Houston’s “Hot Spot” Policing Has Limited Success

When crime is on the uptick in one neighborhood, Houston Police send a mass of officers to that area in what’s called “hot spot” policing. But a new study shows the benefits of this tactic are limited and may result in the Crime Reduction Unit (CRU) losing some of its 70 officers.

According to the Houston Chronicle, the HPD study showed hot spot policing to only have an effect on property crime, but not violence. The study looked at four different deployments of the CRU unit in 2009.

While these four deployments did show a subsequent drop in property crime, they didn’t reduce violent crime which “seemed to have its own pattern…not affected by CRU intervention.” Property crime decreases, however, were significant and lasting, having an effect for 2 to 9 weeks after the deployment.

The CRU was developed in 2007 and began with 60 officers. It now has 70, though this recent study could lead to downsizing or complete elimination of the unit. This as the department faces a $39 million budget cut in 2012.

The head of the CPU, Captain Dale Brown has spoken out against any possible reduction coming as a result of the study. He states the property crime decreases are significant enough to warrant the continuation of the program and that violent crime was reduced as well, in one of the deployments studied. But this reduction wasn’t a “significant” amount.

In their defense, the CRU has made 14,803 arrests and seized 1,035 firearms. They have also filed 9,001 felony and 3,747 misdemeanor charges. But there’s no information on the quality of these cases and how many were actually solid and worthy of prosecution. Likewise, the Chronicle article boasts the Unit entered 4,503 gang members into a database, failing to recognize the tendency for such database entries to be wrought with error.

But despite its limited effects on violent crime, even the professor who conducted a study believes disbanding the unit would be a mistake. The city of Houston will just have to wait and see how HPD handles its lack of funding in the upcoming months.

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