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Sunday Poll: How effective is “Hot Spot Policing”?

July 12, 2015 Crime, Featured, Sunday Poll 11 Comments


St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson is an advocate of “hot spot policing”:

Through hot spots policing strategies, law enforcement agencies can focus limited resources in areas where crime is most likely to occur. The appeal of focusing limited resources on a small number of high-activity crime areas is based on the belief that if crime can be prevented at these hot spots, then total crime across the city might also be reduced. (National Institute of Justice)

This practice also has local critics. For today’s poll I want to see how effective readers think this strategy is.

The poll closes at 8pm.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "11 comments" on this Article:

  1. Mark-AL says:

    This is a no-brainer! It seems reasonable to me that one would concentrate his efforts in areas where there is apparent need. Firefighters direct their nozzles toward the house that is on fire–not toward the house across the street. Math teachers don’t teach basic arithmetic to a classroom of engineering students. It probably isn’t necessary to paint a stainless steel door. A tree growing in a swamp often doesn’t need to be watered. If on a given night in a given area, there are reports of gunfire, a few rapes, one or two murders, and several cars being trashed by the neighborhood residents, it’s probably time for law enforcement to send in the troops–and to keep those troops there until things settle down a bit. And should the residents of that given area consider the troops’ actions to be a form of “profiling,” then maybe it’s time for the residents to clean up their act. After they clean up their act, the police will likely go away for a while. “The police have more important things on their agendas than to babysit a given area of apparent miscreants who consistently demonstrate they have little or no respect for law and order.” (John 3, 2-4)

  2. JZ71 says:

    Unless one lives in a neighborhood where hot spot policing has been tried, any views on effectiveness will be be anectdotal, at best, filtered through whatever media one chooses to gain their information. I kind of fall into the Whack-a-Mole camp – it looks good while the saturation is there, but things seem to return back to “normal” pretty quickly, once the hot spot switches to a new part of town.

    • Mark-AL says:

      I agree. But if the hot-spot policing effort results in pruning out the dead wood, then eventually the area will improve. To accomplish this, law enforcement AND the courts have to play together in the same sandbox. But this teamwork doesn’t happen in ST Louis. The liberal court system in STL doesn’t support local law enforcement. The Israeli government, though, seems to have their act together. On the boardwalk, along the Mediterranean below Independence Park in Tel Aviv, one is likely to see at least one Israeli soldier (of no-nonsense demeanor) holding an Uzi-type weapon at just about every intersection, keeping an eye on tourists and locals. (Hot-spot policing at its best!) I’ve never heard a complaint from the locals or from tourists or business travelers. Seems to work, too. And when problems arise, Israeli law enforcement AND their courts pull together with appropriate punitive action. While their efforts are directed mainly against foreign terrorist groups, STL law enforcement’s efforts are directed against a different type of terrorist group–groups and gangs of abominable characters who have no self-respect and show even less respect for anyone else. These people are the dead wood. Dead wood attracts rot and insects.

      • guest says:

        This just turned into an interesting discussion. My reaction to Mark-AL’s original post was that he’s seeing things through rose colored glasses. Hot-spot policing doesn’t work, and is definitely a feel good game of whack a mole, as JZ notes. However, in Mark-AL’s second post, when comparing hot-spot to Israeli-style law enforcement, we see a more serious observation – that what STL needs is hot spot policing on steroids, as in terror-threatened Israel. The difference is in the language. At what point does “hot-spot policing” become “martial law”? I think the idea of having security forces armed to the teeth on most street corners carrying Uzis is no longer “hot-spot” but something else. Is that what we want for STL? If so, how do we pay for it if we can’t even afford the much more tame force we have now?

        • Mark-AL says:

          The force behind the hot-spot efforts in Israel reflects their particular, classic style: “If it can be done, it can certainly be overdone.” You see this in their building codes, standards and practices, especially, but also in several other areas of their lifestyle that I don’t care to discuss here for obvious reasons. Only in extreme cases in STL would police with Uzi weapons be deployed (Israeli-style) to STL street corners.But the possibility should NOT be taken off the table. I believe the potential for hot-spot policing will best be realized when the courts begin to support law enforcement, which currently is not being done. And until the liberal STL courts take off their rose-colored glasses, any $ spent to currently support the hot-spot program is probably being wasted. Frankly, the soaring murder rate in STL makes the possibility of “hotter-spot policing, Israeli-style” even more plausible , because if law enforcement fails to take the effort to a higher level, conditions will continue to worsen, based on the current trend.You probably can’t afford NOT to escalate the effort. Hell, if your city can spend $5M to study a sports complex that apparently few if any residents really want, or invest several million $ to buy back property recently sold for several million less to a developer who appeared to have no specific plan for redevelopment in the first place (other than sit on the property until some chump carrying several little bags of buy-back money ambled by), certainly your city leaders can find a few more little bags of $ to support/embellish a program that may help to save your city. Often it’s cheaper to buy the more expensive product.

          • guest says:

            Based on the voice in this last post, Mark AL, I take it you do not live here, at least not in the city proper. Some people may think that’s not a relevant point, but I disagree. It’s one thing to have an opinion on an issue. It’s another to be an active participant. We need engaged, invested, active participants to solve the problems of St. Louis. Bring outside opinions all day long, but someone local will need to take the ideas and implement them.

            As far as beefing up the city’s police budget, I think that’s a long way off from happening. St. Louisans are already being taxed to death. The real estate taxes on our home have nearly tripled in 15 years, while the value of the property has gone up maybe 15-20%

          • Mark-AL says:

            I worked for the first 9 years of my career in Los Angeles. Then my employer transferred me to STL. We first lived for a while in STL Hills, then later moved to Clayton before we decided to live in a rural area that better fit our lifestyle. I’m a goat farmer (from rural Alabama) at heart! Around a year ago, I was transferred to another office, this one out of the country. Before leaving STL, I felt I was finally beginning to establish roots there. My kids attended an excellent (city) school on Oakland Avenue, maybe one of the finest high schools anywhere, IMHO; my wife practiced medicine at a local hospital located in the CWE, and STL served as a convenient hub for my job which requires more travel than I ever imagined. I was considering running for a local school board. My kids were active in soccer and hockey, and orchestra . So I feel as though I AM vested in STL, to an extent. And there are no assurances that I won’t be asked to return to STL, once I’ve served my time in Europe. That’s a reason to continue to tune-in to the local politics.

          • Mark-AL says:

            I don’t want to appear to be bashing STL. Other cities/states appear to also suffer from the apparent lack of vision and leadership that STL is dealing with .( I’m currently spending a lot of time (too much?) working with one of three short-listed engineering teams competing for a contract to design a new bridge over Mobile Bay.) I have too much time on my hands, and I’m shocked to realize (again) that Alabama’s leaders are trying to figure out how to pork-barrel their way through the billions of dollars that BP is handing over to Alabama from the Gulf oil spill. In a state that has no substantial zoning laws, no plans for improving public education other than throwing money up in the air and hoping it lands in the right places, rising crime rates, under-staffed law enforcement, deteriorating and (often) congested highways, under-trained (even un-trained) teachers who blunder they way through TV interviews using malapropisms, sentences whose verbs don’t agree in number with subjects, etc., the city of Mobile’s attention is focused on building ADDITIONAL soccer fields and additional parks to serve a population that tends to avoid existing under-utilized parks, too much time figuring out ways to avoid marrying same-sex couples, and indoctrinating constituents on the evils of legalized gambling/lottery system. You’d be shocked to see how some ADA ramps are constructed here in Alabama! Politics is a nasty business, everywhere.

          • guest says:

            Okay, so I think I get it. You and your wife are the breadwinners of a very high income, affluent, world travelling family. You have a great deal of freedom to decide where you work and live. Given your economic status, why would a place like St. Louis be attractive to you compared to places like Austin, TX, Denver CO, San Diego CA, Portland OR, etc?

          • Mark-AL says:

            “Affluent” and “world-travelling” are not adjectives that I use to describe our family. As a family, we haven’t vacationed together for 4 years, and we are hardly world-traveled.. My travel is business-related. I don’t own my firm, so I don’t have a “great deal of freedom to decide where [I] work and live.” I lived in LA long enough to know that I am not an LA kinda guy. We don’t have offices in Austin, Denver, San Diego, or Portland, but San Diego would be sweet! . I actually liked living in STL, to a great extent. Several great schools! Excellent hospitals. Friendly people. Almost-pleasant weather. But too much crime, so I chose to live away from the city proper but within reasonable commuting distance–shame on me! And I wouldn’t raise too much fuss if asked to return to STL. The list of less-desirable cities is quite long.

  3. gmichaud says:

    To me what is missing is the rest of society and its role in creating the situation that requires the hot spot policing in the first place.
    There are many possible discussions, but jobs and education are at the top of the list. Jobs have been sent overseas, subsidized by the government. These are the stepping stone jobs that previous generations used to better themselves and their families.
    Education is being cut, students in higher education go into enormous debt and yet government policy does not support changes to make education more accessible, at any level. This is along with the failure to create policies so workers in the United States are not competing with workers earning a dollar an hour in countries with no environmental or other regulations
    The truth is the free market and capitalism are abject failures.
    They work fine on the level of the individual deciding to patronize one restaurant over another, but when we talk about the sell out of government, purchased by those exploiting the earth and labor then we end up with situations like hot spot policing.
    Until the conversation changes we are just putting band aids on problems. I don’t see how there is any democratic discussion about any of this. It seems to be a forgone conclusion that wealthy interests get government to do whatever fattens their already gross wealth.


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