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

Read More

Access further information on this document at Journal of Quantitative Criminology

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

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.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.