Evaluating the Effect of a Police Sting Operation on Domestic Burglary

Liz Curtin, Home Office, London

The paper will examine the crime reduction effects of a 12-month undercover police operation. Under the government's Reducing Burglary Initiative (RBI), one British police force was awarded 850,000 in early 2001 to run a sting operation. The RBI was one of a number of components under the CRP with the primary aim of ascertaining what works most cost effectively in reducing domestic burglary. This particular project employed undercover techniques to attempt to reduce domestic burglary in an area with a burglary rate over 2.5 times the national average.

The project adopted a method typical of other property crime stings that have been conducted in Britain and, more often, in the United States. Two shops were set up by the police in the east and the west of a northern city, which, whilst only a mile or so apart, are separated by a river and thought therefore to bear quite distinctive (and parochial) patterns of offending. Undercover officers in both shops bought goods from offenders that were purported to have been stolen in crimes committed in the city, most commonly from burglary, shoplifting, or vehicle crime offences.

The paper will examine the effect of the sting operation on, essentially, rates of domestic burglary and to compare and contrast, using Geographical Information Systems (GIS), the spatial distribution of offences committed in the six month period both before and after the (six month) covert stage. It will examine in detail some of the main findings from the research; e.g. that when the analysis was conducted on a ward level (looking at 'neighbourhoods') there was evidence of a marked reduction in burglary. However, evidence of possible displacement to vehicle crime was also evident. Some other areas of interest will also be explored, for example:

the large number of arrestees the infiltration by undercover police of major drugs networks the vast police overtime budget that was accumulated during the operation the discovery of numerous fraudulent victim insurance claims the public's (very positive) reaction to the operation

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Updated 05/20/2006