What is the Prevailing Wisdom on Preventive Patrols?

The prevailing wisdom on preventive patrols is that they are an effective way to deter crime and improve public safety. However, some research has called into question the effectiveness of these patrols, and whether or not they are worth the resources required to maintain them. This blog post will explore the pros and cons of preventive patrols, and help you decide if they are right for your community.

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Preventive patrols are a staple of modern policing. They are often the first and sometimes the only form of police-citizen interaction. For this reason, they play an important role in shaping public perceptions of the police. In recent years, there has been a growing body of evidence that suggests that traditional preventive patrols are not as effective as once thought. This has led many police departments to reevaluate their use of preventive patrols. In this paper, we will review the evidence on the effectiveness of preventive patrols and explore some of the issues surrounding their use.

Theoretical support for preventive patrols

Preventive patrol has been a cornerstone of modern policing since the late 1800s, when it was advocated by police leaders such as August Vollmer and O.W. Wilson. The idea is simple: if police officers are visible in the community, they will deter crime and disorder. And if crimes or disorders do occur, the officers will be more likely to detect and respond to them quickly.

There is a great deal of theoretical support for preventive patrol. It is based on the “broken windows” theory of policing, which holds that visible signs of disorder (such as broken windows) lead to more serious crime. The theory suggests that police officers who are visible in the community can prevent disorder and crime by maintaining a “zero tolerance” approach to minor offenses.

Theoretical support for preventive patrol has been bolstered by empirical evidence from a number of studies. A classic study by Weisburd and colleagues, for example, found that increased police presence led to reductions in burglary rates in Washington, D.C. Another study found that increased police presence led to reductions in violent crime rates in New York City.

Despite the strong theoretical and empirical support for preventive patrol, there is some evidence that it is not an effective use of resources. A large-scale randomized experiment conducted by the Princeton University Police Department found that increased police patrols did not lead to reductions in crime or disorder. Similarly, a review of the literature on policing by Kelling and colleagues found that there was no clear evidence that preventive patrol reduces crime or disorder.

The evidence on the effectiveness of preventive patrol is mixed, but it seems clear that it is not an effective use of resources if the goal is to reduce crime or disorder.

Empirical evidence on preventive patrols

Empirical evidence on preventive patrols is mixed, with some studies finding positive effects and others finding no effects. A systematic review of the evidence by the Cochrane Collaboration found that while there was some evidence that preventive patrols may be effective in reducing crime, the quality of the evidence was low and more research is needed.


The research on preventive patrols is inconclusive, with some studies finding that they are effective and others finding that they are not effective. More research is needed to determine the efficacy of preventive patrols.

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