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A peek into the latest policing research from the SEBP - issue 21

Space constraints mean we could only provide the briefest summaries of some interesting and important research in the 21st issue of the SEBP newsletter. These do not do the studies justice, but have hopefully piqued your curiosity enough to bring you here.



Image by: Danielle Shedletsky, Tom Reas, Liam Riddler.

Can Social Media Reach Isolated Domestic Abuse Victims? Evidence from a Randomised Control Trial During the Covid-19 Lockdown by Jeffrey Grogger, Ria Ivandić and Tom Kirchmaier


One out of three women in the UK report having experienced domestic abuse (DA) at one point in their lives, yet the offence is widely under-reported to the police. This study is among the first randomized tests of the effects of a social media campaign on engagement and reporting. It set out to find if social media could be used to reach isolated domestic abuse victims and if providing victims with more information and a safer means of contacting police change their likelihood of domestic abuse reporting. The study combined two randomized control trials with uniquely detailed and confidential high-frequency administrative data from The Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley Police. The goal of the campaign was to inform potential victims about Silent Solution, a safer means of reporting instances of DA to police currently in place in the UK. It randomized the treatment across high-risk geographic areas in one force and across high-risk individuals in the other force. and then used high-frequency detailed confidential records to test whether there was a significant difference during the period of treatment for the treated individuals and areas as compared to the ones in the control group—or those who received only ambient messaging. t found while social media is an effective tool for engaging on domestic abuse topics, particularly with younger individuals, our intention-to-treat estimates between the treatment and control areas and individuals did not show any significant difference in domestic abuse reporting. One of the reasons to explain this finding was the geographically imprecise social media targeting features on Facebook. Nevertheless, the study, published in the Cambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing results provide interesting and valuable implications for their effectiveness and the role of technology in the future policing.



Can increasing preventive patrol in large geographic areas reduce crime?: A systematic review and meta‐analysis by David Weisburd, Kevin Petersen, Cody W. Telep, Sydney A. Fay


There has been a general consensus among scholars that patrol in large areas does not reduce crime. However, this systematic review and meta-analysis shows that increasing preventive patrol activities can have the potential to reduce crime in large administrative areas. The review included experimental and quasi‐experimental studies that focused on areas such as beats, precincts, or entire jurisdictions and that measured a crime outcome either through official data or surveys. It identified 17 studies to include in our review and used two methods for assessing study impacts: an approach which identified a primary/general outcome measure and a second approach which used robust variance estimation (RVE) and included all effect sizes across each study. Both approaches showed small crime prevention benefits (RVE: 9% decline; primary/general: 6% decline), but only the RVE model was significant at conventional levels (p < 0.05). There was no significant evidence of displacement. Moderator analyses suggest that as dosage increases so do the crime prevention impacts. In RVE models, preventive patrol was associated with significant reductions in property and violent crime, but nonsignificant increases in drug and disorder offenses. The study, published in Criminology and Public Policy, shows increasing preventive patrol activities has the potential to reduce crime in large administrative areas. Deterrence theory, as well as evidence from studies of hot spots policing, suggests that the greatest benefits will be gained from informing patrol efforts about where and when crime occurs. The research recommended the adoption of a hybrid approach to police patrol, which would include a combination of hot spots policing units and general patrol units informed by data on where crime is concentrated.


Examining the relationship between officer attitudes and behaviour in a multi-site trial of procedural justice training by Cody W Telep, David Weisburd, Tal Jonathan-Zamir, Taryn Zastrow


It is often assumed that more and better police training leads to improved officer performance, but few studies evaluate the impact of training programs on actual performance on the job. This study uses data from a multi-site trial of Procedural Justice (PJ) in crime hot spots to examine the link between training and officer attitudes and behaviour. In three US cities, Tucson, AZ; Cambridge, MA; and Houston, TX), 40 single street-segment hot spots were randomly allocated to receive extra attention from one of two officer teams. One team, called the ‘standard condition group’, was given a brief overview about hot spots policing at the project outset and told to focus on reducing crime in their assigned locations. The other team, called the ‘procedural justice group’, received a 40-h training course at the beginning of the project focussed on using PJ in all interactions in their assigned hot spots. The study found no evidence that the views officers had on PJ before the training shaped they way they behaved with the public. However, for those who had completed the training, there was evidence that greater agreement with PJ principles post-training was a statistically significant predictor of more PJ behaviour in police–citizen interactions. The study, published in Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, shows effective training can improve officer attitudes, and these post-training attitudes have more impact on behaviour, because officers would not only have the needed skills and knowledge to act on their changed attitudes, but would see this type of behaviour was valued, and indeed expected, by their organisation. Efforts by leaders to build a culture, rewards system, and supervisory structure where using PJ in the feld is valued will likely go a long way to ensuring that training successfully changes both attitudes and behaviour.


Navigating the Jagged Technological Frontier: Field Experimental Evidence of the Effects of AI on Knowledge Worker Productivity and Quality by Fabrizio Dell'Acqua Saran Rajendran Edward McFowland III Lisa Krayer Ethan Mollick François Candelon


Many people in policing are looking at Artificial Intelligence as a means to improve productivity, effectiveness and crime fighting. Whilst AI brings both opportunities and threats it is important that we don’t simply swallow a technology pill – and consider the actual impacts. This research used a randomized field experiment to illuminate the dual role of AI as both a booster, enhancing efficiency and productivity, and a disruptor, negatively impacting performance in tasks outside its frontier. The experiment involved 758 consultants at a large consultancy firm. After establishing a performance baseline on a similar task, subjects were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: no AI access, GPT-4 AI access, or GPT-4 AI access with a prompt engineering overview. The researchers suggest that the capabilities of AI create a “jagged technological frontier” where some tasks are easily done by AI, while others, though seemingly similar in difficulty level, are outside the current capability of AI. The study found that the utility of AI can fluctuate over the course of a professional’s workflow, with some tasks falling inside while others fall outside of the frontier. For each one of a set of 18 realistic consulting tasks within the frontier of AI capabilities, consultants using AI were significantly more productive (they completed 12.2% more tasks on average, and completed tasks 25.1% more quickly), and produced significantly higher quality results (more than 40% higher quality compared to a control group). Consultants across the skills distribution benefited significantly from having AI augmentation, with those below the average performance threshold increasing by 43% and those above increasing by 17% compared to their own scores. For a task selected to be outside the frontier, however, consultants using AI were 19 percentage points less likely to produce correct solutions compared to those without AI. This study highlights the importance of validating and interrogating AI, of continuing to exert cognitive effort and experts’ judgment when working with AI, and gives more evidence that we should be led by the evidence not just the technology.

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