The Indianapolis (Indiana) Directed Patrol program was designed after the Kansas City (MO) Gun Experiment of 1992–93, which used aggressive traffic enforcement to seize illegal weapons in a high-crime area. After the success of this experiment in seizing illegal firearms to reduce violent crime, the Indianapolis Police Department implemented its own version of the program in 1997.
The main goal of directed patrol was to reduce crime in Indianapolis, particularly violent firearm–related crimes, by increasing police presence in high-crime areas. This proactive approach allowed officers to concentrate on suspicious activities and high-risk offenders, and to provide a deterrent effect in high-crime areas. This would ultimately incapacitate dangerous offenders and remove illegal guns from the streets.
After an analysis of crime rates in different areas of Indianapolis, several police beats with high crime rates were selected as the target sites for directed police patrol.
Program Components/Key Personnel
During directed patrol, officers are relieved of the duty of responding to calls for service and instead assigned to a specific high-crime area to allow them to conduct proactive investigations of suspicious activities. Aggressive traffic enforcement and traffic stops are frequently used to investigate suspicious activities.
In the East District’s target police beats, traffic stops were increased to maximum levels to create a sense of increased police presence in order to provide a general deterrent effect. The police department also anticipated that these stops would result in numerous seizures of illegal weapons and drugs. Officers were trained to focus on traffic violations, such as speeding, the running of stop signs, expired license tags, broken tail lights, and other similar violations.
In the North District’s target police beats, traffic stops were used to target specific suspicious offenders and activities to provide a specific deterrent effect. The main focus was to arrest dangerous offenders and seize illegal weapons and drugs. A “targeted offender” approach was used, whereby officers targeted individuals suspected of being involved in illegal behavior. In another component of this specific deterrence strategy, officers paired up with probation officers to conduct home visits of offenders.
Collaboration between patrol officers and the research team was vital in implementing this program.
The theory behind directed police patrol is that increased police presence reduces criminal activity. If a general increase in the number of police has a negative impact on crime, then increasing the level of police in high-crime areas should produce even stronger crime-control results. Directed police patrol uses a proactive strategy of policing to prevent crimes from occurring, as opposed to a reactive strategy that makes arrests after a crime has already been committed.
To reduce crime, directed police patrol focuses on theories of deterrence, both general and specific, as well as incapacitation. The theory of general deterrence is that if police presence is increased, the likelihood that criminal activity will be detected is also increased. Therefore, the risks for committing crime are higher, and people are deterred from wrongdoing. The theory behind specific deterrence is that focusing on arresting and processing high-risk offenders in high-crime areas will deter these offenders from future wrongdoing. The theory of incapacitation is to remove dangerous offenders from the street, as well as to reduce the number of firearms that can end up in the hands of a dangerous offender.
Firearm-Related Crime in Target Areas
McGarrell and colleagues (2001) found that the Northern District target beats in Indianapolis, IN, showed the largest decrease in firearms crime after the directed patrol program was implemented. Crimes involving a firearm declined from 75 in the 1996 time period to 53 in the 1997 time period, a decrease of 29.3 percent. As for violent crime measures, homicides declined from 7 in 1996 to 1 in 1997; aggravated assaults with a gun declined from 40 in 1996 to 24 in 1997; and armed robberies declined from 31 in 1996 to 19 in 1997. The decline in aggravated assaults was found to be statistically significant in comparison to both citywide trends and comparison beats. The decline in armed robberies was found to be statistically significant in comparison to comparison beats.
The East District target beats showed increases in the number of gun crimes after the directed patrol program was implemented, with the exception of homicides. Gun crimes increased from 42 in the 1996 time period to 57 in the 1997 time period, an increase of 35.7 percent. As for violent crime measures, homicides declined from 4 in 1996 to 0 in 1997, aggravated assaults with a gun increased from 19 in 1996 to 30 in 1997, and armed robberies increased from 31 in 1996 to 36 in 1997.
The total number of gun crimes in both target areas combined showed a decrease from 117 in 1996 to 110 in 1997, a decrease of 6 percent. The effect on reducing firearms crime was seen in the North target beats, but not the East target beats. Both target areas saw a decline in homicides, however, and these declines were found to be statistically significant in comparison to citywide trends.
Firearm-Related Crime in Control Police Beats
The control beats showed an increase in gun crimes from 49 in the 1996 time period to 53 in the 1997 time period, an increase of 8.2 percent. As for violent crimes, the homicide level remained stable at 3 for both 1996 and 1997, aggravated assaults with a gun increased from 22 in 1996 to 48 in 1997, and armed robberies increased from 13 in 1996 to 21 in 1997.
Remaining Areas in Indianapolis
In the remaining areas of Indianapolis, homicides increased by 52.9 percent, from 17 in 1996 to 26 in 1997. Aggravated assaults with a gun increased by 20.7 percent, from 333 in 1996 to 402 in 1997. Armed robberies declined slightly by 5.1 percent, from 356 in 1996 to 338 in 1997. These trends indicate an overall increase in violent crimes in the remaining areas of Indianapolis in comparison to target areas.