Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Measuring Your Effectiveness

The measurement of your effectiveness should be tailored to the particular problem you are trying to address, rather than to a single response such as a crackdown.77 (See the guide on Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers [Full text] for further information on measurement.) Nevertheless, if a crackdown is part of your overall response to a problem, there are several measures of effectiveness you might hope to achieve. Among them are

† See also Sherman (1990), Kinlock (1994), and Worden, Bynum and Frank (1994) for discussions of measurement specific to crackdowns.

  • reduced number of target offenses in the target area;
  • reduced severity of harm caused by target offenses in the target area;
  • absence of evidence that the problem has merely moved to another location, with no net benefit to the community;
  • evidence that the crackdown has the support of the general public and the communities it most directly affects, or at a minimum, evidence that the crackdown has not seriously compromised public support for the police;
  • increased sense of safety felt by the general public and the communities the problem most directly affects;
  • increased perception of people directly affected by the problem that the situation has improved;
  • absence of evidence that the crackdown undermined the integrity of the criminal justice system (e.g., poor-quality arrests, as shown by low prosecution and conviction rates; high levels of citizen complaints and lawsuits against police); and
  • increased perception of offenders and potential offenders that they are at higher risk of arrest (i.e., evidence that they noticed the crackdown and altered their behavior because of it).

Measuring the numbers of stops, searches, arrests, etc., made during a crackdown, and the sanctions imposed on offenders, is important for understanding the degree to which the crackdown was actually applied, but these are measures only of the process, and not of the outcomes crackdowns are intended to achieve.

Conclusion

Poorly planned, ill-conceived, and improperly managed crackdowns, intended merely as a show of police force and resolve, can create more problems than they solve. But carefully planned crackdowns, well supported by prior problem analysis, implemented with other responses to ensure longer-term gains, and conducted in a way that maintains public support and safeguards civil rights, can be an important and effective part of police strategies regarding a range of crime and disorder problems.