Community Policing brings police and citizens together to prevent crime and solve neighborhood problems. With community policing, the emphasis is on stopping crime before it happens, not responding to calls for service after the crime occurs. Community policing gives citizens more control over the quality of life in their community. Community policing means police become part of the neighborhood. This helps police get a better sense of resident’s needs and helps residents to develop greater trust in the police. In essence the community joins the police department. Those “who believe that community policing is practiced in their neighborhood are more likely to express favorable opinions of the police.”(Weitzer & Tuch, 2006, p. 45) Together, in partnership, the community and police department work together to achieve a common goal of a safer, better place to live. It is “democracy in action.”(BJA, August 1994, p. 4).
Community policing is seen as an effective way to promote public safety and to enhance the quality of life in a community. Community policing plays a pivotal role in the two defining elements of policing: police-community relations and problem-solving. “First, it should broaden police organization goals …Second, it should alter the way police are organized to accomplish their goals.” (Weisburd & Braga, 2007, p. 47) Active participation is required from the local government to the average citizen in order for community policing to work. Everyone is responsible for safeguarding the welfare of the neighborhood. Unlike traditional policing methods, the goals of policing are expanded and the perception of community is changed. Traditional policing assumes that the problems of society are not within the realm of the police department. Traditional police departments are strictly reactive and don’t look beyond efficiently resolving the immediate incident at hand. Police officers are tied to the dispatcher and rarely have time to do more than answer one call after another. The police department, as an organization, separates itself from the city’s infrastructure and from city services.
Implementing community policing changes the structure of policing and how it is managed. Community policing helps build up and strengthen the community. It also links the police and the community together. The partnership that develops over time can ultimately help the police find the underlying causes of crime within the neighborhood. By getting the community involved, the police have more resources available to them to help in crime prevention. By familiarizing themselves with the members of the community, officers are more likely to obtain valuable information about criminals and their activities. Also they are more likely to obtain a reliable evaluation of the needs of citizens and their expectations of the police.
As previously stated, community policing plays a major part in police-community relations and problem-solving. In order to develop a partnership with the community, first the police must form a great relationship with the neighborhood. The police must try to involve the neighborhood in its pursuit to control crime. Most community concerns and solutions are identified through problem-solving. The objective is to to lessen crime and disorder by diligently examining the attributes of concerns in communities and then applying the most suited problem-solving solutions.
With any method of policing there are going to be advantages and disadvantages. One of the main advantages to community policing is that it reduces fear in the community. With an increase in police presence in the neighborhood the residents feel more secure. This feeling of security helps the police establish trust within the community. As citizen become more active in taking care of their community, they start to understand what officers actually do on a day-to-day basis. This improves police-community relations. Ultimately, quality of life for the community improves and crime is reduced. Another advantage is that community policing is flexible and capable of changing. The solutions and strategies change as the community changes. If a plan works in one community it doesn’t mean that it will work in all communities. Community policing allows the community to come up with solutions that will work within their own neighborhood and to change or eliminate those that do not work. Community policing can be implemented in a limitless number of ways. This is also true of problem-solving. They both are only limited by one’s imagination. Community policing offers a myriad of benefits. Making effective use of the talents and resources available within communities will help extend severely strained police resources. Also, reduced levels of crime will allow more police resources to be allocated to services that have the greatest impact on the quality of community life.
A major disadvantage is that the only way that community policing is with community involvement. There must be an established partnership between the police officers and the community. Without the trust and involvement of the community, any attempts at community policing will fail. “Police and there would-be partners do not always value the same, or even compatible, things” (Thacher, 2001, p. 766). Effective community policing requires a long-term commitment from everyone involved. It is not a quick fix. Ongoing relationships must be established and maintained. Another disadvantage to community policing is making sure that the right people are heading up the project. The focus should be of improving the community and not using the program to advance their own personal career or agendas. Also, programs like community policing can be regressive. Oftentimes when there is a problem that requires help from the community it seem like the same people always step forward. These are usually the homeowners that have longstanding ties to the community. Community policing requires everyone’s involvement, not just the homeowners.
“Over a decade after it was first introduced, community policing remains the most important innovation in American policing today.” (Forman, Autumn 2002, p. 1) The advantages of implementing community policing still outweigh the disadvantages. Having the community on there side can only benefit the police in their aid to control and prevent crime. Also, with the police more involved in the daily activities of the community will aid in the revitalization of the community. This can only happen if both the police and the community are willing to put in the time, effort, and patience that is required when implementing the community policing program.
2. List several ways in which the community can get involved in community policing. Describe the process necessary from start to finish to develop a community policing project.
Community policing is only as good its community involvement. This also applies to community-based programs. “Community-based programs are important in the service delivery in many communities”(Mancini & Marek, July 2004, p. 339). Officers deal with the criminal aspects of community policing, but there are programs and projects that are implemented by the citizens, with the help of law enforcement, in an effort to help deter crime in their neighborhood. The list of programs implemented through community policing goes on and on. There are programs like, “Neighborhood Watch, citizen police academies, citizen surveys, and the establishment of community policing units” (Weisburd & Braga, 2007, Pp. 47-48), that have become a staple in a lot of communities to help steer crime away from residential areas. Programs like National Night Out symbolizes a neighborhood’s unison in fighting crime by leaving their outside lights on. Citizens can find a plethora of ways to get involved in community policing. It can be as simple as making sure that the elderly lady down the street makes it home safely from the grocery store to starting your own Neighborhood Watch program.
Neighborhood Watch teaches the residents how to deter and detect suspicious activities. Starting a Neighborhood Watch is very beneficial to the police and the community. The benefits of organizing and participating in a Neighborhood Watch program translate into a higher quality of life. The following are some standard steps to help ensure a strong attendance and participation in your Neighborhood Watch Program.
First, contact you should contact your local sheriff’s office to discuss the possibility of starting a Neighborhood Watch. They will explain to you the concepts of Neighborhood Watch and discuss your current crime situation. Before having a start up meeting, you may want to personally canvass the neighborhood for interest and discuss the current crime problems, explain the value of the Neighborhood Watch Program in the area and ascertain convenient dates, times and possible locations to schedule your initial group meeting. Be sure that you schedule your first meeting in a place convenient to the neighborhood, such as a private home, church, school, library or other local community building. Contact the sheriff’s office at least two week in advance to secure the date and place of the first meeting with the sheriff’s office representative. Seek help from the neighbors you contact. They may volunteer to help with refreshments, folding chairs, escorting seniors or the disabled to the meeting. Recruit a neighbor to draw a large map of all the streets and households to be covered by your Neighborhood Watch. Start with a manageable number of homes at first; you can always add other areas. Send an invitational flyer and to every home on your target list. Just before the meeting follow up each invitation with a call or personal visit, reminding neighbors of the meeting time and place. Try to get each household to commit at least one adult member to the meeting so you can estimate potential attendance. All age groups are welcome to join Neighborhood Watch, as they can add substantially to the program. Senior citizen participation is a plus, retired seniors who are home can observe the neighborhood when many other adults are at work. At the meeting give your neighbors a chance to socialize, then explain the agenda. Pass out an attendance sheet with names, addresses and phone numbers. Recruit one or more volunteers to complete a communication tree. Arrange for copies of the above lists and maps to be given to each member of your Watch. Recruit a social director to set up a social event within the next four to six weeks. Recruit a flyer expert to get the notices out to the neighborhood. Neighborhood Watch does not require frequent meetings and it does not ask anyone to take personal risks or injury to prevent crime.
Another community-oriented program is the D.A.R.E. Program. It is “designed to make youths feel good about the police…in hope that they will later provide useful information about crime” (Weisburd & Braga, 2007, p. 57). It give young people with the necessary skills to make well-informed choices and to empower them to say no when they are tempted to use alcohol, tobacco or drugs. Another component of DARE helps students to recognize the dangers of violence in their schools and community. D.A.R.E. “humanizes” the police: that is, young people can begin to relate to officers as people. It allows students to see officers in a helping role, not just an enforcement role. It also opens up the lines of communication between law enforcement and youth Officers can serve as conduits to provide information beyond drug-related topics.
In the end, “community policing is a philosophy, not a program.”(Roth et al., 2000, p. 183) If the philosophy of community policing is not understood by all of those that are involved, then the programs will not succeed. The community-oriented programs are only a small part of making the community policing model work. Overall, community policing works if the affected community work together with the police and other governmental offices to ensure that it is a success. The biggest obstacle that community policing and the community-based programs have to face it the idea of change. Officers have to change the concept of policing and citizens have to be willing to accept that change.