HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Director, Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University
Emma Bloomberg Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Management


Objectives: Prior research has found that reporting behavior of crime incidents and service needs remain low in many U.S. cities, which may be improved by place-based interventions. This study investigates whether a place-based intervention combining door-to-door education, outreach, rapid beautification, and community-oriented law enforcement can affect reporting of crime (through emergency 911 calls) and service needs (through non-emergency 311 calls). Methods: This study employs a matching strategy using observational data from a large public repository to generate effect estimates of a place-based intervention on reporting of 911 and 311 calls. Matching is conducted using the matching frontier with an energy-distance balance metric, which allows for fine managing of the balance-precision tradeoff. Results are analyzed by overall call volume and individual sub-types. Results: Findings indicate that treated households were 32% more likely to report a drug-related crime than untreated households within 3 months of the intervention and 42% more likely within 5.5 months compared to untreated households. In examining calls related to blight, treated households were 9% more likely to report a blight incident than untreated households within 3 months of the intervention, with similar results within 5.5 months. There was no evidence of differences in reporting of other crime or service needs between treated and untreated households. Conclusions: This research fills an important gap in the literature by not only investigating the impact of a place-based intervention with reporting as the outcome variable, but also by assessing whether it is effective to bring together components of other interventions previously studied in isolation. The results of this study suggest that highly visible place-based interventions that build relationships between residents and institutions may have a relationship to reporting behavior, particularly for drug-related crime and blight-related service reporting.


Dickens, Eleanor, Noah Greifer, Katharine Robb, Ashley Marcoux, Jessica Creighton, Charles Allegar, and Jorrit de Jong. "The effects of a place-based intervention on resident reporting of crime and service needs: A frontier matching approach." HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP23-033, December 2023.