Definition of Proactive Policing

By Mary Jane Freeman
Many police departments, proactive policing, the local communities, they
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Police departments across the country are often criticized for being reactive in their approaches to crime. Critics claim that police don't help prevent crime, but rather "react" to crime after it happens; that is, once the perpetrators already broke the law and innocent parties were already victimized, or worse. To combat this public perception, some police departments take a proactive approach to their policing.

Community-Focused

Proactive policing focuses on stopping crime before it happens, with the goal of reducing crime and the fear of it, improving the lives of citizens in the community, and improving the relationship between the police department and the community it serves. To that end, police departments may employ a variety of tactics. For example, law enforcement may increase foot patrols in a community so that police officers readily and frequently interact with residents to form positive relationships, building communication and trust. To reduce organized crime and drug dealing, police officers may rely on informants, undercover investigations and secret surveillance. To steer juveniles away from a life of crime, police departments may establish athletic leagues and work with schools to combat truancy, drug crimes and other offenses common among youth.

Pros and Cons

Proactive policing has several positive qualities. Proponents say that it helps establish a closer relationship between the community and the police officers who service it, as well as enabling law enforcement to diagnose and manage problems that lead to serious crimes in a particular community. However, proactive policing is also criticized by some for being too aggressive. Critics charge that it is nothing more than racial profiling masquerading as crime prevention, such as New York City's infamous Stop-and-Frisk program, resulting in arrests without probable cause.

About the Author

Based on the West Coast, Mary Jane Freeman has been writing professionally since 1994, specializing in the topics of business and law. Freeman's work has appeared in a variety of publications, including LegalZoom, Essence, Reuters and Chicago Sun-Times. Freeman holds a Master of Science in public policy and management and Juris Doctor. Freeman is self-employed and works as a policy analyst and legal consultant.