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Weisburd (2008) - Place-Based Policing

Weisburd (2008) - Place-Based Policing

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Ideas inAmericanPolicing
 By David Weisburd
 Place-Based Policing 
Number 9January 2008
Ideas in American Policing 
presents commentary and insight rom leading crimi-nologists on issues o interest to scholars, practitioners, and policy makers. Thepapers published in this series are rom the Police Foundation lecture series o thesame name. Points o view in this document are those o the author and do notnecessarily represent the ocial position o the Police Foundation. The ull seriesis available online at http://www.policeoundation.org/docs/library.html.
2008 Police Foundation and David Weisburd. All rights reserved.
David Weisburd
is Walter E. Meyer Professor of Law andCriminal Justice at the Hebrew University
in Jerusalem, andProessor o Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University o Maryland, College Park. He is also a Senior Fellow atthe Police Foundation and Chair o its Research Advisory Committee.
Police practices are ocusedprimarily on people and otenbegin when people call thepolice. They are ocused onidentiying oenders whocommit crimes, and end withthe arrests o those oendersand their processing throughthe criminal justice system.Police attention is also directedat times to broader community problems and “community caretaking” (Kahan and Meares1998; Mastroski 1999), andthe police are expected to play arole in securing communities inemergencies and more recently in response to homeland security threats (Waddington andNeyroud 2007). But despite thebroader mandate o the police,the core practices o policingassume that people, whether victims or oenders, are the key units o police work.Police proessionals mighttake exception to this portraito policing. They will argue thatpolice in recent years have begunto think not only about oendersand victims but also about thesituations and places that are thecontext o crime. To bolster thisargument, they might note thatpolice agencies throughout thecountry have begun to ocus inon crime hot spots and that crimemapping has become a centraleature o cutting-edge law enorcement (Weisburd and Lum2005). Moreover, they couldargue that the location o crimeis a key component o many recent police innovations, suchas Compstat (Silverman 1999),hot spots policing (Sherman and Weisburd 1995; Weisburd andBraga 2006a), and problem-oriented policing (Eck 2003). Inthis sense, many orward-lookingpolice agencies have begun to
——  ——
recognize that places as well aspeople need to be considered i police are to do something aboutcrime and other related problems.It is still the case, however,that catching criminals andprocessing them through thecriminal justice system remainsthe predominant police crimeprevention strategy, and this istrue even, or example, wheninnovative approaches such asproblem-oriented policing areemployed (Braga and Weisburd2006). Moreover, despite interestin crime mapping, inormationsystems in policing continueto be centered on victims andoenders. Databases in Americanpolicing tell us little about thecontext o crime, despite the actthat police have begun to ocuson such contexts as hot spots o crime. In turn, despite importantstrategic innovations in policing,like Compstat that demand thatthe police attend to problemplaces, policing today continuesto be geographically organizedinto units such as police precinctsor beats that have little to do with the crime places that recentresearch has identied as centralto understanding crime.In this essay, I am goingto argue that police should putplaces rather than people atthe center o police practices.My point is not simply thatplaces should be considered inpolicing but that they shouldbecome a key component o the databases that police use; o the geographic organization o police activities; o the strategicapproaches that police employ tocombat crime and disorder; andin the denitions o the role o the police in urban settings. My essay will show that place-basedpolicing, as opposed to person-based policing, is more ecient asa ocus o police actions; providesa more stable target or policeactivities; has a stronger evidencebase; and raises ewer ethical andlegal problems. These benetso place-based policing suggestthat the police should shit theirprimary ocus rom the peopleinvolved in crimes to the contextso criminal behavior. This is nolonger a radical idea or policeadministrators who have osteredand developed innovations thatare concerned with the context o crime (Bratton 1998; Bueermann1999; Maple and Mitchell1999). Police scholars in turnhave pointed to the importanceo places in crime causation andcrime prevention or almost threedecades (Eck and Weisburd 1995;Sherman, Gartin, and Buerger1989; Sherman and Weisburd1995; Spelman and Eck 1989a,1989b; Weisburd 2004; Weisburd,Bushway, Lum, and Yang 2004).Place-based policing in thiscontext represents an evolutionin policing even i it demandsa reconsideration o the key organizing units o police practice.Recognizing that it is notenough to simply argue in avoro place-based policing, I willconclude by suggesting practical ways in which the police mustchange to eectively implementthese practices. O course, inadvancing new approaches, thepolice in the eld will adopt andinnovate as they identiy new problems and opportunities. My suggestions in this regard shouldbe seen as ideas or implementingpolicies that can advance thepolicing industry. Police overthe last two decades have showna remarkable degree o interestin innovation to advance policepractices (Skogan and Frydl2004; Weisburd and Braga2006b). Place-based policingrepresents a natural progressionin this process.
 What Is a Place?
Beore we turn to the benetso place-based policing, it isimportant to begin by dening what I mean by place. Place-based policing is not simply theapplication o police strategies tounits o geography. Traditionalpolicing in this sense can be seenas place-based, since police haveroutinely dened their units o operation in terms o large areas,such as police precincts and beats.In place-based policing, placereers to a very dierent levelo geographic aggregation thanhas traditionally interested policeexecutives and planners. Places inthis context are very small microunits o analysis, such as buildingsor addresses; block aces, or streetsegments; or clusters o addresses,block aces, or street segments(Eck and Weisburd 1995). Whencrime is concentrated at suchplaces, they are commonly calledhot spots.
——  ——
Two illustrations o crimeplaces are useul since they point to the dierent waysthat place may be important inunderstanding crime and in policeinterventions. In the MinneapolisHot Spots Experiment (1995),Lawrence Sherman and Iidentied street segments orstreet blocks or increased patrolpresence (see Figure 1). We used street blocks inpart because they represented aunit o analysis that was easily identied by police and couldprovide a natural setting orpolice interventions. But wealso recognized, as have otherscholars, that such actors asthe visual closeness o residentso a block; interrelated roleobligations; acceptance o certaincommon norms and behavior;common, regularly recurringrhythms o activity; the physicalboundaries o the street; and thehistorical evolution o the streetsegment make the street block aparticularly useul unit or analysisor policing places (Hunterand Baumer 1982; Taylor,Gottredson, and Brower 1984).In the Jersey City Displacement and DiusionProject (Weisburd, Wycko,Ready, Eck, Hinkle, and Gajewski2004; Weisburd, Wycko, Ready,Eck, Hinkle, and Gajewski 2006),my colleagues and I also soughtto identiy a discrete place orpolice attention. But in this study  we sought to examine specictypes o criminal markets. Suchmarkets oten spread acrossstreet segments in a larger areao criminal activity. Figure 2illustrates the boundaries o aprostitution market identied orintervention in Jersey City.Included in this case is a groupo city blocks but, importantly,this is still much smaller than theneighborhoods or police precinctsthat have oten been the ocus o police interventions and scienticstudy o crime. The displacementproject and the Minneapolisexperiment illustrate moregenerally the ways in which units
Figure 1: Place in the Minneapolis Hot Spots Experiment 
Oak St.Maple St.Spruce St.
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Figure 2: Place in the Jersey City Displacement and Diusion Project 
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