Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services

Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services


Ronald V. Clarke & John E. Eck

U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services


Center ffor PProblem-OOriented PPolicing

This project was supported by cooperative agreement #2003CKWXK048 by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions contained herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the U.S. Department of Justice. References to specific companies, products, or services should not be considered an endorsement of the product by the author or the U.S. Department of Justice. Rather, the references are illustrations to supplement discussion of the issues.

Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers IIn 660 SSmall SSteps

Ronald V. Clarke

John E. Eck


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Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers in 60 Small Steps

his is a revised and extended version of a manual, Become a Problem-

Solving Crime Analyst, that we wrote for the Jill Dando Institute of Crime

Science at University College London, with financial support from the

Home Office. We are most grateful to the Institute and to the Home Office

for allowing us to produce this version for the United States. We are also

grateful to the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services for

commissioning the work. In the Acknowledgements page of the earlier

version we thanked many colleagues and friends on whose work we had

freely drawn. Those who have materially assisted us in completing this

version by supplying material for inclusion, commenting on drafts, or in

other ways, include: Stacy Belledin, Rachel Boba, Karen Bullock, Barbie

Brookover, Christopher Bruce, Andy Brumwell, Graham Farrell, Rob

Guerette, Samantha Gwinn, Shane Johnson, Johannes Knutsson, Gloria

Laycock, Nancy Leach, Deborah Loewen, Tamara Madensen, Mangai

Natarajan, Cynthia Pappas, Ken Pease, Nanci Plouffe, Barry Poyner, Jerry

Ratcliffe, George Rengert, Nick Ross, Kim Rossmo, Rana Sampson,

Matthew Scheider, Karin Schmerler, Michael Scott, Nick Tilley, Susan

Wernicke, Matt White, and Deborah Lamm Weisel. We thank all of them.







Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers in 60 Small Steps




Ronald Clarke is university professor in the school of Criminal Justice at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and visiting professor at the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, University College London. He worked for many years in the Home Office Research and Planning Unit, where he contributed to the development of situational crime prevention and the British Crime Survey. He is associate director of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing and chair of the judges for the annual Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem- Oriented Policing. He can be reached at: rclarke@andromeda.rutgers.edu.


John Eck is professor of criminal justice at the University of Cincinnati. He has contributed to the development of problem-oriented policing since 1984 when he studied the first full-scale attempt to implement the concept in the United States at Newport News, Virginia. He helped to develop a number of now standard techniques in problem-oriented policing, including the SARA model and the problem analysis triangle. Dr. Eck is an affiliate member of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing. He is a judge for the Tilley Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing. Dr. Eck was a member of the Committee to Review Research on Police Policy and Practice (2000-2003) of the National Academy of Sciences. He can be reached at: john.eck@uc.edu.


One of the primary concerns in policing in the UnitedStates today – and for the foreseeable future – isthe severe constraint on spending. The lion’s share of police budgets is consumed in personnel costs. As a result, many police agencies are already operating significantly below their authorized strength. Funds to hire new officers to meet growing needs are hard to obtain. And, of special relevance here, traditional forms of policing, because they are so heavily dependent on personnel, are being curtailed. Calls cannot be handled as completely and quickly as in the past. Personnel cannot be as freely assigned to increasing the police presence on the streets in labor-intensive tactics, such as crackdowns, sweeps, and special task forces.

This reality is a powerful new force for rethinking the way in which we police. It connects with prior efforts to promote greater concern for the effectiveness of the police. And it lends fresh impetus to meeting a long-standing, neglected need – the need to equip the police with an institutionalized capacity to examine its work product; to routinely ask, before committing to more of the same, what it is that the police are expected to accomplish and how they can more effectively accomplish it.

Rethinking current methods requires a new understanding of the role of the police – both on the part of the police and the public they serve. It is essential to recognize that the police function is not as simple as it is sometimes portrayed. It is incredibly complex. It is not a singular function, commonly defined as enforcing the law. It requires dealing with a broad range of behavioral problems, each quite different from the other. It does not consist simply of reacting to an endless array of incidents. Police are now expected to prevent them from occurring in the first instance.

A fresh perspective on policing requires that the police examine, in depth, each of the numerous behavioral problems that together constitute their business; that they consider a broader range of strategies on how best to prevent, reduce, or eliminate each of them; and that they weigh more precisely their effectiveness upon adopting a new targeted response. This is the essence of problem- oriented policing.

Many advances have been realized under the umbrella of problem-oriented policing since the concept was first introduced in 1979. But these have not been mainstreamed within policing. Their implementation has been spotty, uneven, and without deep and lasting roots. They remain overshadowed by the dominant, continuing commitment to traditional policing and its heavy dependence on lots of police officers patrolling and making arrests.

Greater concern about police effectiveness in dealing with specific behavioral problems need not start from scratch. Collectively, we know much about the wide range of behavioral problems that constitute police business and how best to prevent them. This knowledge can be found in the substantial literature on crime and crime prevention – especially in the literature on situational crime prevention. Much of value can be found, too, among the practices of police agencies and in the minds of experienced police officers, but this experience and expertise must be tapped and subjected to rigorous analysis.

The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing (POP Center) (www.popcenter.org) now serves as a locus for the collection of the growing body of knowledge regarding problems commonly encountered by the police. It disseminates this material in various ways, but primarily through the publication of its problem-oriented guides. Each guide synthesizes existing knowledge and evaluated practices regarding a specific problem, and stimulates police to advance their own thinking about how best to handle the problem in its local context.

While the POP Center has documented hundreds of successful cases in problem-oriented policing, a major impediment to advancing the concept has been the absence of an analytical capacity within police agencies. Many police agencies do employ one or more crime analysts, but some of the largest and more advanced police organizations do not. When employed, the job of the crime analyst is often narrowly limited to tabulating crimes that occur. In others, it extends to identifying patterns of crimes with the primary objective of identifying the likely offender so that he/she can be apprehended. In its more ambitious form, the crime analyst’s job may include identifying factors contributing to a crime pattern, but the job of deciding how to respond to these factors is usually deferred to operational personnel, who then tend to use traditional means for dealing with them.


Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers in 60 Small Steps

Meanwhile, the field of crime analysis itself has grown much more sophisticated. A strong literature on its potential is now available. The ability to electronically capture, store, and retrieve massive amounts of data that police routinely collect is infinitely greater than it was just a decade ago. The capacity to map crime geographically is stunning, and is now a major, indispensable tool in crime analysis. Standard approaches have been developed for the collection, analysis, and dissemination of intelligence across jurisdictional lines.

In this manual, Ronald Clarke and John Eck set out a much more ambitious and potentially productive agenda for the analyst. They outline a role in which the crime analyst invests heavily in seeking new responses to the problems that are diagnosed and participates directly in efforts to test and implement them. The analyst is expected to contribute to exploring new, more creative, and potentially more effective ways of carrying out the police job. Through this manual, Clarke and Eck demonstrate how one analyst, properly trained and utilized, has the potential to increase many times the productivity and effectiveness of perhaps hundreds of police officers. Understood in this way, an investment in crime analysts can be a smart way to increase the return on the substantial investment that communities make in sworn police personnel.

Blending their expertise as researchers and their familiarity with policing, Clarke and Eck have collected all of the knowledge and methodology that is relevant and currently available; organized it in 60 small segments or steps that build logically upon each other; and communicated the material in a style that is both concise and engaging. The volume is packed with vital and sophisticated information that makes it one of the most significant publications addressed to the policing field in the past several decades.

The most immediate goal of the manual is to help the relatively small number of individuals now commonly employed in police agencies as crime analysts to expand their function and thereby contribute more to the effectiveness of their agency’s operations. It is intended, more ambitiously, to contribute to the training of new crime analysts or problem-solvers, to increasing their number, and to their development as a distinct and vital profession. But problem analysis is not the exclusive

domain of technicians. We hope that, everyone else in a police agency, from officers on the beat to police executives, and, more broadly, those in both the public and private sector concerned about crime, will incorporate the line of thinking set forth in the manual into the perspectives they bring to their work.

Herman Goldstein Professor of Law Emeritus University of Wisconsin-Madison




This 60-step manual assumes that you are anexperienced analyst and that you are accustomed toproviding the kind of information needed to support police operations. This means that:

  1. You use modern computing and know how to access and manipulate comprehensive databases.
  2. You know how to use software to map crime, to identify hot spots, and to relate these to demographic and other data.
  3. You routinely produce charts showing weekly or monthly changes in crime at departmental and beat level, perhaps to support CompStat-style operations.
  4. You are accustomed to carrying out analyses into such topics as the relationship between the addresses of known offenders and local outbreaks of car theft and burglary.
  5. You may have carried out some before-and-after evaluations of crackdowns, such as on residential burglaries or car thefts.
  6. You have some basic knowledge of statistics and research methodology such as is provided by an undergraduate social science degree.

The manual builds on this experience to prepare you for a different analytic role as a key member of a problem- solving team. Indeed, the latest writings on problem- oriented policing see crime analysts as central to this new way of policing communities. These writers argue that many of the weaknesses of current practice result from the insufficient involvement of well-trained crime analysts at each stage of the problem-solving process.

The manual prepares you for this new role by providing you with a basic knowledge of problem-oriented policing and the related fields of environmental criminology and situational crime prevention. You cannot adequately function as a problem-solving crime analyst without being conversant with these fields. Nor can you fill this role without rethinking your job, and the early sections of the manual explain how to take a more proactive approach. You cannot simply wait for your police colleagues to come to you with requests for information. Instead, you must take the initiative at every stage of the project in defining the scope of the problem-solving effort, in trying to analyze the causes of the problem, in helping to find an effective response, and in setting up the project so that it can be evaluated and the police can learn from the results. This means that you must be an integral member

of the problem-solving team, that you must explore sources of information and data well beyond those that you normally use in your work, that you must stick with a particular project much longer than you normally would and, finally, that you will share the credit for its success, or the disappointment for its failure, equally with the other members of the team.

The manual assumes that analysts who take on this new role are interested in contributing to the development of their profession. Assisted by vastly improved data-bases and powerful computing hardware and software, crime analysis is on the verge of becoming an exciting new specialty. Indeed, it has already begun to attract a cadre of well-trained and highly motivated professionals who are vital to the development of policing in the 21st century. You can make your contribution by communicating the results of your work in professional meetings and in the journals of your profession. By doing so, you will not only help your profession and policing in general, but you will become a more informed and valuable resource to your own force.

The manual is short enough to get through in a weekend. It would be hard work and probably worth doing, but it was not designed to be read and then shelved. Instead, we hope that you will find it to be an indispensable reference source that you will keep near your desk, consulting it whenever needed in the course of a problem-solving project. This is why it is designed to be robust, allowing for continuous use. When open at a particular step it is designed to lie flat on your desk so that you can consult it easily when working at your computer.

We have arranged the steps to follow logically one from another, in line with the SARA model (Scanning, Analysis, Response and Assessment), though each is self-contained and deals with a specific topic. This should make it unnecessary for you to leaf through the manual, jumping from place to place, when dealing with a particular topic. To get the best out of the manual you should be thoroughly familiar with the list of contents and you should have browsed through sections that interest you to get an idea of the coverage. But you need only study a particular step when you have an immediate need for the information it contains. In any case, this is the best way to learn: to seek and apply information when you have a practical need for it.

read this firstread this first

Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers in 60 Small Steps

In some cases, we do deal with a particular topic in more than one place. For example, Step 12 provides a general introduction to the concept of displacement, while Steps 48 and 49 explain how to check for various forms of displacement at the evaluation stages. The combined glossary and index at the end of the manual should help you find where a topic is mentioned in more than one place.

We use examples from other countries as well as from the United States. We sought the best examples to make our point, so even if the context is foreign, the principles are universal. We hope this diversity of ideas stimulates creative thought: “Could that approach be adapted to this problem? How could we do it?”

We have not referenced the manual as fully as an academic publication for several reasons. We have already tried to distill the essentials of the literature at each step. We also doubt that busy crime analysts will have much time for academic reading. Lastly, few of you will have ready access to the specialized libraries that hold this material. But occasionally you will need to know more about a topic, and at each step we identify key articles or books that you should be able to obtain more easily. Where possible, we have chosen those that are accessible on the Web. If you need help with references, feel free to email one of us at the addresses given earlier. We would also be glad to receive any comments on the manual, especially suggestions for improvement, which could be useful if we prepare later editions. Most important, please don’t be shy about suggesting your own analyses for inclusion!






As explained in the Acknowledgements, we have developed this manual from an earlier version that we prepared for the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science at University College London. We have removed British terms and spelling and have replaced many of the British examples with American ones. But you will still find many references to things British. In particular you will see frequent mention of the Home Office, which is equivalent to the U.S. Department of Justice. It has overall responsibility for matters relating to crime and justice in England and Wales, including the police. There are only 43 police forces in England and Wales (for a population of about 50 million), so the forces are much larger than most American police departments. There is also much more uniformity among British police forces in policies, rank structures, equipment, and deployment. This is partly due to the oversight provided by the Home Office (which provides 51 percent of each force’s budget) and regular inspections by Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Constabulary. The Home Office also funds a great deal of research on crime and criminal justice and has its own large research department that publishes many studies of direct, practical relevance to police. Recently, it has sponsored much work on problem-oriented policing, including the original version of this manual.

The Home Office and the British Police

60 small stepsCrime Analysis for Problem Solvers in Acknowledgements



Read This First

Prepare Yourself 1. Rethink your job 2. Be the local crime expert 3. Know what is effective (and not) in policing

Learn About Problem-Oriented Policing 4. Become a POP expert 5. Be true to POP 6. Be very crime specific 7. Be guided by SARA – not led astray!

Study Environmental Criminology 8. Use the problem analysis triangle 9. Know that opportunity makes the thief 10. Put yourself in the offender’s shoes 11. Expect offenders to react 12. Don’t be discouraged by the displacement doomsters 13. Expect diffusion of benefits

Scan for Crime Problems 14. Use the CHEERS test when defining problems 15. Know what kind of problem you have 16. Study the journey to crime 17. Know how hot spots develop 18. Learn if the 80-20 rule applies

Analyze in Depth 19. Research your problem 20. Formulate hypotheses 21. Collect your own data 22. Examine your data distributions 23. Diagnose your hot spot 24. Know when to use high-definition maps 25. Pay attention to daily and weekly rhythms 26. Take account of long-term change






  1. Know how to use rates and denominators 28. Identify risky facilities 29. Be ready for repeat victimization 30. Consider repeat offending 31. Know the products that are CRAVED by thieves 32. Conduct case control studies 33. Measure association 34. Look for crime facilitators 35. Understand the crime from beginning to end 36. Be sure to answer the five “W” (and one “H”) questions 37. Recognize that to err is human

Find a Practical Response 38. Embrace your key role at response 39. Increase the effort of crime 40. Increase the risks of crime 41. Reduce the rewards of crime 42. Reduce provocations 43. Remove excuses for crime 44. Find the owner of the problem 45. Choose responses likely to be implemented

Assess the Impact 46. Conduct a process evaluation 47. Know how to use controls 48. Consider geographical and temporal displacement 49. Examine displacement to other targets, tactics and crime types 50. Watch for other offenders moving in 51. Be alert to unexpected benefits 52. Expect premature falls in crime 53. Test for significance

Comunicate Effectively 54. Tell a clear story 55. Make clear maps 56. Use simple tables 57. Use simple figures 58. Organize powerful presentations 59. Become an effective presenter 60. Contribute to the store of knowledge







1 Like most crime analysts, you probably think of yourjob in rather modest terms. You do not solve crimessingle-handed. Nor do you take the lead in setting departmental crime-fighting priorities. Instead, you crunch data for those who do the “real” work of finding better ways to arrest criminals. You respond to requests for the latest statistics on burglary or car theft from beat officers and sergeants. You map crime for weekly meetings so that the lieutenant knows where to demand more effort. And you compile monthly statistics that others need for their reports. In other words, you sit in the back seat while others do the driving, asking for your help only when they need it.

This manual will help you rethink your role. Even someone sitting in the back seat can help the lost driver find direction. Control over information is crucial, and the ability to analyze it is all-important. The person who learns how to do so becomes an essential member of the team. But we are not talking here about power or status. We are referring instead to a challenge facing all police forces: how to solve enduring and repetitive crime problems. Think of yourself as a member of a team helping to solve these problems, with a particular role in that team. As you use this manual you will begin to see how to perform that role and you will also see how essential it is.

To play that essential role, you need to know more. We are not referring to improved computer skills or mapping ability, important though these are. You need to learn more about crime itself, to become a resource to your department as an expert on crime in your local area. If there is a new burglary wave, you should be the first to know and the first to tell. Analyze and map the statistics and get the basic facts yourself. If you wait, others will say what is happening without any factual basis. Once more you will be relegated to the back seat. You are the “facts” person and you must find things out as soon as possible, using the best means possible. This will often mean going beyond police data, and this manual will tell you how to use other data sources, including interviews with victims and offenders and records of crime kept by businesses. Becoming a source of information is a first step. The ideal is to also be a source of advice. Whether you can do this depends on your supervisor’s openness, but at least you can provide options or support the suggestions of others with information and data.

In particular you should know what works in policing and what does not. How effective is random patrol? How often do police come upon a crime in progress? How

often are crimes solved later through patient detective work or forensic evidence? How productive are stakeouts and surveillance in terms of arrests? How much do crackdowns cost in officers’ time? What are the arrest rates for different kinds of crimes? How many crimes of different kinds are even reported to the police? Knowing answers to these questions will tell you why even the most hard-working officers are relatively ineffective in preventing crime, and why an increasing number of police forces are now turning to problem-oriented policing.

The main purpose of this manual is to tell you about problem-oriented policing and the vital part you can play in its implementation. The manual helps you distinguish problem-oriented policing from other forms of community policing. It shows you how problem-oriented policing can become more effective by using environmental criminology and situational crime prevention. It describes each of the four stages of a problem-oriented project – scanning for crime problems, analyzing a specific problem in depth, responding to the problem by implementing solutions and assessing the results of the project – and gives examples of the data and information that you could provide at each stage. Finally, it illustrates the kind of analyses that you can undertake at all four stages to work effectively as a member of the problem-solving team.

These stages of a problem-oriented project will require that you remain working on a single project much longer than your traditional analytic role requires. You can expect to stay with a problem-solving project for weeks or months, rather than just the few hours needed to plot a burglary hot spot or provide a monthly report. Where a detailed assessment of results is needed, your involvement might even stretch for more than a year. You may have to explain this to officers who come to you for help. At first they may be surprised that you expect to stick so long with a project, but soon they will appreciate your commitment to making the effort worthwhile.

Your time has been wasted if you cannot communicate the results of your work. Later sections of the manual give suggestions for communicating more effectively by telling a story using simple maps and tables. Your presentations should try to lead to a course of action, but you must always explain the limits of your data and tell officers where your recommendations are based on best guesses rather than facts.

  1. Rethink your job

Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers in 60 Small Steps






This manual cannot tell you everything you must know or do to become a problem-solving analyst. You must seek constantly to enhance your professional and technical skills and keep up-to-date with the latest developments in relevant fields. You must take the initiative in finding more effective ways to capture information and more efficient ways to process it, as time freed up from routine tasks means more time for the new work of problem analysis. You must read more widely and explore other sources of information. Additional readings are recommended throughout this manual, but you will also have to find material for yourself. A good way to do this is through networking with analysts in other departments and by attending professional meetings of analysts, police and criminologists. And try to pass on lessons you have learned by making presentations at these meetings of valuable or novel analyses you have undertaken.

In short, you should begin to see yourself as more than just a technician, skilled in manipulating and presenting data. You should become more like a researcher – albeit with a highly practical focus – one who is bringing the very best that science can offer to make policing more effective. By the same token, also recognize that you are part of an emerging profession, which you can help to develop.

Rethink your job:

• Become a crime expert • Know what works in policing • Promote problem solving • Take your place on the project team • Learn about environmental criminology • Hone your research skills • Communicate effectively • Enhance your profession

Read More:

Braga, Anthony (2002). Problem-Oriented Policing and Crime Prevention, Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press.

2 How often have you been asked the following sortsof questions in your work? • What locations are hot for auto theft right now? • Which convenience stores are repeatedly robbed

and why? • What are burglars taking from shops and where do they

fence the goods? • Is there less crime in the better-lit streets? • Which apartment complexes harbor drug markets?

Some of these you might not have been able to answer at all – others only after a special analysis. But suppose you had the answers to them and many more at your fingertips? Suppose you were the expert on crime in your force area? In fact, nobody else can fill that role:

• Individual officers are too busy answering calls. • Detectives are focused on specific cases. • Sergeants are supervising their officers. • Lieutenants are overseeing patrol responses for large

geographic areas. • The chief, his or her assistants and captains are busy

with administrative issues.

In short, nobody can see the whole crime picture. But if you became the local crime expert it would help make your department more informed, efficient, and capable of using its resources to reduce crime. It would provide more opportunity to warn citizens, to detect offenders, and to initiate prevention efforts. In short, you could help a lot of people by gathering the right information.

To become the local crime expert, sit in regularly with dispatchers and talk to officers about what they are seeing. Remember the late shift might not see officers on the early shift, and those on one side of town might not see officers on the other. They often talk about exceptions, not the rules, about what made them angry, not about the routine. Yet the routine is the bread and butter of crime analysis.

Take ride-alongs as often as time permits. Not only will you get to know more of the officers in your department, but you will also get a better feel for their work and the problems they face on the street. Matt White, crime analyst with the Jacksonville, Florida Sheriff’s Office, recommends taking along a laptop loaded with Geographic Information System (GIS) data. You can then compare information about the area with the officers’ perceptions.

Crime scenes receive a good deal of attention in serious crimes, but not usually in ordinary crimes. You can learn a lot by visiting them, especially when trying to understand a particular crime problem. Comparing incident reports with your own observations could reveal that important details about the setting and the circumstances of incidents might not have been recorded – perhaps because the report form did not specifically request them. Armed with this knowledge, you can suggest changes to the forms to capture information that is helpful both for detecting offenders and for thinking about how to prevent these crimes in the future.

Try to keep abreast of new trends in crime. Read through a batch of crime reports each week to see if there is anything new. Try also to pay attention to failed crime attempts (see box). Some offenders have a trial-and-error process as they look for new ways to get something for nothing. Those trying to cheat ticket vending machines or ATMs may have difficulty in finding a method that works. But when they do, the word will spread. If you know their method, you might be able to warn officers and others.

Very often a local crime problem is also found elsewhere. Your force may experience a rash of thefts from building sites when this has never been a problem before. But you can be sure that somewhere else has suffered this problem. That’s why it is important to be alert to changes in crime targets and modus operandi. The Internet is a good source of information about what crime others are seeing. You should also ask your analyst colleagues in nearby forces. They may be experiencing exactly the same problem, with perhaps the same group of offenders involved.

Do not limit yourself to the police because many other people know a lot about particular crime problems:

• City code inspectors can see blight developing before this is apparent to others.

• Bar owners know about underage drinking, poor serving practices and sloppy management (in other bars, of course!).

• Principals know all too well about bullying and vandalism on school premises.

• Small business owners are alert to problems involving their premises. For example, a pharmacist knows what is being stolen from his shop or whether intoxicated people are hanging out nearby.

• Emergency room personnel see many injuries from crime that they record but might not report to the police.

  1. Be the local crime expert

Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers in 60 Small Steps






• Women’s refuges or rape crisis centers know far more about patterns of domestic violence than most police officers.

• Private security guards are often the first to know about a particular incident. But they also have information that can contribute to your general understanding of local crime patterns.

Offenders themselves are surprising sources of information. Although they might not admit doing anything themselves, they are often willing to talk about “how it is usually done.” Many offenders are actually quite talkative about the craft of offending, and will tell you exactly how they pick targets, fence valuables, what offenders are looking for these days, and the like. Asking your police colleagues to obtain this information from offenders can sometimes be very useful.

Last, victims can tell you a good deal about the crime. For offenses such as burglary, they may not be able to give a precise time of offense, but they can still tell you where an offender broke in, what is missing, what room or floor was left alone, etc.

How to become expert on crime in your area:

• Get away from your computer! • Talk to officers about what they are seeing. • Go on ride-alongs and sit with dispatchers. • Visit crime scenes and examine crime reports. • Check failed attempts to learn exactly what happened. • Talk to city officials about specific crime problems. • Exchange information with businesses and

private security. • Ask analysts in nearby cities about changes in crime

targets and methods. • Ask officers to question offenders about their methods. • Get information from victims about exactly when, where,

and how. • Help to improve crime incident forms and data capture.

Learning from Unsuccessful Attempts

The Chula Vista, California Police Department was aware that the city’s building boom could worsen the residential burglary problem. The new houses were intended for affluent couples who would be out during the day when burglaries were most likely to happen. The police, therefore, decided to examine the effectiveness of existing security precautions to see if any of these could be built into new homes or suggested to homeowners. Cathy Burciaga, one of the department’s crime analysts, compared completed burglaries with unsuccessful attempts for an 18-month sample of 569 homes in the city. This indicated that deadbolts should be installed on both the side and front doors of new houses. Interviews conducted with 250 victims and 50 burglars revealed that not one burglar had tried to enter a house by breaking a double-glazed window. This led to the recommendation that all windows in new housing be double-glazed and meet strict forced-entry standards.

Dusk to dawn light

Indoor light on

Indoor timer light

Deadbolt on front door

Deadbolt front & side doors

Outdoor motion detector

Radio/TV left on

Alarm company sign

Completed Burglaries









Unsuccessful Attempts


















*”Yes” means present in a larger proportion of unsuccessful attempts than completed burglaries.

  1. Know what is effective (and not) in policing Evidence on what makes police effective points to thevital role of crime analysis in 21st century policing.Understanding this research can help you apply the lessons the police profession has learned over the last third of a century.

There has been considerable research into which police practices are effective at reducing crime and which practices are not effective. Recently, the National Academy of Sciences established a panel of social science experts to review all police research including the question of police effectiveness. The figure is adapted from this report. The least effective approaches to crime reduction are in the lower left quadrant and the most effective are in the upper right.

In the lower left corner of the figure, we have the “standard model” of policing. This is the dominant policing strategy in North America. The standard model is characterized by its reliance on law enforcement and a lack of focus. Here we find general patrolling to deter offenders, rapid responses to a wide variety of calls for police service, follow-up investigations of crimes, and other law enforcement activities that make little distinction among the characteristics of the people, places, times, or situations. Faced with a public demand to reduce crime, public officials and the press who are wedded to the standard model will request more police officers, decreases in response time, greater police visibility, higher success rates in investigations, and more arrests. Equally important is what the press and public officials do not call for – increased precision as to who, what, when, where, why, and how crimes take place, distinctions among crime types, the involvement of other public and private institutions to address crime, or the application of non-law enforcement alternatives.

Some of the earliest research into police effectiveness addressed aspects of the standard model. This research has consistently failed to find that the standard model has any noticeable effect on crime, disorder, or fear of crime. Random patrol, rapid response, follow-up investigations, and arrest policies may be very beneficial for other purposes, but we should not expect any of these practices to have an impact on crime or disorder. Nor is there solid evidence that adding police to carry out these practices will affect crime.

To have an effect on crime, research strongly suggests that police strategies must include two elements. These are represented on the axes of the figure. First, the

strategy must diversify its approaches to crime and disorder. That is, policing must address crime and disorder using a greater range of tools than simply enforcing the law. This idea is expressed on the vertical axis. There is evidence that working with the public, and going beyond law enforcement, can have modest crime and disorder reduction affects, and the more personal the police-citizen contacts the more likely it is that they will have an effect on crime.

The second element necessary to highly effective policing is focus. This element is expressed in the horizontal axis of the figure. There is generally solid evidence that geographically concentrated enforcement at crime or disorder hot spots can be effective, at least in the short run. That is, focused patrolling of very small high-crime places (e.g., street corners and block faces) has a modest effect on crime and a large effect on disorder. This can be accomplished with or without intensive arrest actions. CompStat and other related innovations of the late 1990s seek to take advantage of these findings. The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services has published a Problem-Oriented Guide about when crackdowns and related tactics are and are not effective (see Read More).

If a few individuals are responsible for most crime or disorder, then removing them should reduce crime. Though sound in principle, the research testing this idea is very poor so we do not know whether repeat offender programs work in actual practice, or if they are a seemingly promising notion that cannot effectively be carried out.

Problem-oriented policing applies both elements – combining the use of diverse approaches with focused action. How effective is it? There is a large body of evaluation evidence here applying weak-to-strong research methods that consistently finds that this combination does reduce crime and disorder. First, many problem-solving efforts have been applied after concentrated enforcement has failed to produce long lasting effects on crime, so something else needs to be done. In one of the earliest examples, police in Newport News, Virginia, had been struggling with the exceptionally high burglary rate in the New Briarfield apartments for well over a decade. They had obtained some short-term results from various enforcement methods, such as foot patrols and mini-station programs. But each time the police redeployed away from New Briarfield the burglary rate surged. It was only after applying a problem-oriented approach – involving citizens, the public housing authority,

Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers in 60 Small Steps






the fire department, the city codes department, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – that they were able to substantially reduce burglaries. Second, when problem-solving at drug hot spots was compared to traditional law enforcement at drug hot spots in a Jersey City, New Jersey, randomized experiment, David Weisburd and Lorraine Green found that problem- solving had the greater impact. So, even though focused law enforcement is more effective than unfocused law enforcement, focused problem-solving is even more effective.

The lessons during a third of a century of research are now clear. Effective police work requires both focused attention and diverse approaches. The least effective policing uses neither element. The explanation for this is also clear. If diverse approaches are used without focus, it is difficult to apply the appropriate approach to the places and people who most require it. If police are focused on hot spots, but only enforce the law, they limit their effectiveness. A fully effective police agency must take

advantage of the details of crime situations to reduce crime opportunities. Crime analysts have important roles in applying both elements – focusing with precision using their analytical methods, and helping to craft appropriate police tactics that fit the details of problems they have uncovered. This makes the 21st century the century of crime analysis in policing.

Read More:

Scott, Michael (2003). The Benefits and Consequences of Police Crackdowns. Problem-Oriented Policing Guides. Response Guides Series No. 1. Washington, DC: Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. (accessible at www.popcenter.org and www.cops.usdoj.gov).

Weisburd, David and John Eck (2004). “What Can Police Do to Reduce Crime, Disorder and Fear?” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 593: 42-65.

Adapted from National Research Council (2003), Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence. Committee to Review Research on Police Policy and Practice. Edited by Wesley Skogan and Kathleen Frydl. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Figure 6.1 and Table 6.1, pp. 248-249.

Effectiveness of Policing Strategies

D iv

er si

ty o

f A pp

ro ac

he s

Community Policing

Little or no evidence of effectiveness • Impersonal community policing (e.g.,

newsletters) Weak to moderate evidence • Personal contacts in community policing • Respectful police-citizen contacts • Improving legitimacy of police • Foot patrols (fear reduction only)

Problem-oriented Policing

Moderate evidence of effectiveness • Problem-oriented policing Strong evidence of effectiveness • Problem-solving in hot spots

Standard Model

Little or no evidence of effectiveness • Adding more police • General patrol • Rapid response • Follow-up investigation • Undifferentiated arrest for domestic


Focused Policing

Inconsistent or weak • Repeat offender investigations Moderate to strong evidence of effectiveness • Focused intensive enforcement • Hot-spots patrols

Low Focus High

Great: Apply a diverse array of approaches, including law enforcement

Little: Rely almost exclusively on law enforcement

4 When a serious crime occurs, the police areexpected to react immediately. They must providehelp and reassurance to victims and move fast to arrest offenders. Yet we have seen that many times the police are not able to arrest the culprits and may not be able to secure a conviction when they do. We have also seen that random patrolling, which the public expects, is not an efficient way to apprehend criminals. This means that much police work that is carried out to meet public expectations is of limited value in controlling crime.

If they knew these facts, people would not be content for police to abandon patrol or down-grade their response to serious crimes. Rather, they would expect the police to find new and better ways to control crime, while continuing their traditional work. In fact, this is what the police leadership has been trying to do by experimenting with CompStat, zero tolerance, community policing, and problem-oriented policing (or problem-solving as it is often called). While crime analysts have a role in all these innovations, problem-oriented policing (POP) thrusts them into the limelight and gives them an important team function. That’s why you should learn about it.

Herman Goldstein originated the concept of problem- oriented policing in a paper published in 1979. His idea was simple. It is that policing should fundamentally be about changing the conditions that give rise to recurring crime problems and should not simply be about responding to incidents as they occur or trying to forestall them through preventive patrols. Police find it demoralizing to return repeatedly to the same place or to deal repeatedly with problems caused by the same small group of offenders. They feel overwhelmed by the volume of calls and rush around in a futile effort to deal with them all. To escape from this trap, Goldstein said the police must adopt a problem-solving approach in which they work through the following four stages:

  1. Scan data to identify patterns in the incidents they routinely handle.
  2. Subject these patterns (or problems) to indepth analysis of causes.
  3. Find new ways of intervening earlier in the causal chain so that these problems are less likely to occur in the future. These new strategies are not limited to efforts to identify, arrest, and prosecute offenders. Rather, without abandoning the use of the criminal law when it is likely to be the most effective response,

problem-oriented policing seeks to find other potentially effective responses (that might require partnership with others) with a high priority on prevention.

  1. Assess the impact of the interventions and, if they have not worked, start the process all over again.

SARA is the acronym used to refer to these four stages of problem solving – Scanning, Analysis, Response and Assessment. Later sections of this manual will discuss these in detail, but you can already see why you have a central role in problem-oriented policing. You are the person most familiar with police data and you know how best to analyze and map that data to identify underlying patterns. You may know better than anyone else in the department how to use data in evaluating new initiatives. If you make it your business to become the local crime expert, you will also know where to find other relevant information about problems; where to find information on the Internet and in specialist literature about successful responses used elsewhere; how to use insights from environmental criminology in developing a problem analysis; and how to anticipate and measure any possible displacement. Without your day-to-day involvement at all four stages, the POP project will not achieve a substantial and sustained reduction in the problem.

Problem solving can be difficult. The greatest difficulties are found at analysis and assessment, precisely where you could make your greatest contribution. Indeed, from the very first, Goldstein has argued that problem-oriented policing depends crucially on the availability of high-level analytic capacity in the department an argument repeated in his most recent publications. In fact, he has been very supportive of the idea of writing this manual, which is addressed directly to the role of the crime analyst in problem-oriented policing.

You might agree that you have a substantial role in problem-oriented projects, but you might ask how you could ever succeed in that role given the realities of your job. How could you devote the time needed for the kind of careful analyses required? How could you make a long- term commitment to a project, when you are continually being asked to produce statistical reports and maps immediately, if not before? How would you ever be accepted as an equal member of the team, especially if you are a mere civilian? How could you function as an equal member when your boss wants to approve every analysis you suggest and wants to see all your work before it leaves the unit? How could you restrain the

  1. Become a POP expert

Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers in 60 Small Steps












natural impatience of officers to move to a solution before the analysis is complete? How could you persuade them to consider solutions other than identifying and arresting offenders? How would you deal with criticisms that you are more interested in research than practical action? In short, you may be wondering what planet we are living on because it certainly resembles nothing you have seen.

These are good questions, but we believe that policing is changing and that you can help speed up these changes. There is slow but increasing pressure on police to become more effective and the time is long past when chiefs could say they would cut crime if only they had more resources. Now, at least in larger departments, they must make a detailed evidence-based case for these resources and must explain precisely how they would use them. Their performance is being watched more closely every day, and the crime reductions that police in many cities claim to have achieved have undermined excuses for failure.

In short, there is no doubt that police will become increasingly reliant on data to acquire resources and manage them effectively. By providing these data, you can ride this tide of change to a more rewarding career in policing, though you will have to work patiently to supply timely information in a form that is helpful to the organization. If you do this, and you remain firmly focused on crime reduction, you and your profession will gradually move into a more central policing role – and problem- oriented policing provides you with the perfect vehicle. We all know that policing is beset by new fads that follow hot upon one another and almost as quickly disappear when something new arrives. Many seasoned officers play along for a while, waiting for management to lose interest so that they can get back to business as usual. But problem- oriented policing is not just a fad. It delivers results and is here to stay.

Read More:

Goldstein, Herman (1979). “Improving Policing: A Problem-Oriented Approach.” Crime & Delinquency April: 234-58.

Goldstein, Herman (1990). Problem-Oriented Policing. New York: McGraw Hill.

Goldstein, Herman (2003). “On Further Developing Problem-Oriented Policing. In Problem-Oriented Policing. From Innovation to Mainstream.” Crime Prevention Studies, Volume 15, edited by Johannes Knutsson. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press.

5 Some police managers attracted to problem-orientedpolicing also apply other strategies, such ascommunity policing, “broken windows” policing, intelligence-led policing, and CompStat. Depending on how these other strategies are implemented, they may or may not be compatible with POP. Even when implemented in a compatible manner, they are not the same as POP. For these reasons it is critical to understand how POP differs from these other strategies.

Problem-oriented policing is a method for analyzing and solving crime problems. Community policing, on the other hand, represents a broader organizational philosophy. Community policing includes problem-solving as addressed in problem-oriented policing, but it also includes the development of external partnerships with community members and groups. Additionally, community policing addresses organizational changes that should take place in a police agency (such as decentralized decision-making, fixed geographic accountability, agency wide training, personnel evaluations) designed to support collaborative problem-solving, community partnerships, and a general proactive orientation to crime and social disorder issues. Community policing is therefore more focused on police-public interaction than is problem- oriented policing and represents a broader organizational philosophy that incorporates the principles of problem- oriented policing within it. When done well, community policing provides a strong overarching philosophy in which to engage in POP, but community policing that fails to incorporate the principles of POP within it is unlikely to have a substantial impact on reducing crime.

Problem-oriented policing identifies partners whose help is needed in dealing with specific problem. In an ideal case, community policing does this as well. If the problem is assaults around bus stops, a necessary partner will be the local transit authority. If the problem is shoplifting, then the cooperation of local businesses is needed. Community members often identify problems. Specific members of the public (including offenders) can have important insights useful for problem analysis. Community members can help implement solutions (for example, in fitting deadbolts or not giving money to beggars). And the success of a problem-solving effort might be defined in terms of community reaction. But rarely can the community at large help with the specialized technical work involved in problem analysis, solution development, and evaluation. In addition to partnering around specific problems, community policing also seeks out partnerships among the community at large (and government organizations) in order to increase

the level of trust and general cooperation with them. In this sense, it goes beyond the partnerships described under problem-oriented policing. Agencies that adopt the broader general philosophy of community policing should be careful not to let these partnerships with a different purpose (building trust and cooperation) dilute the more focused problem-solving partnerships and efforts that the community policing philosophy also encourages.

These distinctions are most easily confused when the focus of a problem-oriented project is a deprived neighborhood. In this case, the project should proceed by identifying the collection of individual problems that together make up the greater one (see Step 14). Rather than attempting to build a relationship with the community at large, a problem-oriented project focuses on solving the specific problems of, say, drug houses, commercial burglaries, and bar fights. To the extent that members of the community become productively involved in solving these discrete problems, they may be a rather different group of individuals in each case. Broader partnerships with the community could be developed in order to build trust between police and the community and this can make the problem-solving process easier; however, even in the absence of widespread community support, problems need to be systematically addressed.

It is also important to understand the difference between problem-oriented policing and broken windows policing. Under the former, specific solutions to the variety of problems confronting the police emerge from careful and detailed analysis of the contributory causes of each. By contrast, “broken windows” advocates the same general solution – policing incivilities and maintaining order – whenever crime shows signs of becoming out of hand. This approach is based on two principles, the first of which is that small offenses add up to destroy community life. For example, littering one piece of paper is nothing terrible, but if everybody does it the neighborhood becomes a dump. The second principle of broken windows is that small offenses encourage larger ones. For example, abandoned and boarded up properties often become the scene for drug dealing and can spawn more serious crimes. This important insight has led some cities to pay much more attention to policing against small offenses.

All policing requires discretion, and broken windows policing requires some very important decisions to be made by officers on the street. (This is why it should not be confused with “zero tolerance” which is a political slogan, impossible for the police to deliver because it would soon result in clogged courts and an alienated

  1. Be true to POP

Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers in 60 Small Steps












population.) One has to figure out which of the small offenses multiply into more crimes and which do not. For example, New York City subway system managers learned that young men jumping turnstiles to travel free often committed robberies within the system. Controlling the minor crime helped reduce the major one. But the subway managers also learned that those painting graffiti did not normally commit more serious crimes. Although their efforts to control graffiti were very effective (see Step 41), they did not reduce robbery.

Problem-oriented policing also addresses these less serious offenses even if there is no expectation that they will lead to worse problems. Vandalism in a public park might not increase the chances of robbery, but it does destroy public facilities, so it is a problem that needs to be addressed. Citizens in a neighborhood may be very concerned about speeding, traffic congestion, or noise. As long as these meet the criteria for a problem (Step 14) they are addressable by POP, even if there is no expectation that the neighborhood will deteriorate should these go unaddressed.

Crime analysts are given a central role in intelligence-led policing, which puts a premium on the need for sound information to guide policing operations. However, intelligence-led policing is primarily a methodology for producing sound, useable intelligence. It does not guide police through the whole process of designing and

implementing a crime reduction initiative in the way that the SARA model is intended to do. Nor does it give a central role to crime analysts at every stage in such an initiative. This is why problem-oriented policing has a great deal more to offer crime analysts and why it expects much more of them.

Finally, problem-oriented policing is not the same as CompStat, though they share some common features. Both focus police attention, though CompStat as normally practiced restricts itself to geographic hot spots while POP can be applied to a wider array of crime concentrations. Though both use data to drive police action, the variety of data and depth of analysis used in POP is greater than quick-paced CompStat targeting. CompStat uses law enforcement tactics almost exclusively, while POP uses these along with a wider variety of responses. CompStat may have short-term impacts on geographic hot spots of crime that wear off and require more enforcement. A problem-oriented approach seeks longer-term solutions. If CompStat is used as a “first-aid” response while POP is applied to enact a longer-term cure, then the two approaches can work well together.

Read More:

Wilson, James Q. and George Kelling (1982). “Broken Windows.” The Atlantic Monthly March: 29-38.

Differences Between Problem-Oriented Policing and Other Strategies

Problem-oriented policing

Community policing

Broken windows

Intelligence-led policing



Specific, recurring crime problems

Public-police relations, organizational changes, problem-solving

Deteriorating neighborhoods

The process of collecting, analyzing, and disseminating intelligence

Acute, short term geographic crime patterns


Remove the causes of these problems

Proactive prevention of crime and social disorder and increased public confidence in and support of police

Halt slide of neighborhood into serious crime

Base policing strategies and tactics on sound intelligence

Reduce crime hot spots


Prevention is more effective than enforcement

Support is critical for police effectiveness. Organizational changes are essential to maintain changes, problem-solving is a central method to dealing with crime and social disorder issues

Nip trouble in the bud

Action only effective when based on sound intelligence

Fewer hot spots reduce overall crime


Undertake focused action-research (SARA)

Build trust by contacts with residents and community meetings, enacts organizational changes to support efforts, engages in problem-solving

Policing incivilities/order maintenance

Promote the intelligence cycle of collection, evaluation, collation, analysis, and dissemination

Computerized hot spot identification and intensive patrols and enforcement

First Steps

Identify problems requiring attention

Appoint a community officer for the neighborhood, identify problems requiring attention, identify organizational changes necessary to support efforts

Identify a deteriorating neighborhood

Development of data gathering, processing, and dissemination

Build crime mapping and geographic accountability

Your department will sometimes mount a crackdownon a particular crime such as auto crime or burglary,and you might be asked to map these offences or provide other data to support the operation. But these categories are too broad for problem-oriented policing. They include too many different kinds of crimes, all of which need to be separately analyzed. For example, “auto crime” could include:

• Stealing hubcaps for resale or badges for collections. • Breaking into cars to steal items left inside. • Breaking into cars and stealing radios and other fittings. • Joyriding by juveniles. • Taking a car for temporary transport. • Stealing a car for use in another crime. • Stealing and keeping a car. • Stealing cars for “chopping” and sale of the parts. • Stealing cars for resale. • Stealing cars for export overseas. • Carjacking.

You can see these crimes are committed for a variety of motives, by different offenders, with varying degrees of organization, knowledge and skills. Stealing hubcaps is the least difficult and daring and is committed by juvenile wanabees. Joyriding requires more courage and some basic knowledge about starting and driving cars. Stealing cars for export is a much more complicated crime requiring high levels of organization, with many more stages and people involved. The offenders are as likely to be dishonest businessmen as career criminals. More ruthless, hardened criminals commit carjacking.

These differences between crimes explain why the solutions to each cannot be the same. Joyriding can be reduced by better built-in security, which explains why immobilizers are now bringing down overall levels of car theft. However, immobilizers cannot prevent carjacking because victims can be forced to hand over the keys if these are not already in the ignition. In fact, some commentators believe that carjacking has increased because newer cars with ignition immobilizers are diffi- cult to steal in the usual way. Immobilizers can also be overcome by those with sufficient technical skill and they may do little to reduce theft of cars for export. The solution to this problem may lie in better port and border controls and documents that are harder to forge.

Breaking down a larger problem of crime into smaller categories is merely the first step in tightening the focus of a POP project. For example, a recent POP project in Charlotte, NC, originally focused on downtown thefts from cars, became progressively more specific as the analysis of the problem unfolded. First, it became clear that the problem was concentrated in the car parks. Only 17% involved cars parked in residences or on the streets. Then it was found after counting parking spaces that cars in surface lots were six times more at risk than those in parking garages, which were generally more secure (see Step 27). This meant the project could focus on improving security in the surface lots through better lighting and fencing, and more supervision by attendants. This would be much easier than trying to reduce the already low levels of theft in the parking garages. Tightening the focus of a POP project in this way increases the probability of success and uses resources effectively.

There are few rules for determining precisely the level of specificity needed for a successful POP project. Tightening the focus too much could result in too few crimes being addressed to justify the expenditure of resources, though this depends on the nature and seriousness of the crimes. If only a few hubcaps are being stolen, then this problem would not merit a full-blown POP project. On the other hand, a POP project to reduce corner store robberies could be worth undertaking, even if only a few such robberies occur each year, because these can escalate into worse crimes such as murder, and because they increase public fear.

  1. Be very crime specific6

“Because so much effort has been concentrated on crude groupings of crime types, such as burglary, robbery or auto theft, it has been virtually impossible to find truly common facts about the conditions which lead to each of these groups of crimes. This implies that we have to be very patient and try to solve the problems of crime gradually and progressively, piece by piece.”

Source: Poyner, Barry (1986). “A Model for Action”. Situational Crime Prevention, edited by Gloria Laycock and Kevin Heal. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.

Specific problems in a dilapidated neighborhood or apartment complex should always be separately analyzed, but, for cost- effectiveness reasons, solutions ought to be considered together. In the hypothetical example below, the last identified solution, a gatekeeper and closed circuit television (CCTV) system, is the most costly of all those listed. But it is also predicted to be the most effective solution for each problem. It might therefore be chosen as a solution to all three problems when costs might have ruled out its selection for just one of the problems.

Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers in 60 Small Steps

Some serious crimes, such as school shootings, are so rare that they cannot be properly addressed at the local level by problem-oriented policing. This is because the methodology depends upon a certain level of repetition to permit underlying causes to be identified. For these kinds of crimes, police forces must ensure that routine security measures are in place and that they have a well-worked out plan for responding to incidents.

While one should avoid beginning with a solution, some solutions for specific crimes are so promising that they might help define the focus of a POP project. To return to the example of robbery at corner stores, there is good research showing that having at least two members of staff on duty can reduce late night robberies of these stores. You could therefore take a look at how many

corner store robberies occur late at night in your area. If there were enough of them, you might persuade your department to mount a POP project focused on these late night robberies simply because you know that an effective solution exists.

Finally, as you learn more about a problem in the analysis stage, you might decide that it is so similar to a related problem that it is worth addressing the two together. For instance, when working on a problem of assaults on taxi drivers, you might discover that many of these are related to robbery attempts and that it would be more economical to focus your project on both robberies and assaults. In this way you may identify a package of measures that would reduce the two problems together.












Barry Poyner and Barry Webb have argued that preventing residential burglaries targeted on electronic goods requires quite different measures from those to prevent burglaries targeted on cash or jewelry. This is because they found many differences between these two sorts of burglaries in the city they studied. When the targets were cash or jewelry, burglaries occurred mostly in older homes near to the downtown area and were apparently committed by offenders on foot. When the targets were electronic goods such as TVs and VCRs, the burglaries generally took place in newer, more distant suburbs and were committed by offenders with cars. The cars were needed to transport the stolen goods and had to be parked near to the house, but not so close as to attract attention. The layout of housing in the newer suburbs allowed these conditions to be met, and Poyner and Webb’s preventive suggestions consisted principally of means to counter the lack of natural surveillance of parking places and roadways. Their suggestions to prevent inner city burglaries focused more on improving security and surveillance at the point of entry.

Being More Specific about Residential Burglary

Source: Poyner, Barry and Barry Webb (1991). Crime Free Housing. Oxford: Butterworth-Architecture.


(from least costly to most)

Trim bushes to improve surveillance ($)

Block watch scheme ($)

Alarms for elevators ($$)

Electronic access to parking lot ($$)

Installation of entry phone ($$$)

Security patrol ($$$$)

Window locks and strengthened doors for apartments ($$$$)

Gatekeeper and complex-wide CCTV cameras ($$$$$)

Separate Problems, Common Solutions















$ Predicted costs * Predicted effectiveness

Within problem-oriented policing, the police arerequired to: (1) carefully define specific problems(see Step 14 for the definition of “problem”); (2) conduct in-depth analyses to understand their causes; (3) undertake broad searches for solutions to remove these causes and bring about lasting reductions in problems; and (4) evaluate how successful these activities have been. This is a form of action research, a well-established social science method in which researchers work alongside practitioners, helping to formulate and refine interventions until success is achieved. This can be contrasted with the usual role of researchers, in which they work apart from the practitioners, collect background information about problems, and conduct independent evaluations. In action research, however, the researcher is an integral member of the problem-solving team. This is the role of the crime analyst. Your analyses must inform and guide action at every stage.

You will find that SARA will help you and your team keep on track. This is the acronym formulated by John Eck and Bill Spelman to refer to the four problem-solving stages of Scanning, Analysis, Response and Assessment. This process is very similar to many other analytical processes, including the standard crime analysis process of collection, collation, analysis, dissemination, and feedback. By dividing the overall project into separate stages, SARA helps to ensure that the necessary steps are undertaken in proper sequence – for example, that solutions are not adopted before an analysis of the problem has been undertaken. This is a useful check on the natural tendency to jump straight to a final response, while skimping on definition of the problem and analysis and forgetting to assess their impact on the problem.

Problem-solving projects can be complex. In action research, the team is expected to persist until success is achieved, refining and improving an intervention in the light of what is learned from earlier experiences. The process is not necessarily completed once the assessment has been made. If the problem persists, or has changed its form, the team may have to start over. This is represented in the figure where the outer arrows describe the feedback between assessment and scanning.

However, the four problem-solving stages do not always follow one another in a strictly linear fashion. In fact, projects rarely follow a linear path from the initial scanning and analysis stages through the stages of response and assessment. Rather, the process often has loops, so that an unfolding analysis can result in refocusing of the project, and questions about possible responses can lead to the need for fresh analyses. The longer and more complicated the project, the more loops of this kind are likely to occur. The set of smaller inner arrows in the figure illustrate this dynamic process. For example, one might jump from scanning to the implementation of a short-term emergency response to stabilize the problem while further analysis is undertaken. An assessment of the short-term response could add to the analysis and contribute to the formulation of a new response, which is then assessed. This might lead back to scanning as new information forces a revision of the problem definition or the discovery of new problems. The important point is that analysis and evaluation are meaningfully incorporated into the sequence of events and one does not simply jump from scanning to response and declare victory.

  1. Be guided by SARA — but not led astray!7




Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers in 60 Small Steps

One of us (Clarke) recently worked with Herman Goldstein on a project to reduce thefts of appliances from houses under construction in Charlotte, North Carolina. The housing developments were often in fairly isolated rural areas and were impossible to patrol effectively. They were difficult to secure because builders wanted to encourage prospective buyers to tour the sites in the evenings and on weekends. Because few offenders were ever caught, we knew little about them or how they disposed of the appliances. We considered a wide range of possible solutions including storing appliances in secure containers on site and the use of portable alarms and closed-circuit television cameras. Then we hit on a solution being used by some small builders – to delay installation of the appliances until the day that the buyer took possession.

Many builders were hostile at first to the idea. Sales staff believed that having the appliances installed made a home more saleable, and that the absence of appliances, if attributed to theft, might alarm purchasers about the area they were moving into. Site supervisors felt that delivering and installing appliances as houses were occupied would be more difficult than batch delivery and installation. Some erroneously believed that building inspectors would not certify the houses as suitable for occupancy unless appliances were in place. Others wrongly believed that this was a mortgage requirement. Finally, individual installation would mean that builders could no longer arrange for building inspectors to visit a site and issue certificates of occupancy wholesale.

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