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Experts: Place-Based Strategies Are Effective, Central to Police Reform

Photo By U.S. Marshal Service

By Cynthia Lum, Christopher Koper, David Weisburd, Robin Engel, John Eck, Anthony Braga, John

MacDonald, Rod Brunson, and Michael Smith

A recent Washington Post article asserts that place-based policing approaches led to Breonna

Taylor’s death. This claim is unsubstantiated and wrong both legally and scientifically. And, it fuels

policy that hurts communities of color where high-quality police services are most needed. Let there

be no mistake; a botched no-knock warrant led to Breonna Taylor’s death, not place-based policing.

Place-based approaches are grounded in research showing that crime is highly concentrated within

communities. Half of reported crimes occur at about 5 percent of street blocks in a locality. Thus,

most of any community is reasonably safe from serious crime.

Crime concentrates at these locations due to intersecting routines of potential victims and possible offenders. And if crime concentrates, it makes sense to focus on the specific areas where it does, rather than spread police across neighborhoods.

According to two National Academies of Sciences reviews conducted in 2004 and 2018 on a

multitude of research studies, place-based policing is one of the most evidence-based and

scientifically supported approaches police can take to prevent crime in their communities. But what

police do at these locations matters greatly. Place-based approaches are complex and specific.

An over-emphasis on aggressive enforcement or simply “flooding” a place with cops aren’t smart hot

spots approaches. Instead, place-based approaches require good analysis and a deep understanding of

the factors contributing to persistent crime problems and their solutions. Once identified, regular

police presence emphasizing problem-solving prevention work and community engagement works

best at preventing crime at these locations. This includes focusing on the small number of people