A Synthetic Control Approach to Evaluating Place-Based Crime Interventions

Published in: Journal of Quantitative Criminology, v. 31, no. 3, Sep. 2015, p. 413-434

Posted on RAND.org on January 18, 2016

by Jessica Saunders, Russell Lundberg, Anthony A. Braga, Greg Ridgeway, Jeremy N. V. Miles

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OBJECTIVE: This paper presents a new quasi-experimental approach to assessing place based policing to encourage the careful evaluation of policing programs, strategies, and operations for researchers to conduct retrospective evaluations of policing programs. METHODS: We use a synthetic control model to reduce the bias introduced by models using non-equivalent comparison groups to evaluate High Point's Drug Market Intervention and demonstrate the method and its versatility for evaluating programs retrospectively. RESULTS: The synthetic control method was able to identify a very good match across all socio-demographic and crime data for the intervention and comparison area. Using a variety of statistical models, the impact of High Point Drug Market Intervention on crime was estimated to be larger than previous evaluations with little evidence of displacement. CONCLUSIONS: The synthetic control method represents a significant improvement over the earlier retrospective evaluations of crime prevention programs, but there is still room for improvement. This is particularly important in an age where rigorous scientific research is being used more and more to guide program development and implementation.

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