According to the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, of the U.S. Department of Justice, "Community policing focuses on crime and social disorder through the delivery of police services." It engages citizens in partnerships to build safer communities. Businesses tend to shy away from dangerous neighborhoods, and individuals and families tend to buy houses in safe communities. Therefore, community policing is about both safety and prosperity.
Effective community policing involves tackling the root causes of crime and restructuring the police organization to respond more effectively to community needs. Measuring effectiveness involves defining and tracking specific, measurable and attainable goals, such as crime rates and satisfaction with police. It's important that community policing be effective in helping people feel safe in their neighborhoods because businesses cannot thrive in crime-infested areas and residential developers tend not to invest in unsafe communities.
Reduction in violent crime, such as armed robbery and homicides, leads to safer communities where businesses can flourish. The effectiveness of community policing in reducing violent crime is unclear. University of Pennsylvania criminology professor John MacDonald, writing in a 2002 article hosted on the Loyola University New Orleans website, found that community policing strategies such as foot patrols and neighborhood watch programs do not have a noticeable impact on violent crime. His analysis of crime data from the mid- and late-1990s in 164 cities with a population of 100,000-plus showed that community policing had little effect on urban violence. Instead, he found that aggressive and proactive policing strategies are related to lower rates of robbery and homicides.
Notwithstanding the mixed results in tackling violent crime, community policing has been effective in fostering business growth and involvement in major cities. This is according to a 281-city survey commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2000. In Norwalk, Connecticut, and Denton, Texas, community police officers met with residents and businesses to identify and resolve quality-of-life issues. In New Orleans, Louisiana, community police teams met with faith-based and business entities to identify and solve problems. In Clearwater, Florida, they used city enforcement codes to get rid of crack houses and better maintain residences and businesses. Community policing strategies in a problem area in Brownsville, Texas, helped make it safe for businesses to return and thrive. Cities reported implementing community policing on average for more than seven years and in all parts of their police departments. A 2004 Department of Justice report on community policing in smaller cities and towns also found community policing strategies that involved face-to-face contact with businesses and residents to gain their trust and confidence, and the eventual development of joint cooperative projects with law enforcement and faith-based organizations.
Consideration: Managing Resistance
Police culture often focuses on the failures rather than the successes, according to Portland Police Bureau's Wayne Kuechler. Strategies for managing change include patience, leadership commitment and reinforcing the fact that community policing seeks to expand -- not replace -- the reach of traditional law enforcement.
- U.S. Department of Justice: Community Policing Explained
- Loyola University New Orleans: The Effectiveness of Community Policing in Reducing Urban Violence; October 2002
- U.S. Conference of Mayors: The Influence of Community Policing in City Governments; April 2001
- Department of Justice: Community Policing Beyond the Big Cities; November 2004
- Michigan State University: Community Policing and Cultural Change: An Officer's View; Wayne Kuechler; 1992
- Police image by Zeno from Fotolia.com