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A peek into the latest policing research from the SEBP - issue 16

Updated: Jan 24

Space constraints mean we could only provide the briefest summaries of some interesting and important research in the 16th issue of the SEBP newsletter. These do not do the studies justice, but have hopefully piqued your curiosity enough to bring you here.

Results from an effectiveness evaluation of anti-bias training on police behavior and public perceptions of discrimination by Steve Geoffrion, Marie-Pierre Leduc, Elody Bourgouin, François Bellemare, Valérie Arenzon, Christine Genest

This study is the first to suggest that anti-bias training may have a positive behavioural impact on police officers as well as the first to illustrate the potential of such training to improve the perception of community members that they are treated justly by officers. In this small scale project, 50 officers from Sacramento, California were given 12-hours of coursework and Counter Bias Simulation training, an interactive training which uses video to create virtual simulations of encounters with citizens. The researchers then assessed Body Worn Video footage from patrol shifts to compare interactions of the officers before and after the training as well as those of a control group. They coded specific officer behaviors, such as whether they offered a polite greeting, explained the purpose of the encounter and tried to de-escalate volatile situations. The analysis, published in Policing: An International Journal, found a small but significant improvement in the officers’ interactions overall following training, and a reduction in disparities around how officers interact with people suffering homelessness across different racial and gender groups. The trained officers also had 50 per cent fewer discrimination complaints overall. The researchers, from Washington State University, said these results suggested anti-bias training could have an impact on officer behaviors during interactions with public and perceptions of discrimination.

The Drop in Worry about Crime and Its Gender Gap: Trends in England and Wales from 1998 to 2019/2020 by Sophie Pohl and David Buil-Gil Although crime is popularly believed to increasing, in fact, traditional and volume crimes, and the fear of falling victim to them, have both decreased over the past few decades in much of the western world. This study explores the trends in worry about crime in England and Wales, and how they differ between men and women, from 1998 to 2019/20. Using data from the Crime Survey of England and Wales, the researchers analysed responses to the question asking people to state how worried they were about the following crimes: Burglary, Mugging, Car theft, Theft from car, Rape, Assault, Hate crime. They found that women were in general more worried than men about crime, but that worry about crime was declining for men and women over the 21 year period. In addition, some worries about specific crimes note a narrowing trend in their gender gap, with women’s worries about crime decreasing more drastically than men’s. Possible reasons for these findings include the declining trend in crime rates over the same period, rising security standards leading to a greater sense of safety, and improved gender equality. The study, found that worries about online crime and new crime were more pronounced than worries about traditional forms of crime.

Working to Reduce Crime: Exploring the Link Between Economic Participation and Crime Rates in Forsyth County, N.C. Neighborhoods by Zachary D.Blizard and Andrea G.Sheetz

This study examines the relationship between economic participation rates and rates of assaults, vandalisms, and drug offences in neighbourhoods in Forsyth County, North Carolina, USA. Researchers constructed the representative dataset from raw crime data acquired directly from the three law enforcement agencies operating in the county containing all reported annual assaults, vandalisms, and drug offences per neighbourhood from 2013 to 2020. They estimated a two-way fixed effects spatial Durbin regression model relating crime rates to economic participation rates, and controlled for key sources of bias. They found evidence that neighborhoods with higher rates of economic participation among its residents have significantly lower rates of assaults, vandalisms, and drug offenses. The relationship exists even at the neighbourhood-level. The researchers suggested workforce development programs that target and recruit individuals from neighbourhoods with low economic participation rates may have the additional benefit of reducing crime. The study, published in Crime & Delinquency, suggests the primary mechanism by which the negative relationship between economic participation and crime exists is likely engagement with norm-setting institutions, prosocial behaviors, and development of skills and self-worth.

Predictive Policing in a Developing Country: Evidence from Two Randomized Controlled Trials by Sebastian Galiani and Laura Jaitman

This study shows that local knowledge and proper training can be more effective at preventing crime than expensive technological innovations. It is the first paper to analyse the performance of an international predictive policing software and police training strategies in a developing country. Researchers from the University of Maryland and the World Bank analysed a randomised controlled trial conducted in Montevideo, Uruguay to assess the implementation of a piece of predictive policing software developed in the United States. In the first experiment, half of the precincts were randomly assigned to the software, which "uses sophisticated computer algorithms to predict changing patterns of future crime" and half to the local crime analysts. The second experiment randomly allocated a specially trained police force to targeted patrol areas per shift and day, compared to control areas in which officers with no special training patrolled. On the first experiment, no statistically significant differences were found in crime outcomes between the precincts assigned to the foreign predictive software and those assigned to local crime analysts. On the second experiment, the specially trained task force showed more compliance with the assigned patrol sites (20 percent more patrol time) and a greater potential for reducing crime (reduction of 30 percent in robberies only during high crime shifts in comparison to the control group that had no special training). There is also evidence of a diffusion of benefits to adjacent areas. The researchers, writing in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, suggested investing in better training and making better use of local analysts were more cost effective than state-of-the-art-technology. They concluded in developing countries new policing technologies and training require a deep understanding of the context to channel limited resources in the most efficient way.


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