Aggressive Policing and the Deterrence of Crime






  • The authors thank Stuart Macdonald, Stephen Mastrofski, Roger Parks, George Rabinowitz, and Alissa Worden for their comments and assistance. The support of the Performance Measurement Program of the National Institute of Justice, through Grant No. 82-IJ-CX-0030 is gratefully acknowledged. The interpretations and opinions expressed herein are, of course, the authors' own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the National Institute of Justice. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the 1983 Annual Meeting of The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences in San Antonio, Texas, and the 1984 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in Washington.

  • GORDON P. WHITAKER is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Master of Public Administration Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His Ph.D is from Indiana University. His research has concerned performance measurement and the effects of organization structure and agency programs on performance of urban public services, especially police.

  • CHARLES PHILLIPS is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He holds a Ph.D in political science from the University of Texas at Austin, and he specializes in the study of public policy toward crime and delinquency. He is currently involved in research on lynching and the death penalty in the South:

  • PETER HAAS is a Senior Associate Analyst for the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission in Richmond, Virginia. His Ph.D. is from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is currently engaged in research on intergovernmental relations, bureaucratic behavior, and deinstitutionalization.

  • ROBERT WORDEN is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Georgia. His interests lie in the fields of public policy and public administration. He is currently investigating the political and administrative constraints on police behavior.


Recent analyses of the relationship between crime and an aggressive patrol strategy have led to no single conclusion concerning the deterrent power of aggressive policing. This research adds to that debate by exploring the effects of a variety of aggressive patrol tactics on several different crimes. The empirical analysis, based on cross-sectional data from sixty urban neighborhoods, indicates that there appears to be no stable complex of police actions that constitute an aggressive patrol strategy. However, one form of police action usually included under the rubric of aggressive patrol—suspicion stops—may indeed deter certain types of criminal activity.