Repeat Complaint Address Policing: Two Field Experiments in Minneapolis, 1985-1987 (ICPSR 9788)

Published: Jan 18, 2006

Principal Investigator(s):
Lawrence W. Sherman; Patrick R. Gartin; Michael E. Buerger

Version V1

A leading sociological theory of crime is the "routine activities" approach (Cohen and Felson, 1979). The premise of this theory is that the rate of occurrence of crime is affected by the convergence in time and space of three elements: motivated offenders, suitable targets, and the absence of guardianship against crime. The purpose of this study was to provide empirical evidence for the routine activities theory by investigating criminal data on places. This study deviates from traditional criminology research by analyzing places instead of collectivities as units of spatial analysis. There are two phases to this study. The purpose of the first phase was to test whether crime occurs randomly in space or is concentrated in "hot spots". Telephone calls for police service made in 1985 and 1986 to the Minneapolis Police Department were analyzed for patterns and concentration of repeat calls and were statistically tested for randomness. For the second phase of the study, two field experiments were designed to test the effectiveness of a proactive police strategy called Repeat Complaint Address Policing (RECAP). Samples of residential and commercial addresses that generated the most concentrated and most frequent repeat calls were divided into groups of experimental and control addresses, resulting in matched pairs. The experimental addresses were then subjected to a more focused proactive policing. The purposes of the RECAP experimentation were to test the effectiveness of proactive police strategy, as measured through the reduction in the incidence of calls to the police and, in so doing, to provide empirical evidence on the routine activities theory. Variables in this collection include the number of calls for police service in both 1986 and 1987 to the control addresses for each experimental pair, the number of calls for police service in both 1986 and 1987 to the experimental addresses for each experimental pair, numerical differences between calls in 1987 and 1986 for both the control addresses and experimental addresses in each experimental pair, percentage difference between calls in 1987 and 1986 for both the control addresses and the experimental addresses in each experimental pair, and a variable that indicates whether the experimental pair was used in the experimental analysis. The unit of observation for the first phase of the study is the recorded telephone call to the Minneapolis Police Department for police service and assistance. The unit of analysis for the second phase is the matched pair of control and experimental addresses for both the residential and commercial address samples of the RECAP experiments.

Sherman, Lawrence W., Gartin, Patrick R., and Buerger, Michael E. Repeat Complaint Address Policing: Two Field Experiments in Minneapolis, 1985-1987. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2006-01-18.

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United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (OJP-89-C-008 and 86-IJ-CX-0037)

1985 -- 1987

In the first phase, 323,979 telephone call records were selected by the investigators from all calls made to the Minneapolis Police Department's computer-aided dispatching system during the period from December 15, 1985, to December 15, 1986, after deleting from the complete pool all calls that did not generate police patrol dispatches, i.e., fire, ambulance, and administrative police records calls. In the second phase, investigators selected 2,000 addresses with the most calls from the total pool of addresses that generated calls to police. Each address was then labeled as residential or commercial, and the lists for these categories were rank-ordered by number of calls. Then the top 250 addresses in each category were identified as RECAP project targets with 125 of these randomly selected as RECAP experimental addresses and the remaining 125 as control addresses.

First phase: All recorded telephone calls to the Minneapolis Police Department between December 15, 1985, and December 15, 1986, that generated a police patrol dispatch. Second phase: All addresses in Minneapolis between 1986 and 1987.

telephone call records of the Minneapolis Police Departments computer-aided dispatching (CAD) system

administrative records data

experimental data



2006-01-18 File CB9788.ALL was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.

1997-08-15 SAS and SPSS data definition statements are now available for this collection.


  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.

  • The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented.
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This dataset is maintained and distributed by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD), the criminal justice archive within ICPSR. NACJD is primarily sponsored by three agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice: the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.