This policing strategy was designed to deter crime on platforms in high-crime areas of the London Underground. The programme was rated promising, indicating that the implementation of the programme resulted in the expected outcomes.
The programme, implemented in 2012, was released in 2022 by the National Institute of Justice, taking advantage of public policies currently being implemented aimed at ensuring a greater sense of security on public transportation. The study concludes that platforms in London Underground treatment areas had statistically significant reductions in service calls and crime, relative to the control group, on patrol and non-patrol days.
The premise behind the underground intervention was that patrols would act as a deterrent because people would be less likely to commit a crime in the presence of a police officer for fear of being detected and, ultimately, punished.
Each London Underground station has multiple platforms. Each platform offers only one direction of travel per track. There are at least two closed areas at most stations: one for trains going in one direction and one for trains going in the other. If police are present on one platform, they cannot be seen on the other.
Twenty uniformed officers were chosen and trained to carry out foot patrols on hot-spot platforms (if uniformed officers left due to normal turnover, they were replaced by other uniformed officers). Uniformed officers normally patrolled on foot in teams of two. The officers patrolled the platforms during peak hours and on the marked days of the platforms noted above, which were Wednesday through Saturday between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Depending on the travel distance between their assigned hot spots, each two-person patrol unit was responsible for three to five hot spots. Patrol units were asked to guard these spots, four times each day for 15 minutes at a time and attend hot spots in a random or unpredictable order to avoid predictability of visits. In addition, they were encouraged to interact with transport users and avoid remaining inactive on the platforms.
The officers were not tasked with problem solving or community policing in the classic sense or targeting their efforts at any particular category of crime. Immediately following each patrol team’s 15-minute visit, the officers were to board a train and travel to the next platform. Each patrol team was debriefed daily by the sergeants.
A member of the research team held monthly meetings with all officers, sergeants, and senior officers, where the importance of fidelity to planning was communicated. During these meetings, the investigator provided feedback to the officers on particular noteworthy incidents and crime figures for the previous month. The work carried out amounted to 416 police patrols per hot spot for 6 months. The total figure for the 58 hot spots in the study was about 5,000 hours.
In addition, various measures were taken to structure and limit the overflow attributable to police presence:
- The shifts always started at the main offices of the British Transport Police, without the need for police presence at the control platforms.
- Officers participating in the study moved between hot spots by riding the trains, although they had to walk through a nearby station to and from a platform at the beginning and end of each shift.
- Officers were asked (without disclosing the location of the control platforms) to follow tracks passing through the control platforms in their traffic between treatment platforms, to avoid spill-over effects.