Does Tracking and Feedback Boost Patrol Time in Hot Spots? Two Tests

Charlotte de Brito, Barak Ariel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research Question
Do police officers complete more assigned patrols in targeted crime hot spots when their supervisors track and feedback data on the proportions of targeted patrols completed?
Uniformed police officers filled out ‘patrol cards’ indicating arrival and departure times at each scheduled hot spot patrol location within four large London railway stations, returning the cards to supervisors each shift. For the experiment, all patrol cards were forwarded to a central analysis unit, where they were digitised and turned into weekly reports for two of the four stations (test stations) but not the other two (control stations). The reports were expressed in a fraction composed of a denominator = numbers of hot spot locations assigned for patrols (which varied widely from day to day), and a numerator = number of locations at which patrols had been completed.
Each week for 3 weeks, the central analysis unit sent reports on ‘percent of assigned patrols completed’ by day of the preceding week to the commanders of the two test stations and to higher-level commanders. The test station commanders were required to ‘brief’ their patrol teams on the proportion of patrols completed. Two sites assigned to control conditions received no such information but were still required to conduct hot spot patrols as their business as usual.

One test station showed a 22% increase in assigned patrols completed, but the second test station showed no discernible effect of tracking and feedback compared to control conditions. These differences between test site results were associated with different leadership histories, turnover and communication styles in each site.
Patrol dosage feedback was followed by increased patrol dosage delivered in relation to matched control sites, but only in one of two tests. These mixed findings suggest the potential value of further research on tracking and feedback, specifically addressing the communication methods, rewards and penalties for line officers responding to the feedback.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)244-262
Number of pages19
JournalCambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2017


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