and foot patrol. That's the tradeoff. And there could be some middle ground. But I think it needs to be about 80-20 foot patrol as opposed to the current ratio of closer to 95-5 car patrol.