Testing the Effects of a Problem-Solving Policing Strategy on Crime Outcomes: The Promise of an Integrated Approach

Published date01 March 2023
Date01 March 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Police Quarterly
2023, Vol. 26(1) 5484
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10986111211060025
Testing the Effects of a
Problem-Solving Policing
Strategy on Crime
Outcomes: The Promise of an
Integrated Approach
Brenda J. Bond-Fortier
and Elias S. Nader
Police problem-solving is one of the most recognized innovations of recent decades,
and evidence provides practitioners with hope in their challenges to affect crime. Yet,
practitioners need more than hope as they struggle to implement and institutionalize
this innovation. This paper shares the results of an integrated problem-solving in-
tervention situated within a comprehensive approach. A Case of Place intervention
served as an instrument of problem-solving, which became institutionalized through
analytical and Compstat changes. The intervention guided police and crime analysts
through problem-solving processes, ensuring attention to each problem-solving step.
Using interrupted time-series, post-intervention results revealed a signif‌icant reduction
in aggravated assaults, motor vehicle breaks, and robberies, as compared to pre-
intervention patterns. Additionally, organizational shifts moved the department to-
wards the goal of holistic problem-solving. This study reveals positive results from the
Case of Place problem-solving instrument and may offer a path to address the analytical
and institutionalization shortcomings of problem-solving.
Institute for Public Service, Sawyer Business School, Suffolk University, Boston, MA, USA
Department of Sociology, Kent State University, Kent, OH, USA
School of Criminal Justice, University of Baltimore, Baltimore, MD, USA
Corresponding Author:
Brenda J. Bond-Fortier, Institute for Public Service, Sawyer Business School, Suffolk University, 120
Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02108, USA.
Email: bbond@suffolk.edu
problem-solving, police, Compstat, crime analysis, case of place
Police agencies have adopted problem-solving as one of their crime and disorder
prevention and reduction strategies (e.g., Eck & Spelman, 1987;Skogan et al., 1999).
Problem-solving is grounded in problem-oriented policing (POP) and encourages a
comprehensive examination of and response to conditions that facilitate crime and
disorder (Goldstein, 1979). Problem-solving can be understood as a micro-level strategy
through which POP comes to life via the use of on-the-groundactions of identifying
and understanding crime and disorderchallenges and then applying themost appropriate
and effective responses available (e.g.,Eck & Spelman, 1987;Skogan et al., 1999;Tele p
& Weisburd, 2012). The process calls for response assessment to gauge impact, which
then informs future problem-solving. The evidence that problem-solving can impact
myriad crime and disorder in and around crime hot spots, is promising asstudies reveal
that problem-solving can impact fear of crime (Cordner, 1986), violence in hot spots
(Braga, et al., 1999), disorder in parks (Baker & Wolfer, 2003), and property crime
(Weisburd et al., 2020). Armedwith this evidence, practitionersreport adopting problem-
solving as an on-the-ground policing tool (Reaves, 2015).
Despite the evolving evidence on the potential of problem-solving, research reveals
at least two areas in which problem-solving implementation remains a challenge. First,
at the micro or technical level, research shows that some problem-solving components
are shallowly implemented. Specif‌ically, scanning and analysis are limited and
somewhat superf‌icial, and assessment is often shortchanged (Braga & Bond, 2008;
Rosenbaum, 2006;Weisburd & Majmundar, 2017). A second area sits at the orga-
nizational or macro-level, and concerns the broader institutionalization of problem-
solving into police operations and management (Bond & Nader, 2018;Weisburd, et al.,
2020). These studies show that integration of problem-solving is stymied by internal
conf‌licts regarding agency priorities and culture (Bond & Nader, 2018). Likewise,
integration of problem-solving into departmental performance management systems
(e.g., Compstat) remains a challenge (Lum & Koper, 2017).
One way to address these shortcomings is to explore the interdependence between
the technical aspects of problem-solving and the organizational features needed to
institutionally sustain problem-solving. Indeed, if police departments and communities
are to realize problem-solving benef‌its, weaknesses in implementation and in-
stitutionalization must be overcome. This study addresses this multi-level gap by
examining a micro-level problem-solving intervention designed to address these
weaknesses, f‌irst by testing the value of the novel Case of Place instrument to problem-
solving, and then examining the integration of problem-solving into the Compstat (i.e.,
performance management) system at a macro-level.
Bond-Fortier and Nader 55

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