Effectiveness of Community Policing

Effectiveness of Community Policing

 

Throughout decades community policing has been an effective method of dealing with crimes around communities in the United States. Diamond and Weiss (2016) define community policing as is the practice in which the police maintain a visible presence in the community and involve the community members in crime prevention. Through storefront stations and foot patrols, police services can be accessed by the community. Community policing allows the police to get involved with the community members by opening up communication that allows a better understanding of both sides (NA, 2016). Furthermore, by engaging in different operations such as neighbourhood watch, the police are able to keep communities safe. Through effective strategies, community policing has led to the enhancement of public safety and solving of different crimes in many communities.

Many things typically listed as being “community policing” are instead just good community relations. Real “community policing” is a paradigm of policing wherein officers and supervisors are assigned not by shift, in the traditional way of policing, but instead assigned to an area to take care of (Weitzer,2015). The officers work whenever is best to help the area thrive, help people stay safe. Those police officers typically have the authority to get things done as needed, besides just doing regular police patrol and call response. According to Munoz (2018), several instances may involve buildings being run down or vacant houses getting broken windows. Without any intervention, more and more windows will end up breaking out of that building, and it is impossible to have officers assigned 24/7 to try to prevent it. A community policing approach is for the officers assigned to their area arrange for the building to be repaired, the area to be cleaned up, and other services to be done to help maintain a good quality of life for those living and or working in the area.

Since more citizens try to blame the consequences of their own behaviours on police, it has become increasingly important to engage citizens on a personal level. Individuals live in a sad and misguided time where the use of force is presumed to be excessive until proven appropriate, and all actions are triple guessed (Peyton, Sierra-Arévalo,& Rand, 2019). When someone commits a crime, tries to hurt or kill someone else, and gets injured or killed when the police try to stop their harmful acts, and citizens cry for “justice”, it highlights the need for more education and engagement opportunities to help the community understand how things work. Community policing today has the same premise: that keeping the peace is best done by building solid interpersonal relationships between the protectors and the protected. But communities in the United States have changed over the years (Munoz, 2018). The suburbs have exploded, and the sheer distances and makeup of the subdivisions make foot patrols less efficient and effective than mobile units.

The community policing models now vary from department to department and are dictated as much by budgets as anything else. They most frequently centre around boutique offices in neighbourhoods staffed by volunteers overseen by a dedicated patrol officer who spends at least part of his or her day there (Diamond & Weiss, 2016). They also serve as the focal point of contact for the residents who may appear to seek advice on home security, advise of a specific problem or talk about situations that concern them. It is not the same as the old beat system. But it is a practical compromise that helps keep a human face on police forces growing ever more anonymous to the communities they serve. And maintaining offices is not cheap. Questions are always being raised about their cost-effectiveness.

Perhaps the best evidence of community policing continued value is seen in the pressure from local communities whenever a neighbourhood office is threatened with closure. The people still feel the need for that human face and community policing is effective in highlighting budding problems that would otherwise develop into something more serious (Peyton, Sierra-Arévalo, & Rand, 2019). The local officer understands the unique characteristics of his community in a way that’s just beyond the ability of the mobile units, which must cover large areas by periodic patrol.

The original concept of policing was developed by Sir Robert Peel in the 18th century in London. He argued that a visible police presence in communities was the key to keeping the peace (NA, 2016). Effectiveness under this concept is measured by the absence of crime instead of statistics on the trends and patterns of crimes reported. Community policing today may lack the intimacy of the relationship between the beat coppers and the people on the street. But it is still an effective strategy breaking down the barriers between the police and the people they serve. The anecdotal evidence also shows that it is important to the communities in the increasingly impersonal communities.

Many law enforcement agencies claim to engage in community policing, but few of them actually do. In most of the 1980s and 1990s, community policing was a magnet for federal money. If individuals uttered the words “community policing” in their sentences, they could get a grant to fund it. That lost favour after 9/11, when everyone focused on counterterrorism and homeland security. The term still persists, but it is mostly done even more poorly now than it was in its heyday. Community is a wonderful idea, and many officers would love to be able to embrace it. It can bring lasting, positive change to a community. But it’s unlikely to happen on a large scale while local governments are struggling to remain solvent at all, much less field more police officers of performing non-enforcement duties largely.

References

Diamond, D., & Weiss, D. M. (2016). Community policing: Looking to tomorrow.

Munoz, J. (2018). Policing for the Community.

NA, N. (2016). Community Policing: Comparative Perspectives and Prospects. Springer.

Peyton, K., Sierra-Arévalo, M., & Rand, D. G. (2019). A field experiment on community policing and police legitimacy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences116(40), 19894-19898.

Weitzer, R. (2015). Is American policing at a crossroads? The Criminologist: The Official Newsletter of the American Society of Criminology4(4), 1-5.

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