UC Berkeley study: To cut crime, put city police on foot patrol

three police officers walk on a street in san francisco

Assigning police officers in San Francisco to foot patrols helped reduce certain kinds of crime, a UC Berkeley study found. (Courtesy image Torbakhopper)

When police put more visible foot patrols on San Francisco streets, assaults and thefts dropped substantially, according to a new study by two UC Berkeley researchers. 

The study, “The Effect of Redeploying Police Officers from Plain Clothes Special Assignment to Uniformed Foot-Beat Patrols on Street Crime,” was made public today by the California Policy Lab, a joint public policy research venture of UC Berkeley and UCLA.

Beginning in September 2017, San Francisco’s new police chief reassigned 70 mostly plainclothes officers to uniformed foot patrols in response to a rise in thefts, especially car break-ins, throughout the city.

Maura Liévano, a doctoral student at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, and Steven Raphael, a professor at the school, compared crime rates in the two months before and after the change and found that the shift in strategy caused significant declines in theft and assault throughout the city. 

“The study suggests that a greater visible police presence helped reduce certain crimes in San Francisco in the two months following redeployment,” said Evan White, the head of the California Policy Lab, which is based at UC Berkeley and charged with investigating pressing policy issues in California. “These improvements in public safety are distinct from trends in prior years, and suggest the police’s redeployment made a difference.”

White said lab researchers intend further investigate whether the impact of the redeployment can last and whether the foot patrols simply displaced crime from San Francisco to other areas.

Read the complete report on police foot patrols in San Francisco