Violent Crime during the Night Time Economy in Aalborg

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Introduction

In 2016, North Jutland Police District (hereinafter: NJPD) saw a rise in the numbers of crimes on general violence compared to 2015. So, for this essay on the criminology of places, the purpose is to examine and understand how to target the places with the most general violence in an efficient manner. And from that point to look at the practices on crime prevention as they currently are and put forth the question of how to further reduce the harm of general violence most efficiently. This includes looking into how to best track the resources, the police put into reducing the harm from general violence.

The essay in part 1 will focus on the manner, in which the police targets general violence crime and the current practices for crime prevention. It will take a look at the benefits of introducing a Crime Harm Index – hereinafter: CHI – (Sherman, Neyroud, Strang et al, 2013).It is essential for the police to target the Power Few places of the most crime to use the scarce resources in the most effective way (Sherman, 2007)

In part two the essay will go through the present practice on crime prevention in hotspots with general violent crime in NJPD and from there move on to examining another more focused approach from the research findings of other police agencies. This approach will be described as how this could be tested in real life through the use of theory and research; research findings on how to setup an experiment with both an experimental and control group according to the use of the Maryland Scale (Sherman lecture, 2017)

In part 3 the essential parts will be suggesting changes in the organizational setup to implement the suggestions (Fixsen, D. L., et al, 2005) and from there to shed some light on how to track the output of the Hotspot Police Officers (Hereinafter: HSPO) doing the crime prevention, how to give feedback to and regulate the system and to measure the difference in crime outcome (Sherman, L. 2017)

Finally, in the end, the findings are summarized for the implications on the new practices.

Targeting

The current standard procedure when facing a potential problem with a rise in crime numbers, it to initiate an analysis, when the top management team considers it a sufficiently serious matter to pay attention to. This can happen methodically from understanding the concepts of fear in both the organization and the surrounding society as an emotional, cognitive and behavioural component (Mueller-Johnson, K., 2017).

Current practice

The analysis will be tasked to the Intelligence- and Analysis Unit, and by default they will initiate an analysis of how much crime numbers have risen, how serious it is in terms of harm in this specific crime type, how widespread it is as in locally in one town or all over the police district. They will also propose in a very general way how to counteract with more patrol forces present at certain times but in much larger areas than in the definition of a hotspot as defined for instance as the street segment between intersections (Sherman, Lawrence W.; Weisburd 1995). Without any structured means of organizing the HSPO, they fall back on randomly patrolling a major part of their workday and large areas of the city and only reacting to calls for service for reactive investigations of crime.

The city of Aalborg as the largest city in NJPD has seen a rise in crime numbers of street violence and incivilities, and an analysis has demonstrated it to be primarily within the 9000 zip code, an area of some 6 square miles. The somewhat crude measurements of the analysis report indicate at which time the most crimes are committed in a span of days and sometimes intervals during a day (e.g. Saturday sees a higher crime rate than Tuesday and most of that crime is in the span from 11pm to 6am) But apart from these indications, the report will not reveal much more of importance. The report comes with a recommendation of putting more forces out in the streets within the time interval. So, what are the alternatives?

An alternative method of prioritizing targeting the harm to ensure the most efficient way of reducing harm will involve the use of 3 theories/concepts: Routine Activities Theory, the Criminology of Place and the CHI.

Routine Activity Theory

In Routine Activities Theory (Akers, R., Sellers, C., 2009) claims, that exposure to crime is increased, when a likely offender and a likely victim meet in time and space without the presence of a capable guardian. With this knowledge, it seems likely, that by introducing a capable guardian at the correct location and time of the crime, a reduction in harm can be expected, and since the current practice don’t use this knowledge, the new knowledge should be used in targeting the challenges.

Criminology of Place

In the Criminology of Place (Sherman, L., Gartin, P., et al, 1989) analyses and proves, that 3% of all street addresses produces approx. 50% of all the calls for service and 50% of the more serious crime has its origin in even less than 3% of the addresses. On the basis of this research, it can be postulated, that the same goes for our local crime scene occurring during the night time economics. Taking this new knowledge into account, an analysis report must therefore focus sharply on those Power Few Crime Hotspots to pinpoint the addresses with the most concentrated number of  violent crime. (Sherman, 2007). To use the language of emergency rooms doctors, we need to do triage, to ensure the best use of scarce resources (Sherman, L., 2017).

The Report for 2016 will show that 2 street segments in zip code 9000 is responsible for 42 of all 262 reported violence crimes in all year. And through Thursday-Saturday between 11pm to 6am, the 42 cases make up 48% of a total 87 violence crimes during the same period in the whole zip code (approx. 300 yards out of 100 miles of road or in other words: Less than 0,2% hotspot has 48% of the violence crime in the zipcode during the hottest time)

Crime Harm Index

Finally, with the use of a CHI (Sherman, L., 2017) and the inlaid principles of system 2 vs. system 1 thinking (Kahneman, D., 2011), the stage is set for careful selection of the crimes, that do the most harm in the select few hotspots of crime and harm in comparison to randomly patrolling the streets at approximately the right time and place. The use of a CHI would reveal that violent crime during the night time economics constitutes a large part of the general offending behaviour.

Testing

The current practice of reducing harm at micro-places in the NJPD is somewhat at odds with research findings in other police agencies. Whenever a problem like the current raise in violent crime during the night time economy arises, the current procedure is to tell the patrolling officers to randomly drive or walk through the area, when they have the chance during their other night time routine activities of randomly patrolling the whole district. The bias is tilting towards patrolling the inner cities, but not in any controlled way or focused on the harm of micro-places.

Prior Research

The research from police crackdowns (Sherman, 1990), shows the effect of tightly focused policing initiatives with either an offence-driven crackdown or a more area driven crackdown with the emphasis on presence more than sanctions. Other police agencies have successfully tested hotspot patrols as a way of reducing harm in a micro-place like for example the Georgetown crackdown on illegal parking and disorderly behaving (Sherman, 1990) and the Minneapolis Hotspots experiment (Sherman, L. and Weisburd, D., 1995) and with no apparent or diminutive displacement effect and with at best a diffusion effect instead (Sherman, 2017)

Hypothesis

To propose a change, the Null hypothesis (Ariel, 2017) will be: Focused Problem-Oriented Policing (Sherman, 2013) units with an increase in onsite presence in high-crime/harm hotspots will reduce the violent crime and harm as measured by calls for service and – after end of experiment – also in reported crime. As a consequence of the focused patrols on the experimental hotspot site, it is expected to see a police initiated rise in numbers of lesser crime numbers, but not on general violence.

Deterrence and POP

The base theory for the initiative will be Deterrence theory (Nagin, S. 2013 and Tankabe, J., 2017). Firstly, the POP-officers (or HSPO) engages in community involving strategies: Getting the restaurateurs with alcohol permits to not serve the underage or visibly drunk and keep the discotheques and restaurants clean and litter free with sufficient manning in the door, getting the municipality to put up sufficient garbage bins, lightning and CCTV to motivate users of the area to keep it tidy as suggested in “broken-windows theory” (Bottoms, A., 2017 referencing Cohen, L., and Felson, M., 1979). Secondly, the HSPO initiates a deterrent strategy being visibly present with a determined hand in administering the law to uphold the deterrent effect of certainty of being caught, with an immediate reaction of arrest, fine or other forms of repercussive action. And thereby sending “control signals” to countermeasure the “signal crimes” (Innes, 2004) of drunken behavior and incivilities.

Maryland Scale and Koper

From the work of several authors including Barack Ariel (Ariel et al., 2016) and The Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment (Ratcliffe et al. 2011) , research shows a statistical significant effect on HSPO reducing harm. In the research (Ariel et al., 2016) they performed a RCT correlating level 5 on the Maryland Scale and found 39% less crime on the experimental groups and 20% reductions in emergency calls for service compared to control groups.

Testing in NJPD will because of the small area involved and only two main hotspots be an experiment correlating a level 3 on the Maryland Scale. There are 2 comparable parallel street segments with a few hundred meters apart, and one can be the experimental group and the other the control group without intervention except from emergency calls for service and the ordinary officers patrolling randomly without advance planning. With the knowledgebase from the Koper curve, and the initial and residual deterrence effect (Sherman, L. and O´Connor, D., 2017), the pre-set goal for focused patrol time in the experimental site will be 10-15 minutes some 4-6 times during the period with the most harm from 11pm to 6am. The HSPO will wear police uniforms with neon yellow wests over jackets for maximum visibility.

If implementation on basis of the Koper curve fails, some of the failure could be from too many people in the streets of the experimental site without any chance to see or be seen by HSPO, or the people on the street being too drunk to recognize or care about the police presence and thereby neutralizing the deterrence effect. To negate failure, it is prudent to undergo a pre-mortem in advance (Kahneman, 2011) by gathering an informed group trying to look into the future and predict, why it all went south.

An added element to the problem-oriented policing approach might come from the Dorset experience (Sherman, 2013) giving away free chocolate for counteracting the lowered blood sugar by drunk and exhausted people reducing the inclination to fight.

Tracking

The concept of tracking officers’ output and correlated crime outcome is a new way of looking at measuring the benefits for NJPD. And the means for doing this will be on the backdrop of implementation theories and practical means of accomplishing what the hypothesis states. The thorough implementation of an initiative has traditionally always been a minor part in planning and a weakness within the system (Sherman, L. and O´Connor, D., 2017)

Tipping Point

Optimally, our National Police Agency will commit to changing the national organization into one of truly Evidence-Based Policing by going through the suggested 10 steps of building an Evidence-Based Agency (Sherman, L., 2015) setting up the organization for full use of all the principles. But until that happens, the rest of us do what’s necessary in our own districts, but the CRIMPORT Protocol (Sherman, L. and Strang, H., 2009) for good local use as a checklist, even though this is not a RCT.

“Smothering” Paradigm

When implementing a new initiative, there will always be people with an opposite mind of how to do things, and they will oppose the initiative in what is called the “smothering paradigm” (Sherman, et al, 2017), which by Skogan (Skogan, W., 2008) is overcome by taking the time to convince the right people (ex: the managing sergeant) of the ideas’ worth. It will have to be a continuous feedback loop with repeating weekly briefings, summarizing the findings of the week in both output and outcome.

Implementation by Fixsen

Turning to a conceptual view of implementation (Fixsen, D., Naoom, S., Blase, K., Friedman, R., Wallace, F., 2005), their literature states “Desirable outcomes are achieved only when effective programs are implemented well” on basis of focusing on the core implementation components, organizational components and influence factors. This includes looking at exploration and adaption, program installation, initial implementation, full operation, innovation and sustainability.

Exploration and adaption is the NJPD taking ownership of the research from others, adapting it to fit its own needs and organizational setup as described in testing. Even though the geography and crime level in NJPD are different from the study e.g. by Ariel (Ariel et al, 2016), the principles will be imitated to fit the needs of the NJPD in anticipation of cross-population generalizability (Muller-Johnson, K., 2017): The HSPO will go in pairs of two and no solo, experiment takes part above ground and in a flat area so GPS already in all radios will be used for Geofencing and tracking , only one experimental site means that HSPO works on ordinary calls for service when outside the one experimental site, the eligible criteria sees a lot more violent crime in NJPD compared to pickpockets in LU, analysis will come from NJPD’s own analysis unit, etc.

Program installation is NJPD ensuring e.g. that HR is allocating the necessary resources to be able to fulfil the manpower needed for hotspot patrolling, weekly analysis and follow up on both output and outcome, tasking a leader with the job of supervision, providing tech manpower etc. The Top Management Team must invest financial resources to complete the necessary training of both HSPO and the analysts tracking the GPS fence time and crime outcome. They must go into dialogue in advance with local politicians on the Why so as not to be taken hostage in media coverage of not doing the same focused effort in the controlspot etc. The appointed supervisor will – in cooperation with HSPO and analysts/techies and superior management – need to plan for the logistics on weekly briefings and train skills on feeding back and correcting with an equal eye on both transformational and transactional leadership (Judge, T. and Piccolo, R., 2004)

Initial implementation will be the process everybody involved goes through when learning and training the new routines of hotspot patrolling with given parameters, the 3-ways feedback processes (up, down and to the sides) and a new management style; and all fighting the initial stages of fear of change and the complex new routines. It will be necessary to correct both HSPO and their “ordinary” colleagues from deviating because of internal rivalry, a degree of diffusion or perhaps imitation and possibly some resentful demoralisation from colleagues not working in this fashion (Mueller-Johnson, K., 2017). An iterated narrative on the Why, will be appropriate and necessary.

Full operation will be when everybody is used to and has accepted the new procedures and have them integrated into “business as usual”. Innovation will come, when both HSPO, supporting analysists and tech-staff, the supervising manager and other involved starts suggesting changes into the project to refine it. This includes learning from and correcting initial mistakes. Perhaps finding new ways to overcome the potential problem of the GPS fence being too unprecise and analysts being too slow in their weekly reports with both the present and prior data for comparison and feedback purposes.

Sustainability finally, will be when everyday reality catches up and the involved staff undergoes continuous replacement, and the organizational setup continuously adjusts to keep the initiative going throughout change. This includes keeping the initiative going through out the contracted time period with new initiatives being introduced into the organization with competing demand for resources.

Conclusion

This essay has demonstrated a new and sustainable way of reducing violence crime in hot spots. In view of research from other countries agencies, it’s evident that Danish Police can and should learn constructing practices based on research and an evidence base.

In this discourse era of savings and efficiency, it’s foolish not to look at both proved and – at the same time – new ways to both save money and reduce crime and harm in a way, that improves professionalism in Danish Police and all the while implementing initiatives based on democratic opinions on what matters most.

Focusing solely on the use of Triple-T, introducing a CHI, the knowledge of Hotspots and Routine Activity Theory and using the formal way of setting up research experiments by using CRIMPORT, a PD like NJPD could move from the internal strategy stating that “…initiatives are based on evidence-based research” and onto really implementing new tactics based on true evidence-based research tested on our own ground and with our own staff.

Doing this essay – and I expect the same for the coming essays as well – pinpoints a gap in the culture of Danish Police. Danish Police is a national driven Agency, where everyone has the same training and uses the same means, strategies and almost equal resources. Sadly, that also means that no one breaks out and does something inspiring (like research and evidence-based testing) without “regressing to the mean” immediately. Hopefully this will change with this and last season’s vintages of Danish students in Cambridge.

Bibliography

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