Community crime prevention

There is no one accepted definition for community policing. The term itself has become somewhat of a catch phrase for many ideas being simultaneously applied to the law enforcement field. Dempsey & Forst (2008) define police community relations as “the relationships involved in both human relations and public relations between the police and the community” (p. 332). According to Rosenbaum & Lurigio (1994) community policing is “the watchword for law enforcement in America” (p. 299). Hence, community policing can perhaps be described as, the commitment of citizens and police departments working together, as well as, officers helping their communities by teaching them how to deal with their own crime problems. This paper will examine the role of the police in the community and demonstrate how police departments can reach out to the community to support a safe and secure society.

Community policing has been referred to as “team policing”, (Rosenbaum & Lurigio, 1994, p. 301) as well as, “foot patrol” (Trojanowicz & Pollard, 1986, ¶ 1). No matter what the term used, Rosenbaum & Lurigio (1994) state, “the realization that the police are very dependent on the cooperation of private citizens to reduce crime and to improve public safety was a major impetus behind community policing” (p. 300). That means the implementation of community policing requires changes in the structure and function of the police from the traditional models.

Robert Trojanowicz is one of the forefathers of modern community oriented policing and a professor at Michigan State University. He has published many books and articles on the subject of community oriented policing. Trojanowicz & Pollard (1986) examined the data gathered from a 33 question survey that asked police officers about foot patrol in Flint, Michigan. It found that 81% replied that foot patrol officers received more information from community citizens as they knew the residents. Almost half of the police officer, 49%, said citizens would say that foot patrol's major advantage was it created familiarity with the officer and increased communication with the officer (Trojanowicz & Pollard, 1986). Almost all officers (96%) said the residents felt better about their department as a result of foot patrols (Trojanowicz & Pollard, 1986). This information shows that by getting out of their vehicles, the police officers were able to improve their performance and image in the community.

Dempsey & Forst (2008) discuss how human relations, community relations and public relations are interchangeable (p. 331). This could also be described as patrol officers being expected to manage their beats, meet the members of their community, and learn why problems occur (Rosenbaum & Lurigio, 1994). “Community-oriented policing means changing the daily work of the police to include investigating problems as well as incidents” (Wilson & Kelling, 1989, p. 49). For example, if there are a number of accidents at a particular intersection, an officer would be expected to identify the cause and work to resolve it. This compares to professional policing where the officer would simply write tickets but not attempt to solve the root cause of the problem (Travis, 2008).

Skogan (2006) discusses how police officers are judged more by how they treat and talk to people when responding to calls than how they handled the call. He found that citizens were more concerned about police listening to their story and treating them with kindness and fairness than having their cases solved and property returned. This suggests that the interaction of the police and the citizens is seen as more important than the occurrence of the crime.

There are several ways which a police department can reach out to the community and improve both the police performance and public image. Dempsey & Forst (2008) talk about how law enforcement agencies are unable to take on crime and disorder in America alone. It is discussed by Dempsey & Forst (2008) that the police are also unable to allow the public to “take the law into their own hands” (p. 361). Therefore, “to address these problems, the police must turn to the public for its support and active participation in programs to make the streets safer and improve the quality of life” (Dempsey & Forst, 2008, p. 361).

For many years since the advent of neighborhood watch programs there have been various projects, programs and community partnerships developed by police agencies along with their respective communities (Rosenbaum & Lurigio, 1994). Some of the most common and successful of these programs are highlighted by Dempsey & Forst (2008). These programs include, National Night Out, citizen volunteers, Operation Identification, mass media campaigns, chaplain programs, citizen police academies, home security surveys, and several other community crime prevention programs. Dershem (1990) discusses citizen patrol programs and describes how “citizen patrols entail an active role for the public in the prevention of crime and the maintenance of order” (p. 57). The list of programs and projects are as long as the police and public continue to use their imaginations.

Dempsey & Forst (2008) describe the National Night Out program in which the goal is to gather neighbors together in an effort to get acquainted so they can detect and report suspicious activity and people in their neighborhoods. Wilson & Kelling (1989) express that a type of city wide clean up with commitment from the police and the citizens assists in the reduction of burglaries in the participating neighborhoods. Dershem (1990) when describing neighborhood protection behaviors states, “strategies include such programs as citizen patrols, neighborhood watches and environmental design projects” (p. 57). These types of approaches to the development of community relations in support of a safe and secure society seem to go hand in hand. According to Rosenbaum & Lurigio (1994), events such as these bring officers and citizens together to resolve issues as a team, and as a result there becomes a feeling of mutual trust between them. The idea behind these programs is for the entire community to become involved in taking ownership of their cities.

Trojanowicz, Kappeler & Gaines (2002) make a very important observation relating to community oriented policing that, in order for a police department to be successful in the implementation of this concept, the entire police department must be involved. In other words, everyone from the patrol officer to the chief of police must be willing to change his or her ideas of policing. This is also discussed by Rosenbaum & Lurigio (1994) implying that police officers must be given the time to work with the community in solving problems that are important to both the police department and the community.

In the common law system of justice, police officers are citizens in uniform. The police are the public and the public are the police. This is the fundamental element of the concept of a peace officer. As professional peace officers, while conducting business, officers must strive to consider a broader picture at all times, focusing not only on the problem at hand, but also its causes.

It is imperative that police officers realize they are part of their communities. What the officers do in their daily dealings with the public does have an effect on the entire community. When officers can maximize positive effects and minimize inherent adverse effects of police work, they can begin to get back to Peel's vision of the common law police officer. It is a vision that connects police with the communities they serve.

References

Dempsey, J., & Forst, L. (2008). An Introduction to Policing. (5th ed.). Clifton Park, NY: Delmar Cengage Learning.

Dershem, H. (1990). Community crime prevention: A review essay on program evaluations and policy implications. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 4 (1), 53-68. Retrieved December 9, 2009, from Sage Publications.

Rosenbaum, D. (1987, January). The theory and research behind neighborhood watch: Is it a sound fear and crime reduction strategy? Crime and Delinquency, 33 (1), 103-134. Retrieved December 9, 2009, from Sage Publications.

Rosenbaum, D., & Lurigio, A. (1994, July). An inside look at community policing reform: Definitions, organizational changes, and evaluation findings. Crime & Delinquency, 40 (3), 299-314. Retrieved December 17, 2009, from Sage Publications.

Skogan, W. (2006). Police and community in Chicago. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.

Travis, L. (2008). Introduction to criminal justice (6th ed.). Newark, NJ: Anderson Publishing

Trojanowicz, R., & Pollard, B. (1986). Community policing: the line officers perspective. National Center for Community Policing. Retrieved December 18, 2009, from http://www.cj.msu.edu/~people/cp/communit.html

Trojanowicz, R., Kappeler, L., & Gaines, L. (2002). Community policing: A contemporary perspective. (3rd ed.). Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing.

Wilson, J., & Kelling, G. (1989, February). Making neighborhoods safe. The Atlantic Online, 263 (2), 46-52. Retrieved December 14, 2009, from http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/crime/safehood.htm