Community policing could arguably be called the new orthodoxy of law enforcement in the United States. It has become an increasingly popular alternative to what many police administrators perceive as the failure of traditional policing to deal effectively with street crime, especially crimes of violence and drug trafficking. Although the concept is defined in varying ways and its and its ability to meet its goals remains largely untested, community policing has gained widespread acceptance. Community policing promotes mutual trust and cooperation between people and the police, at the same time it helps empower neighborhoods in danger of being overwhelmed by crime, drugs, and the poisonous mix of apathy despair and unrest.
Many people would argue that the focus of Neighborhood Policing is simple problem solving. Instead, community policing allows law enforcement to get back to the principles upon which it was founded, to integrate itself once again into the fabric of the community so that the people come to the police for counsel and help before a serious problem arises, not after the fact. People will still respond to emergencies and other calls. However, many calls to the police are not police related and are more effectively handled by other agencies. As the number of these non-emergency calls decreased, officers are able to spend more time working with citizens to solve crimes and disorder problems (San Diego PD). With better police-citizen communication, officers can more effectively use and share information with the public, Officers who know both a community's problems and its residents can link people with other public and private agencies that can help solve community concerns.
No single agency can solve complex social problems alone. A combined community-police effort restores the safety of our neighborhoods and business districts.
Community policing is a pro-active strategy that emphasizes community partnerships and focuses more on prevention of crime than on cleaning it up. Community policing brings new opportunities for success. Less crime, better living conditions and improved social harmony have been achieved through a community approach. If the police are truly interested in controlling crime, there is little question of the proper course to pursue. Community policing holds the key to more effective policing. If the police are to adopt a new strategy, the rank-and-file must perceive some benefit for change. Community policing can fill this need. Community policing not only better serves the community, it also better serves the police (Woods). The skeptic may ask what makes community policing so great. For starters officers speak to neighborhood groups and teach them how to be safer in crime prevention. The officers also participate in business and civic events, consult with special agencies and take part in education programs for school children. Foot, bike and horse patrols bring police closer to the community. Before this people only saw the police from patrol cars and thought the only time they would see an officer is if they called to report a crime. Now community members can see them on a day to day basis and become friends with them.
Almost all of the groups can benefit from a partnership with a law enforcement agency including home and school organizations, such as PTA, neighborhood associations, tenants' groups and veterans' groups. Also community service clubs such as Lions, Kiwanis, JayCee, and Rotary clubs, religiously affiliated groups, merchants, and taxpayers (BJA). Potential partners that come from among those groups directly affected by the current problem, those who must deal with its aftermath or consequences, and those who must deal with its aftermath or consequences, and those benefit if the problem did not exist. For example, if graffiti is the problem, those directly affected include business and home owners, area residents, and highway and park departments. Those who must deal with the consequences include insurers, residents, traffic control personnel, elected officials, and law enforcement. People who would benefit if the problem did not exist would be realtors, the chamber of comm!
erce, neighborhood residents, and school and youth programs that could use funds otherwise spent on cleanups (BJA). All these people are potential partners in the clean up our communities.
By developing this friendship between your community and the Police Department any one of the groups stated above can help reduce crime in their local area, improve communications between and them self and their community, deter criminal activity by increasing in the probability of apprehension, encourage the reporting of crime and suspicious activity to police, and improve the quality information provided to police.
Community policing and Neighborhood Network Center reforms acknowledge that the police must be part of the solution, since they are the only public servants whose options range all the way from patting a youngster on the back for a job well done to the use of deadly force if necessary. At the same time, both approaches make it clear that the ultimate responsibility rests with the people trapped in troubled housing areas, which have the most to lose and the most to gain. The biggest challenge now is to persuade citizens fortunate enough to live in stable and secure neighborhoods to invest in and support such efforts in those dangerous areas that many have worked hard to escape. A major challenge for police and sheriff's departments around the Nation is trying to base community relationships on equality rather than authority. Also a challenge to police is developing ways to work effectively in these partnership structures to encourage community involvement (BJA). Mark Moore and Darrel Stephens recently identified seven "problematic realities" that now face police organization and those that require creative responses:
1. The police are having a very tough time dealing with crime all by themselves.
2. Effective crime control depends on an effective working partnership between the police and citizens in the communities they serve.
3. Public police are losing market share in the security business
4. Public police contribute to the quality of life in their communities in many ways other than by controlling crime.
5. The administrative instruments now being used to ensure accountability and control of police officers can't reliably do so.
6. The police are routinely held accountable for the fairness and economy with which they use force and authority, as well as money.
7. Rather than seek insulation from political interference, it is more appropriate for police agencies to make themselves more accountable to political institutions and citizens alike.
One of the problem solving tools used by trained officers involves identification of a problem-affecting people in the community, fact-finding missions to determine the extent and cause of the problem, action steps and review to determine success. Many police agencies refer to these steps as "SARA," which stands for Scanning, Analysis, Response, and Assessment (San Diego PD). Scanning in this context means problem identification. As a first step, officers should identify problems on their beats. A problem is different from an isolated event. An isolated event is something police are called to or happen to come upon that is unrelated to other incidents in the community. The purpose of analysis is to learn as much as possible about a problem to identify what is causing it. First, the officer needs to understand the actions and the interactions of the offenders, victims, and the environment. Generally three elements are required to constitute a crime in the community: an
offender, a victim, and a crime scene. In the third phase of the SARA model, officers look for long-term, creative, tailor-made solutions to the problem. If arrest is an effective solution to a problem, then a community officer should take approach. However, if arrest is not effective, other responses must be applied. The last part of the SARA model is Assessment. It is important, once an effort is complete, to access whether what the officer did was effective. If a noise complaint problem came to an officer's attention through a rash of calls for service, then the officer might look to see if the number of calls coming decreased, and what amount, to determine if the solution was effective (BJA).
Some things that the police stations try to encourage in their community officers is to act as the catalyst in confronting not only crime, but fear of crime and neighborhood decay and disorder. This decentralized and personalized form of policing breaks down the anonymity that plagues traditional police efforts (Trojanowicz). In a community policing beat people know their officer by name, which means that they can hold the officer directly accountable if he or she does too little or goes too far. The daily, face-to face contact also allows the officer to learn whom to trust and whom to keep an eye on. And as people start to take back their streets, those who would prey on them eventually find that they have no place to hide (Trojanowicz).
A crucial point as well is that community policing allows officers to intervene with youngsters at risk before they grow up to become hardened, adult career criminals for whom we have no good answers. Traditional policing simply cannot provide motor patrol officers the time, the opportunity, and the continuity to do much about young shoplifters, muggers, and drug gang lookouts that quickly melt away into the crowd. Part of the answer might be for the community officer to work on providing kids with recreational activities or summer jobs. This is impossible if the police stay in their patrol cars all the time and do not get on a first name basis. In Aurora, CO an officer pairs young children with young cadets from the Air Force Academy as mentors trying to change their outlook on crime (Trojanowicz). The officer would have never had the chance to meet some of these youngsters if he stayed in a police unit. This is why community policing is such a crucial part of law enforcement. It is better to help children when they are young and looking for something to be a part of instead of waiting until they are at the police station being arrested.
Community policing is not a new idea. Law enforcement has long recognized the need for cooperation with community it serves. It has been an element of police philosophy. In fact, community policing dates back more the 150 years to Sir Robert Peel, the founder of the London police force. Following WWII the police began to favor a more professional, less community-focused method of policing. As the crime rate rose to unprecedented levels, police agencies grew larger, their operations more sophisticated, and the police and public grew apart. Almost every police force is trying to achieve the relationship again with the community that is why they are attempting to get to know the community and are doing community policing.
Some say that community policing is just a fad and that it is just a throwback to the days of the foot patrol officer. However, today's Community Policing Officers are a bit of the old, but with a new dimension. Sometimes we travel on foot and at times some of us use a vehicle. But the difference today is that we listen to what people tell us, and we try to act on their concerns. Community Policing is a joint effort by all and it must be if we are to deter crime and make places safer for everyone (Mc Glothian-Taylor). Community policing brings new opportunities for success. Less crime, better living conditions and improved social harmony have been achieved through a community approach. If the police are truly interested in controlling crime, there is little question of the proper course to pursue. Community policing holds the key to more effective policing of our countries not so safe streets (Mastrofski).
In neighborhoods where the community policing has not been made available to them yet, the citizens sometimes develop a neighborhood watch program. Neighborhood Watch is a citizen’s involvement program where citizens, in cooperation with the local law enforcement agency, directly participate in the diction and prevention of crime. Citizens involved in Neighborhood Watch are trained in how to recognize suspicious activities and report these to the Police Department. Neighborhood Watch citizens help keep the police well informed about the neighborhood and of any suspicious, criminal, or dangerous activities that may be occurring. On a national scale there is approximately one police officer for every 2,000 citizens. Obviously, there are many more citizens than there are police officers. Neighborhood Watch greatly reduces this ratio of citizens to police by having these citizens become an extension of the Police department’s eyes and ears. Neighborhood Watch provides the community with unlimited availability of citizens to watch their neighborhoods for suspicious activities or crimes in progress. This helps to deter crime since the criminal must now be on guard against the entire community not just a police officer (Murray City PD).
Neighborhood watch operates in two basic ways: The citizens involved carefully watch and observe their neighborhood immediately notifying the police any if any suspicious or criminal activity has been seen and members utilize crime prevention measures to make it much more difficult for criminals to operate within their community.
Community policing and Neighborhood Watch is a collaborative effort between police and the community that identifies problems of crime and disorder and involves all elements of the community in the search for solutions to these problems. It is founded on close mutually beneficial ties between police and community members. Community policing offers a way for law enforcement to help re-energize our communities and neighborhood watch offers a way the citizens can help the police take back their community from crime. Developing strong, self-sufficient communities is an essential step in creating an atmosphere in which serious crime will not flourish.
Mastrofski, Stephen D. (1988) Community Policing in Action: Lesson From an Observational Study. U.S. Government Documents.
McGlothian-Taylor, Florene. (1997). Community Policing and Minorities. US Government Documents.
Murray Police Department (2000) Crime Prevention and Neighborhood Watch. http://www.ci.murray.ut.us/nw.htm
San Diego Police Department (2000) Neighborhood Policing: Building a Problem Solving Partnership. http://www.sannet.gov/police/crime-prevention/np.shtml
Series: BJA (1994) Working as Partners with Community Groups. United States Government Documents. http://www.ncjrs.org/txfiles/wpcg.txt
Trojanowicz, Robert (1992) The Basics of Community Policing. http://www.ssc.msu.edu/~cj/cp/thebasic.html
Trojanowicz, Robert. (1999) Community Policing Curbs Police Brutality. http://www.ssc.msu.edu/~cj/cp/communi3.html