City of Boston's Youth Violence Prevention Plan Spotlight on Enforcement: Safe Street Teams
In 2007, the Boston Police Department created Safe Street Teams to foster police and community engagement on a more personal level. Originally piloted in three of Boston’s high-crime areas, there are now 13 teams spread throughout the City in these neighborhoods:
Egleston Square, South End/Lower Roxbury, Franklin Field, Eagle Hill/Maverick, Orchard Park/Dudley, Codman Square (C-11), Downtown Crossing (two Teams), Tremont & Stuart, Blue Hill Ave./Morton St., Bowdoin-Geneva, Grove Hall, Uphams Corner
Safe Street Teams have been invaluable in building trust with the community and reducing crime in Boston’s neighborhoods and it is the City’s goal to increase the number of Safe Street Teams in this upcoming year.
The neighborhood-based Safe Street Teams were born out of the recognition that most of the City’s violent crime is concentrated in a few, small geographics ("hot-spots"). And further, a research-based understanding that officers engaging in problem solving within specific hot-spot areas can reduce crime. (See study by Anthony A. Braga, PhD., John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and Brenda Bond PhD, Suffolk University.)1 Utilizing lessons learned from this important study and data from the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, the Boston Safe Street Teams have been specifically located in neighborhoods identified as hot spots for gang related violence and high incidence of public disorder. Starting with the first team, teams were deployed where they could meet the problem head on: in neighborhoods with the highest incidence of violent crime.
Preliminary results from ongoing analyses2 on the Safe Street Teams show:
- Safe Street Teams significantly reduced violent Index crimes in the target hot spot areas relative to violent Index crime trends in the comparison hot spot areas.
- Safe Street Teams did not simply displace violence into areas immediately surrounding the target hot spots.
Safe Street Team Goals
- Increased visibility
- Problem solving
- Positive citizen contact
Ownership and Accountability
Most importantly, officers are empowered to take ownership of their neighborhood. This accountability coupled with the interpersonal relationships developed with community members drives their motivation to create meaningful and lasting change in the community. Each neighborhood has a unique set of challenges and opportunities and the corresponding teams have the flexibility to tailor their tactics to those characteristics.
Safe Street Teams are comprised of line-level, district-based officers who patrol, on foot, high-crime hot-spots within inner city neighborhoods. On any given day, team members can be found interacting with residents and responding to community concerns, and are highly visible in the neighborhoods, developing partnerships with local businesses and community organizations, conducting outreach with high-risk youth, and providing referrals to services, while also maintaining the safety of the area.
Safe Street Teams offer more than simply foot patrol. These walking beats lead officers to develop a sense of ownership, engaging in strategic problem solving, sustained presence and guardianship. Also, officers develop other competent guardians of community safety in the process –such as local business owners and community members who assist in promoting safety standards
Importance of Walking Beats
Closely aligned with the Safe Street Teams, the RA Project, originated in our East Boston neighborhoods and has now been adopted by all of our districts. The RA Project creates opportunities for police officers to work closely with residents, business owners and city agencies to address quality of life concerns. In each district, police officers, for at least one hour during their shift, are required to identify a problem such as a quality of life concern within their assigned reporting area. Working closely with the community, issues such as graffiti, missing stop signs, and broken lighting are identified and together, police, residents and business owners come up with viable solutions. The RA Project was created on the premise that a strong focus on quality of life issues, while remaining diligent on crime issues, results in a community less likely to tolerate any crime and therefore a decrease in the overall crime rate. This project has been well-received in our neighborhoods.
For more information please contact:
Boston Police Department
- Braga, Anthony A. and Brenda Bond. 2008. “Policing Crime and Disorder Hot Spots: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” American Society of Criminology, 46 (3): 577-578.
- With the support of funds from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Smart Policing grant initiative, the Boston Police Department collaborated with researchers from Rutgers and Harvard to evaluate the crime reduction effects of the Safe Street Team hot spots policing program. The research team used crime mapping, database, and statistical matching techniques to identify near-equivalent comparison areas for a rigorous quasi-experimental evaluation.