– Executive Summary –

This research paper, Putting the Public in Public Safety: Nudging a Safer Community, builds on existing nudge campaign research to identify and implement a local nudge campaign to assess nudge’s overall efficacy and practicality as an alternative means to increase public safety by decreasing preventable crimes. This thesis starts with a review of the literature on marketing campaigns, including cost implications to understand the full spectrum of crime prevention strategies across all levels of criminal activity and associated direct and indirect costs. This research paper further outlines how law enforcement has integrated social media marketing when sending messages about preventable crimes to the largest public audience possible.

Chapter I, the sections about the research question and the literature review, includes information concerning the marketing campaigns and the cost implications of crime prevention strategies across the criminal justice spectrum of victimization and police services. It also discusses the research design. The nudge campaign is designed to emphasize the benefits of social behavior change in a community through a geographical social media platform and messaging crime prevention behaviors to create safer communities.

Chapter II brings into focus the history of social marketing and the nudge approach, with definitions and examples of social marketing. Nudge marketing expands on the evolution of nudge campaigns, as the multi-disciplinary applied science of human behavior was brought to the world’s attention in 2008 by Richard Thaler’s and Cass Sustein’s nudge theory, or “choice architecture.” The section on nudge for public safety provides proven nudge campaign for increasing protection of property and the general public’s safety. The section about nudge and social media illustrates the incorporation of choice architecture through positive behavior messaging into current law enforcement social media platforms.

Chapter III presents nudge case studies to identify and review successful nudge campaigns in both the United Kingdom and the United States. This examination serves as a foundation for both public and private sector nudge marketing strategies. Nudge examples in the United Kingdom include the government’s attempt to increase community engagement and shift the balance of governance by encouraging community members to be more active in building an improved society through choice architecture also known as nudge campaigns. The formation of behavioral insight teams helped to disperse political power and social responsibility to local communities instead of engaging in centralized control. The United Kingdom addressed a gap in the traditional criminal justice approach around the focus on offenders of crime. One of the nudge strategies enhanced the community’s role in restorative justice principles. An examination of nudge campaigns in the United States found some subtle differences in its approach to implementing choice architecture or nudge strategies. The main difference is who implemented these types of approaches. In the United Kingdom, the government established a specific department to advance nudge methodologies throughout different parts of the administration. The United States relied primarily on the private sector and individual public sector agencies to explore distinctive nudge tactics. Utilities and health care organizations led the way in designing methods to reduce energy and water consumption, as well as increase vaccination and organ donation rates. This thesis also investigated a successful nudge recruiting program designed to expand diversity in a local law enforcement agency.

Chapter IV describes the specific steps undertaken by the Denver Police Department of the City and County of Denver in the planning, design, implementation, and analysis of a longitudinal study in public safety and preventable crimes. Denver’s Nudge Campaign shares the theories, approaches, and findings of nudge campaigns conducted in three of Denver’s neighborhoods. The department identified and selected a professional marketing organization with experience in choice architecture. The nudge content of still imagery and short video clips was designed around theft and burglary mitigation. Denver’s “Lock Out Crime” nudge campaign was born. These positive crime prevention messages and images were sent to specific neighborhoods using geo-fencing on several social media platforms. Neighborhood #1 received 2.75 positive nudge messages per week. Neighborhood #2 received 5.5 enhanced positive nudge messages per week. Neighborhood #3 received 0 (zero) nudge messages per week. The cost-benefit analysis/return on investment section discusses the total cost of the professionally designed nudge campaign and shows a net positive gain when comparing dollars spent on messaging versus the direct and indirect costs of the crimes likely prevented.

Chapter V concludes by outlining the exploration of different nudge theories and uses these principles to mitigate crime by eliminating the opportunity for certain crimes to occur. A pre- and post-examination of Denver crime data for the three selected neighborhoods revealed the most successful results were achieved with enhanced personal or relatable messages delivered with higher frequency. This thesis suggests implementing skillfully designed nudge strategies may assist in preventing certain crimes and inspire a higher number of diverse candidates to join law enforcement, which will likely enhance overall public safety.

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