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Translating “Near Repeat” Theory into a Geospatial Police Strategy

Date Published
June 8, 2014

In 2010, more than 2.1 million burglaries occurred in the United States, 74 percent of which were residential. The victims of burglary suffered more than $4.6 billion in lost property with an average loss of $2,119 per burglary. National Uniform Crime Reports clearance data indicate that only 12.4 percent of burglaries reported to the police in 2010 were cleared. The monetary and emotional toll on victims and low clearance rate make prevention an especially good strategy for residential burglary.

Research has shown that once a burglary occurs on a street, the homes on that street and on nearby streets are at a much higher risk of burglary over the next one to two weeks. The spatial and temporal components of the “near-repeat” pattern of burglaries can be quantified and usually involve an increased level of risk at nearby locations for a relatively short distance (one to two blocks) and a limited amount of time (a few days to a week) after the first occurrence in an area.[1], [2], [3], [4]

In 2006, NIJ funded the development of a near-repeat calculator designed to estimate the spatial and temporal parameters associated with a jurisdiction’s near-repeat pattern.[5] This project builds on our knowledge of near-repeat patterns to provide actionable information to law enforcement agencies.

Using a randomized controlled trial, researchers will test whether quickly notifying community residents that they are at increased risk for a burglary and providing burglary prevention tips can disrupt further incidents of burglary. The study includes developing an automated system to:

  • Identify originator events.
  • Identify the street hundred blocks that fall within the high-risk area.
  • Use a computerized randomization process to allocate the event to the treatment or control condition.
  • Alert the project coordinator to notify residents.

The automated system will be integrated into the workflow of police agencies in Baltimore, Md., and Redlands, Calif., and will enable the researchers to test whether notification of increased risk can interrupt the phenomenon of near-repeat burglaries.

Authorized representatives of the police department will visit homes in the treatment group. Residents will receive notice of their increased risk as well as crime prevention information. At the end of the experiment, the researchers will evaluate whether homes within the treatment areas were victimized less than those in the control areas, which will not receive visits from police department representatives. A random sample of residents then will be surveyed to discover whether they received information and what actions they took in response.

The Police Foundation, NIJ grant 2012-IJ-CX-0039.

Date Published: June 8, 2014