The Dallas patrol management experiment: can AVL technologies be used to harness unallocated patrol time for crime prevention?

David Weisburd*, Elizabeth R. Groff, Greg Jones, Breanne Cave, Karen L. Amendola, Sue Ming Yang, Rupert F. Emison

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Objectives: To examine whether information on where the police patrol drawn from automatic vehicle location (AVL) systems can be used to increase the amount of directed patrol time at high-crime police beats and crime hot spots, and whether such increases would lead to reductions in crime. Methods: In an experimental study with a block-randomized design, 232 police beats were randomly allocated to an experimental or control condition. In the experimental condition, the police commanders knew the amount of time that police spent in beats and crime hot spots. This information was not provided to commanders in the control condition. Over a 13-week period, assigned patrol time, unallocated patrol time, total patrol time, and crime were tracked at both police beats and crime hot spots (N = 1006). Results: Knowledge of where police officers patrolled did not affect directed patrol at the beat level. At the hot spots level, the treatment group experienced meaningful increases in unallocated patrol time and total patrol time, and a decrease in crime. Conclusions: A key finding of the study is that information generated from AVL can be used to increase directed patrol time at crime hot spots, and that these increased levels of patrol will lead to reductions in crime. At the same time, our study points to the fact that only a small proportion of unallocated time in Dallas is actually focused on hot spots policing. We suggest that this is the reason why crime went down significantly at the hot spots but not in beats overall in Dallas.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)367-391
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Experimental Criminology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
All data have been deposited at the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research ( ). This project was supported by Cooperative Agreement #2007-IJ-CX-K153 by the U.S. Department of Justice with the Police Foundation entitled “The Dallas AVL Experiment: Evaluating the Use of Automated Vehicle Locator Technologies in Policing.” We would like to thank the Dallas PD for its assistance in collecting data for this project. We would also like to thank a number of scholars for comments on earlier drafts of this paper including Emily Owens, Lawrence Sherman, John MacDonald, Stephen Mastrofski, Cynthia Lum, and Peter Neyroud.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


  • AVL systems
  • Crime hot spots
  • Crime prevention
  • Police patrol
  • Preventive patrol
  • Unallocated patrol time


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