Boston, Massachusetts

Evaluating a Place-Based Intervention to Reduce Violent Crime

Boston Police Patch

Site LE Agency
Boston Police Department

Site Researcher
Anthony Braga, Ph.D., Northeastern University, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Site Focus
Gun Violence

SPI Strategy
Place-based policing, Offender-based policing

Site Cohort

Site Profile
Large urban area of 48.28 sq. miles with a population of 624,222

Project Overview

The Boston SPI tested a new method for reducing gun violence in small geographic areas (micro–hot spots) that exhibited historically (over several decades) high crime rates, and evaluated the impacts of the Safe Street Team (SST) strategy. The SSTs applied problem-oriented and community-policing strategies to identify and address recurring problems in target areas (primarily disadvantaged, minority neighborhoods). The Boston SPI team conducted a quasi-experimental evaluation comparing the treated target areas to a statistically matched group of similar, non-treatment areas. The research results indicated a significant decrease in violent crimes in the treated micro–hot spots.

  • Completed 28-year longitudinal analysis of violent crime to identify 13 chronic hot spots.
  • Targeted SSTs, consisting of a sergeant and six patrol officers, in hot spots.
  • Deployed nearly 400 different situational/environmental, enforcement, and community/social service techniques to identify and address recurring problems.

Methods and Findings

Research Design

A quasi-experimental design with propensity score matching (statistically based matching of target sites to control/comparison sites).


  • More than 17% reduction in violent crime.
  • More than 15% reduction in aggravated assaults.
  • More than 19% reduction in robberies.