Quantifying Crime Prevention Potential of Near-Repeat Burglary

Published date01 September 2019
Date01 September 2019
Subject MatterArticles
untitled Article
Police Quarterly
Quantifying Crime
2019, Vol. 22(3) 330–359
! The Author(s) 2019
Prevention Potential of
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1098611119828052
Near-Repeat Burglary
Elizabeth Groff1
Travis Taniguchi2
The space-time risk window associated with near-repeat burglary patterns would
seem to present a natural opportunity for burglary prevention efforts. However,
constraints associated with the reporting of, police response to, and space-time
patterning of burglaries can reduce the crime prevention potential of such efforts.
To better estimate the crime prevention potential of focusing on near-repeat bur-
glaries, we studied burglary patterns in 10 U.S. cities. Descriptive aspatial and spatial
statistics were used to answer the research questions. Significant space-time clus-
tering does not necessarily indicate an actionable near-repeat problem. Police ana-
lysts and researchers should also consider the crime prevention potential of focusing
on near repeats—in other words, the proportion of burglaries that are preventable.
The results of this test provide new information to guide the implementation and
evaluation of crime prevention efforts focused on near-repeat events.
microlevel, near repeat, residential burglary, crime prevention
1Department of Criminal Justice, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA
2Policing Research Program, RTI International, Research Triangle Park, NC, USA
Corresponding Author:
Elizabeth Groff, Department of Criminal Justice, Temple University, 1115 W. Polett Walk, 531 Gladfelter
Hall, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA.
Email: groff@temple.edu

Groff and Taniguchi
Translational criminology, evidence-based policing, and crime science are three
transformative ideas in policing. Translational criminology emphasizes the con-
version of research evidence into policies and programs that can be rigorously
tested for how well they reduce or prevent crime (Laub, 2011). It goes beyond
scientific discovery and simple dissemination to demanding subsequent testing
and evaluation about how and when something works. Evidence-based policing
involves using evidence to create guidelines and evaluate programs in the real
world and then using the results of those evaluations to improve the guidelines
and, subsequently, practice (Sherman, 1998). Evidence-based policing empha-
sizes a cycle of continual improvement; new research findings inform policies
and programs, programs implemented by agencies are evaluated to determine
whether they are successful, and the results of those evaluations inform improve-
ments to guidelines and programs. Crime science originated among adherents of
situational crime prevention. It focuses on applying scientific methods to pre-
vent and reduce crime (Laycock, 2005). These ideas inspired and informed the
present examination of studying near-repeat burglary patterns to prevent future
residential burglaries.
A large and growing body of evidence indicates that once a burglary has
occurred, nearby homes are at higher risk for also being the victim of a burglary
(Johnson, Davies, Murray, Ditta, Belur, & Bowers, 2017; Townsley, Homel, &
Chaseling, 2000). Studies conducted in Newark, NJ; Houston, TX; Indianapolis,
IN; Jacksonville, FL; Long Beach, CA; Philadelphia, PA; and Pompano Beach,
FL, found significant microlevel, space-time clustering of near-repeat burglaries
over a range of distances from 100 m (328 ft) to 400 m (1,328 ft) and at 14 days
or less (Johnson et al., 2007; Moreto, Piza, & Caplan, 2014; Piza & Carter, 2017;
Short, D’Orsogna, Brantingham, & Tita, 2009; Zhang, Zhao, Ren, & Hoover,
2015). International studies have found that the space and time profile varies but
is most often within 200 to 400 m (656–1,328 ft) and 2 to 4 weeks of the initial
burglary incident, after which the risk declines to its preburglary level (Bowers &
Johnson, 2016; Johnson et al., 2007; Townsley, Homel, & Chaseling, 2003). The
relatively small and predictable space-time window provides an excellent target
for crime prevention efforts. Most field studies—many of which were conducted
outside the United States—have translated this knowledge into successful crime
reduction programs in large housing complexes and neighborhoods (Anderson,
Chenery, & Pease, 1995; Chenery, Holt, & Pease 1997; Forrester, Chatterton,
Pease, & Brown, 1988; Johnson et al., 2017). Sounding a cautionary note, one
recent study found that the proportion of burglary events that were near repeats
varied by area examined, suggesting that there may be variation in the expected
benefits from focusing on near repeats (Chainey, Curtis-Ham, Evans, &
Burns, 2018).

Police Quarterly 22(3)
Existing literature points out that focusing on near-repeat crime offers several
potential advantages to police. First, it allows targeting of scarce police resour-
ces (Johnson et al., 2007). Most law enforcement agencies operate under intense
budgetary pressure, and improving efficiency is one way to maintain public
safety in a challenging environment. Second, the incidence of near-repeat bur-
glary can be used as a performance indicator to highlight police effectiveness
(Ratcliffe & Rengert, 2008). Third, many crime prevention programs targeting
near repeats emphasize the importance of neighborhood residents in an effective
response. Efforts to increase the involvement of neighbors around burglary are
likely to provide the basis for improved police–community partnerships (Groff
& Taniguchi, 2019; Johnson et al., 2017).
Several microlevel studies have examined whether notification of increased
risk and provision of crime prevention information, tools, or both could inter-
rupt near-repeat patterns. Wellsmith and Birks (2008) investigated whether
some combination of information about preventing burglary and tools to imple-
ment target-hardening measures could reduce near repeats. Because of limita-
tions in the data, the authors could conclude only that the program had been a
success compared with the rest of the jurisdiction. A randomized controlled
experiment focusing on the high-risk space-time windows for residential bur-
glary tested whether resident notification by uniformed volunteers could inter-
rupt near-repeat patterns in two cities (Groff & Taniguchi, 2019). Individual
cities showed no significant difference between treatment and control sites, but
across both there was a slight but significant reduction. In contrast, several
studies have found a significant reduction in near-repeat burglaries when
police provided a pamphlet of crime prevention information to the victimized
house as well as immediate neighbors within 48 hours of the original burglary
report. The number of immediate neighbors varied across studies from a low of
8 (Stokes & Clare, 2019), to 26 (Weems, 2014), to all others on same block
(Thompson, Townsley, & Pease, 2008). Another recent study, which conducted
interventions at the microlevel but analyzed results at the neighborhood level,
provides strong evidence that providing crime prevention information to the
eight nearest neighbors on either side of the victimized dwelling significantly
reduces crime (Johnson et al., 2017).
Drawing from the evidence described earlier and from the success of hot spot
policing strategies generally (Braga, 2007), several police-centric microlevel stud-
ies have examined whether increased police patrol would reduce near-repeat
burglary. A field experiment conducted in Amstelveen, The Netherlands, exam-
ined the use of increased police patrol to interrupt near-repeat patterns by put-
ting police in a better position to make arrests, reduce near-repeat
victimizations, or both (Elffers, Peeters, van der Kemp, & Beijers, 2018). In a
250-m (820-ft) radius around the burglary location, they increased patrols
between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. They found no significant crime prevention effect.
In contrast, Fielding and Jones (2012) used 400-m buffers around burglaries and

Groff and Taniguchi
calculated the times during which burglary was highest. The resulting spatio-
temporally focused policing reduced residential burglary by 26.6%. Other inter-
ventions in which increased patrol was sent to “microtime hot spots”—defined
as areas where two or more events occur close in time (within 14 days) and space
(within 0.79 sq mi) (Santos & Santos, 2015a, 2015b)—reduced residential bur-
glaries by 20.76%.
Several factors might have contributed to findings of no significant effects
(Elffers et al., 2018; Groff & Taniguchi, 2019). One clear candidate is the low
base rates of near-repeat burglaries in target and control areas. In addition,
follow-on burglaries often occurred the same day as the originator, and thus,
police cannot respond quickly enough to prevent near-repeat burglary.1
Residential burglary often is not discovered immediately; such a lag makes
temporal ordering difficult to establish and delays police deployment.
Researchers (Groff & Taniguchi, 2019) emphasized that the program they
tested had focused on preventable burglaries (i.e., a burglary that occurs after a
potential originator has been reported to the police and within the near-repeat
space-time window). Near repeats that occur before the police become aware of
a problem are not preventable by reactive strategies. Existing tools identify
whether statistically significant space–time interaction is present but do not
provide any information about the size of the preventable near-repeat problem.
A scientific approach to evaluating a crime...

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