aggressive policing tactics of the NYPD have been criticized as resulting in increased citizen complaints about police misconduct and abuse of force (Greene, 1999).5 The aggressive gun-oriented policing strategies of the NYPD have not been formally evaluated.6

What Has Been Learned?

The evidence from the three targeted place-based firearm and crime suppression patrols is compelling. All three evaluations are well designed and all reveal the same qualitative conclusion, namely, increased firearms seizures, reductions in crime, and little if any displacement. Moreover, these findings are supported by the larger literature on actual randomized policing experiments, which show place-based policing interventions as having substantial crime control effects (see the National Research Council, 2004).

Despite these encouraging findings, there are several shortcomings in the research information that create uncertainty about the potential efficacy of place-based targeted firearms patrols. At the most basic level, the credibility of the quasi-experimental statistical model rests with whether the underlying comparison group is in fact comparable (Meyer, 1995). In particular, the methodology rests on an assumption that the only important difference between the targeted and control patrol areas is in the intervention. In fact, however, the targeted areas were not chosen at random and were not identical to the comparison patrols. Even if the groups are comparable, these evaluations cannot reveal whether the findings reflect a change from general to targeted policing or a change in resource allocation. In all three evaluations, additional resources were explicitly devoted to the targeted areas. The Kansas City program, for example, included both targeted interventions and additional nighttime patrols. Finally, the interventions were of limited duration and scope, focusing on particular areas at particular points in time. As such, the evaluations may not provide insight into the long-term, large-scale potential of these targeted interventions.

Will hot-spot policing have long-term deterrent effects on gun violence? To what extent will there be geographic substitution of violence? How long will it take criminals to adapt to the new system? Will other forms of crime and violence emerge as police change the focus of their efforts? These are important questions for policy officials who must make decisions about whether and how widely to implement such programs.


Others suggest that the increase in the number of citizen complaints is unremarkable; the NYPD’s broader “broken windows” policing strategy significantly increased the number of police-resident contacts, resulting in an overall decrease in the rate of citizen complaints per police-resident contact.


Other aspects of the New York City policing practices in the 1990s have been evaluated. For a review of this literature, see National Research Council (2004).

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement