This article reports on a randomized experiment to determine the effects of hot spot policing on community experiences, perceptions, and attitudes toward police agencies in two U.S. cities.
To extend the limited evidence on how hot spot policing (HSP) strategies affect community experiences, perceptions, and attitudes, police agencies in two cities participated in a randomized experiment involving 102 hot spots that were assigned to a control condition or to receive a HSP program emphasizing patrol, community engagement, and problem-solving for 14–17 months during 2019 and 2020. Cross-sectional surveys with hot spot community members were conducted in person before the program and, due to COVID-19, by mail and internet afterwards to assess program effects on crime victimization, views of crime and disorder, and attitudes towards police. In both cities, the evaluation period overlapped with the COVID-19 pandemic and the national protests for police reform following the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis during 2020; in one city, the program was ongoing during these events. Results showed the program had few effects on community experiences and views, though there were some indications it may have improved perceptions of police legitimacy and police misconduct in one city. The findings suggest that HSP strategies do not have harmful effects on community perceptions and might improve some aspects of police-community relations. However, weak program implementation, challenges to survey administration, and the occurrence of both COVID-19 and the George Floyd incident during the study period complicate interpretation of the results. Publisher Abstract Provided