The CASTLE project began strong in 2018 with community participation (n=50 residents) in identifying and discussing the problems within the Castle Point neighborhood (CPN). They identified shots fired, feeling unsafe, illegal dumping, disorder, and speeding as the most important concerns. Responses were implemented in two phases. An early action plan involved an emphasis on illegal dumping and disorder and entailed community cleanups, adding cameras near vacant homes with high dumping, installing yard signs encouraging residents to keep the castle clean, sending letters to landlords, and refrigerator magnets with contact information for public works. Evaluation of the early action project showed a downward trend in calls for service for illegal dumping and abandoned autos, increased reporting for these offenses, and declines in the amount of physical disorder on CPN streets as well as the proportion of CPN residences with physical disorder.
After receiving approval from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance on the implementation plan in August 2019, the first set of extra patrols were conducted, Art Works installed murals on several CPN homes, public works conducted extra cleanups, and dumpsters were installed temporarily. In Spring 2020, a bobcat was procured and the community alliance 501c3 was formed. Cleanups resumed in summer 2020 along with camera monitoring, the ArtWorks program for CPN youth, and mural installation. Directed patrols resumed in fall 2020. Doorbell cameras (n=100) were installed in March 2021, and additional murals were installed in summer 2021. The planned improved lighting did not occur during the project period. The COVID-19 pandemic, which began in March 2020 and steadily persisted for more than a year drastically impacted the planned initiatives and implementation timing and likely also affected the outcomes.
We examined the impact of these activities on shots fired, illegal dumping, and disorder, as well as on residents’ perceptions of safety, crime, and police. There were mixed results, showing the most favorable impacts on disorder but no favorable impact on shots fired or residents’ perceptions.
The directed patrols increased police presence during the treatment timeframes of 2, 4, and 8-weeks and CPN residents did report seeing police more frequently than comparison area residents over time. The treatment hot spots in CPN showed significant reductions in disorder calls for service during those times, about half the rate of the control spots during those same times. However, there was not a significant change in shots fired calls for service or ShotSpotter alerts. Also, we did not observe any significant differences in impact based on the duration of the hot spots treatment (2, 4 or 8 weeks).
Examining differences in CPN to the two comparison neighborhoods, we found that observed physical disorder in CPN declined significantly over time and while the comparison neighborhoods saw declines in the amount of physical disorder as well—the effects were not as large or consistent as in CPN. Likewise, in CPN, the proportion of homes on street segments that showed evidence of physical disorder was significantly lower in 2021 than in 2018, while the two comparison areas did not have these results. However, we did not find that the number of homes that showed clear signs of physical order (e.g., tidy landscaping, well secured and undamaged fences and gates) was significantly greater in 2021.
Furthermore, comparison area residents reported more favorable change than CPN residents between the start and end of the project on perceptions of police—police legitimacy, procedural justice, police injustice, and how police address illegal dumping. Comparison residents also reported significantly more favorable results for informal social control relative to CPN residents between 2019 and 2021.
The CBCR grant provided a unique opportunity for the CPN community to organize around their crime and safety concerns and to partner closely with the SLCPD and Department of Public Works. It also provided an opportunity to drastically improve efforts to address physical disorder. Nonetheless, numerous approaches designed to promote neighborhood collective efficacy and some other implementation strategies could not be implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic also hindered community survey data collection efforts in 2020. In spite of these challenges, the project led to reductions in CPN in physical disorder by 2021 compared to baseline and relative to two comparison areas. Furthermore, disorder calls for service experienced significantly fewer disorder calls for service during the hot spots periods than control hot spots that received no change in policing services. However, no overall improvements in feelings of safety nor in experiences with shots fired can be documented from the efforts.