Understanding Your Local Problem
The information provided above is only a generalized description of cruising. You must combine the basic facts with a more specific understanding of your local problem. Analyzing the local problem carefully will help you design a more effective response strategy.
Asking the Right Questions
The following are some critical questions you should ask in analyzing your particular cruising problem, even if the answers are not always readily available. Your answers to these and other questions will help you choose the most appropriate set of responses later on.
Harms Caused by Cruising
- Does cruising cause traffic congestion, impeding emergency vehicles as well as others?
- How many police service calls are attributable to cruising? What types of cruising-related calls and incidents have been officially recorded? (Determining a connection to cruising may not be easy if your records system does not allow dispatchers and officers to record such information.) Does controlling cruising take up a lot of police resources?
- How many cruising-related assaults have occurred? How serious have the injuries been? (You may want to compare emergency room admissions records against police reports: not all assaults are reported to police.)
- Does cruising contribute to high numbers of traffic crashes?
- How long has cruising been going on in your community?
- What percentage of cruising vehicles do officers deem unsafe and/or illegally equipped?
- What is the public’s opinion of cruising (as indicated by “letters to the editor,” surveys, meetings, informal conversations, and so forth)? Do most people want cruising stopped altogether, or merely controlled?
- How has cruising affected business and home owners? Do business owners report increased or decreased revenues as a result of cruising?
- Who are the most vocal complainants about cruising? What is the specific nature of their complaints?
- How many people have been injured in cruising-related incidents? Are they victims of violent or nonviolent offenses? Personal or property crimes? Traffic crashes?
- Who are the cruisers (age, race, ethnicity, subcultural group)?
- Are there organized groups of cruisers? If so, are they gangs? Are there tensions and confrontations between the groups? Do they fear, distrust, or commit crimes against each other?
- Who causes most of the problems—cruisers, passengers, observers, or those not interested in cruising itself, but there to capitalize on other opportunities (e.g., drug dealing or other crimes)?
- Why do people cruise?
- To what degree are unsupervised youths contributing to the problem?
- Where do cruisers live (i.e., are they local or from out of town)? How far do cruisers travel to get to the cruising area?
- What percentage of people cited or arrested for cruising-related offenses have previously been cited or arrested for similar behavior?
- On average, how many passengers do cruisers have?
- Where are your jurisdiction’s main cruising locations? Have they changed over time? If so, why?
- Does cruising occur on public streets, or on private property (e.g., parking lots)?
- Is cruising concentrated in business areas, residential areas, or both? What attracts cruisers to these areas? Do the areas have adequate lighting and traffic control?
- When does cruising typically occur (time of day/night, day of week, time of month/year, certain holidays)? When are cruising-related problems most acute?
Measuring Your Effectiveness
Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded, and suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing the intended results. You should take measures of your problem before you implement responses, to determine how serious the problem is, and after you implement them, to determine whether they have been effective. All measures should be taken in both the target area and the surrounding area. You should be aware that your responses to cruising might displace it and related problems to other locations or types of offenses. (For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see the companion guide to this series, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers.)
The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of responses to cruising:
- reduced number of cruising-related service calls;
- reduced number of cruising-related offenses;
- improved citizen perceptions of safety regarding cruising;
- improved merchant perceptions of business profitability;
- reduced number of repeat offenders;
- improved perceptions among racial, ethnic, or subcultural minority groups about how fairly police treat them; and
- reduced police expenditures to control cruising.