Study recommends fighting crime the old-fashioned way

April 20, 2010
As part of the Philadelphia Foot Patrol experiment, Temple researchers teamed with Philadelphia Police to identity the highest violent crime corners. Graduate student researchers Evan Sorg and Lallen Johnson walk the beat with Officers William Robbins and Jason Shensky.

( -- Researchers from Temple’s Department of Criminal Justice, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Police Department, have found a way to reduce violent crime in some of the city’s most dangerous locations. And it doesn’t involve hi-tech equipment or fancy CSI-like crime lab techniques.

Rather, it just takes good, old-fashioned shoe leather — in the form of community-based foot patrols.

For the study, Professor of Criminal Justice Jerry Ratcliffe and his research team analyzed data from across the city and mapped out the most violent street corners to identify the areas in greatest need of intervention. Next, 250 officers walked the beat in 60 of the city’s highest crime locations during the summer of 2009.

Researchers found that decreased by 22 percent.

And while the researchers did find some displacement of crime to nearby areas, overall the analysis showed that even after accounting for the shifts there were 50 fewer violent crimes last summer in Philadelphia than there would have been without the foot patrols.

“The long-held belief was that foot patrols made people feel good but didn’t actually do anything to prevent crime,” said Ratcliffe. “Our results may spark a revision of that view.”

Ratcliffe is a former officer with the London Metropolitan Police, where he served as a patrol officer, in an intelligence and information unit and as a member of the Diplomatic Protection Group. As a researcher, he now focuses much of his work on ways to improve police work — through the use of strategic thinking and intelligence-led policing.

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, who himself started out on a foot beat in Chicago, believed that adding foot patrols would be effective, but wanted to have objective data. That led to the partnership.

“We often dedicate our resources to combat crime without knowing precisely what the effect will be, or fully understanding how to allocate our resources,” said Ramsey. “Our research partners at Temple have done a terrific job here in helping us make informed decisions about how to deploy police personnel in the field to get the best results in crime reduction and community satisfaction.”

According to Ratcliffe, one thing that makes Temple’s study so unique is the level of collaboration with the police department. While conducting the study, Temple’s graduate-student researchers actually walked the beats with city officers.

Now in phase two of the study, researchers are digging deeper. They are conducting interviews with officers to determine what types of interventions were most effective. For example, some officers engaged in considerable community-oriented work, speaking to community members and visiting child care centers and juvenile hangouts, while others were more oriented, stopping vehicles and conducting field interviews of pedestrians.

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not rated yet Apr 20, 2010
No substitute for beating feet on the street!..Finally, acknowledgement that the common sense approach to law enforcement is effective and cost-efficient.

Far better to have the police available right on the corner when they are needed, as opposed to 60 blocks away in a patrol car.
5 / 5 (1) Apr 20, 2010
Or perhaps the cops did their job because the grad students were watching... Double blind, anyone?
not rated yet Apr 20, 2010
I'd like to agree with you both ... but Caliban's idea would depend upon the constable being in the right place at the right time - if he in on his 'beat', on foot four block away he will miss a lot.
not rated yet Apr 23, 2010
The grad students only walked with each footbeat for one hour on four occasions...thats not even a whole shift. The rest of the summer the officers walked alone and did what they normally would no the officers did not do their job because grad students were watching
not rated yet Apr 23, 2010
The rest of the summer the officers walked alone and did what they normally would no the officers did not do their job because grad students were watching

Speaking from a long history of working with police officers and having a great many as members of my family, you're wrong.
5 / 5 (1) Apr 23, 2010
Skeptic - would you expand on that?

I have a view of the Police that may not be shared here - but they are workers and I DO have a lot of faith in workers to do their jobs.
not rated yet Apr 23, 2010
Skeptic - would you expand on that?

I have a view of the Police that may not be shared here - but they are workers and I DO have a lot of faith in workers to do their jobs.

Oh yes, for example, my father was a beat cop. He would knock off for a nap or a smoke quite often. As did his contemporaries. Working with the INS on a grid system I found a good many federal officers do much the same.

Humans are humans, regardless of the badge. I have no less faith, but I don't put them on a pedestal either.
not rated yet Apr 23, 2010
Humans are humans, regardless of the badge. I have no less faith, but I don't put them on a pedestal either.

It is rare that any worker anywhere spends 100% of their paid time assiduously at their job. But, that being said, that a 'beat cop' would drop into a local greasy spoon and have a cuppa falls, as far as I can see, well within the rubric of 'community relations'.

I began working in mines in the mid-60s and the old timers would tell me stories of the company 'pushers' that would skulk about making sure everyone was striving for increased production.

One you get a dichotomy between people's interests and what they do to support themselves - this is inevitable. 100% effort may be the order of the day for scientists - that do what they do out of affection for their endeavours, but for us mere mortals a cuppa joe and a smoke are well within the bounds of employment.

Don't be so hard on them.
not rated yet Apr 25, 2010
I wonder why bicycle cops aren't more popular. They still are a man on the street, but they are 5 times faster.

My guess is that it is the same "image thing" that keeps people from using this 1,000 MPG bio-fueled vehicle that eliminates those trips to the gym.

How about more tests - but 3 way tests?
not rated yet May 04, 2010
excellent - we do a similar thing with cops in Canada - we motivated them with Tim Horton coffee shops and give them free coffee.

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