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The power of policing partnerships: sustaining the gains

Journal of Experimental Criminology

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Third Party Policing (TPP) involves partnerships between police and third parties where the legal powers of third parties are harnessed to prevent or control crime problems. This paper explores the characteristics and mechanisms of TPP as a crime control strategy, focusing on how the partnership approach in policing can help sustain crime control gains over the long run. Using the ABILITY Truancy Trial as an example, I examine how policing can contribute to long-term social change for high-risk young people living in poor-performing school districts and high-risk communities.


The ABILITY Trial includes 102 young truants randomly allocated to a control (business-as-usual) or an experimental condition. The experimental condition activates the key theoretical components of Third Party Policing (TPP): a partnership between police and participating schools that activates and escalates (where needed) jurisdictional truanting laws (the legal lever).


The paper presents a theoretical discussion of TPP and uses the ABILITY Trial to highlight the way TPP works in practice. Baseline data are presented for the ABILITY Trial. Outcome results are not presented.


Third Party Policing partnerships rest on the capacity of police to build relationships with third parties who have a stake in the crime problem, who possess responsive regulation legal levers, and who have a clear mandate to offer long-term solutions and help sustain the crime control gains. Partnerships, I argue, offer long-term solutions for police because they activate latent mechanisms, building the capacity for third parties to both maintain short-term gains and sustain the crime control gains beyond the lifespan of the initial police intervention.