The e-newsletter of the COPS Office | Volume 1 | Issue 7 | July 2008

Community Policing Nugget

Community Policing Is Not Soft on Crime

It has been said that community policing is “soft on crime,” that it does not represent “real” policing, and that community policing officers have sometimes been labeled “lollicops” or social workers. In addition to misunderstanding the ultimate goals of policing, those who make these claims do not understand the full nature of community policing or its potential to be much tougher on crime than traditional policing. Through strategically enforcing laws, improving the understanding of crime, leveraging partners to bring additional resources to bear on crime and disorder problems, and encouraging innovative comprehensive responses, community policing is tough on crime.

Strategic Law Enforcement

As discussed in a previous Community Policing Nugget, community policing still emphasizes the need for police to respond to calls for service and to aggressively arrest offenders; therefore, it can be no softer on crime than more traditional policing methods. More important, community policing is even tougher on crime because it calls for strategic enforcement of laws through problem solving and sound analysis. Such strategic enforcement targets high-volume offenders and locations, resulting in much more efficient, effective, and overall tougher responses to crime

Understanding Crime

Community policing is tougher on crime because it encourages agencies to devote resources to improve their understanding of crime and disorder problems and to evaluate the effectiveness of responses. Analyzing the nature of criminals, criminogenic places, and vulnerable victims enables police to develop better long-term responses to crime and disorder problems. Community policing also asks agencies to evaluate the effectiveness of their responses. Determining which responses work best and under what circumstances allows agencies to knowingly apply the toughest effective solutions.

Leveraging Partners

Community policing encourages agencies to leverage the assets of strategic partners to address crime and disorder problems. Instead of relying only on law enforcement resources, community policing encourages agencies to actively seek out resources from partners to strategically bring them to bear on crime and disorder problems of mutual concern. The resources of police departments alone are often too limited to develop long-term solutions to public safety problems. Private security, private businesses, nonprofit service providers, and other government agencies have unique resources at their disposal to contribute significantly to public safety. Leveraging these assets results in a much tougher crime response than police could ever hope to achieve in isolation.

Innovative Responses

Community policing calls for police to address crime problems proactively through broad innovative responses. One-size-fits-all solutions seldom work when it comes to crime and disorder, and reacting to crime after it occurs through enforcement and arrest alone is unlikely to result in long-term solutions. Thinking innovatively about responses, addressing all aspects of the crime triangle, and examining what others have found to be effective in addressing crime problems all contribute to ensuring that agencies implement the most robust responses.

Those who claim that community policing is soft on crime should ask themselves what is the ultimate goal of policing—to arrest offenders, or to reduce crime and social disorder problems and enhance trust in police? Of course, most efforts to reduce crime and social disorder problems will involve arresting offenders (particularly high-volume repeat offenders) and arrests will always be an important and central function for police agencies; however, arrests in and of themselves should not be confused with the ultimate public safety and public satisfaction goals of policing. By calling for more strategic enforcement, by improving the understanding of crime and of the effectiveness of responses, by bringing in the resources of partners, and by developing innovative responses, community policing is not soft on crime, but rather, brings far tougher and smarter solutions.

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