Professor’s research establishes police response to micro-time crime hotspots as effective

Roberto Santos
Roberto Santos

Police have been working for years responding to micro-time hotspots of crime and debating whether responding to these reduces overall crime in their communities.

Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and Associate Director of the Center for Police Practice, Policy and Research Roberto Santos, a retired police commander, was the first to test the effectiveness of police response to micro-time hot spots and has found that police response can reduce crime by about 20 percent.

The National Institute of Justice has recently published a review of Santos’ research in which they established that based on his results, police response to micro-time hot spots is effective. assesses the strength of evidence to inform practice and policy makers. Its systematic review process enlists experts who rate criminal justice responses and programs as effective, promising, or having no effect. Effective is the least common rating.

Santos defines micro-time hotspots as a pattern of crimes happening in a small area during a short period of time - a crime “flare-up.” His research focused on burglaries of homes and thefts from cars.

“My research begins by identifying [the micro-time hot spots] right when they happen, say, two similar crimes in a small area,” Santos said. “Police then respond by proactively patrolling the area, and I was able to compare micro-time hot spots with police response to those without for five years.”

A driving factor behind the research was that no one knew if response actually worked, Santos said.

“No one has been able to test this because it is difficult to research police practice using rigorous methods that can establish effectiveness,” Santos said. “I was able to do the study because the police department was open to research and allowed me access to their police operations and data.”

Santos said that the findings of the research are easily translatable to police practice. The micro-time hot spot identification and police response can be operationalized in a short period of time.

 “It is exciting to produce findings about police practice that experts conclude are effective and informs policy makers,” Santos said. “It’s one of the most fulfilling things as a researcher.”

Nov 19, 2018
Max Esterhuizen