Crime at convenience stores: assessing an in-depth problem-oriented policing initiative

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Problem-oriented policing (POP) dynamically addresses unique community issues in a way that allows police departments to be cost-effective and efficient. POP draws upon routine activities and rational choice theories, at

Problem-oriented policing (POP) dynamically addresses unique community issues in a way that allows police departments to be cost-effective and efficient. POP draws upon routine activities and rational choice theories, at times incorporating elements of crime prevention through environmental design. A recent systematic review found POP to be hugely popular, but not rigorously assessed or implemented. In 2009, the Glendale, Arizona Police Department and researchers from Arizona State University received funding through the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA) Smart Policing Initiative (SPI) to target crime at convenience stores through a problem-oriented policing approach. The Glendale SPI team devised an approach that mirrored the ideals put forth by Goldstein (1990), and provided a thorough undertaking of the SARA model. A comprehensive response plan was developed with several proposed responses, including: intervention with Circle K leadership, suppression, and prevention at the six highest-activity stores. Despite a thorough POP implementation, the initial descriptive evaluation of the Glendale SPI reported positive effects on crime, but left questions about the intervention’s long-term impact on convenience store crime in Glendale, Arizona. The policy and theoretical influence of the initiative warrants a more rigorous evaluation. Supplanting the original assessment, a difference in difference model, negative binomial regression, and relative effect size are calculated to ascertain the SPI’s long-term effects on target and comparison stores. Phi and weighted displacement quotient are calculated to determine the existence of displacement of crime or diffusion of benefits. Overall, results indicate support for the project’s effectiveness on crime reduction. Further, none of the six intervention stores experienced crime displacement. Five of the six stores, however, experienced a diffusion of benefits in the surrounding 500-yard area; that is, a crime reduction was observed at the intervention stores and in the surrounding areas of five of these stores. Disorder and property crimes at the targeted stores were most affected by the intervention. One of the intervention stores did experience an increase in violent crime, however. Future studies should strengthen the methodological design when evaluating POP projects and seek to flesh out more precisely the crime control effects of unique problem-oriented strategies.