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SWAT raids in Buffalo lack long-term impact, Buff State study finds

After the SWAT team swarms, reports of two types of crime fall in Buffalo.

At the same time, there is no drop in drug arrests or overall calls to police, according to new research from two SUNY Buffalo State professors.

When police target hot spots for drugs, gangs and violence with raids by heavily armed officers, oftentimes before dawn and under the cover of darkness, the number of robberies and larcenies decrease in their wake, according to a study published in the journal Criminal Justice Policy Review.

But as far as arrests for drug crimes and requests for police assistance go, researchers found SWAT raids don’t really make any long-term impact.

That's despite theories that the highly visible events would capture public attention and criminals may think there's a higher risk of arrest following the raids, according to the research.

“There is no evidence of a deterrent effect on drug arrests and calls for service,” researchers said. “However, the SWAT intervention resulted in significant decreases in street crimes involving property (robberies and larcenies).” The researchers included SUNY Buffalo State assistant professor Dae-Young Kim and associate professor Scott W. Phillips. The third author of the study was Andrew P. Wheeler, assistant professor at the University of Texas at Dallas.

The effects of SWAT team raids "are mostly abrupt and temporary," researchers found.

They looked at 39 drug raids over two days in June 2012 that was part of the Buffalo Police Department’s Operation Street Sweeper. Researchers also reviewed crime data from October 2011 through January 2013, a period of 70 weeks, half before and half after the raids. The crime data was compiled by the Erie Crime Analysis Center, a state-led effort to compile and analyze criminal justice data from across Erie County.

Researchers cited several limitations of their study methods, including that it only looked at one city and SWAT raids and their effects may vary across cities. The study was also limited because it was designed after the raids took place, its authors said.

A reporter asked to speak with Buffalo Police about the research on Wednesday and Thursday, but no official was made available by early Friday afternoon.

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