THE EFFECTIVENESS OF COMMUNITY POLICING 7
Community policing initially involved residents who grouped togetherto guard and patrol the society. In recent times, community policinghas embraced the theme of proactive, community-sensitive and focusedlaw enforcement. It tries to change the existing status quo andideologies to be responsive to the community. The status of rigidpolicing is changing to become more community-friendly. It tries tosolve crime by involving the community. Community policing systembrings important changes both to the formal and social organizationof law enforcement. The discussion on the system will illustrate thatit is effective in policing and maintaining law and order.
Historically, community policing has been effective in rooting outthe barriers which separate the professional police officers from thepublic. It instills various community service ideologies to thepolice officers such that they become more sensitive to thecommunity’s needs (Greene, 2000). The patrol was effective inapprehending law breakers and maintaining the peace (Dempsey &Forst, 2015). The historical effectiveness of the community policingcan be traced back to England in the 17th century duringthe reign of King Alfred.
During the time community policing involved families that cametogether to protect each other. The king established the MutualPledge to organize families into tithings (10 families) to protecteach other and the community through patrols and night watch and makehues and yelling in case a crime occurred. Other community memberswould come to their rescue after such hues and yelling. Some of thepertinent crimes at the time were burglary, theft and robberies(Dempsey & Forst, 2015). In modern times, community policinginvolves cooperation of the police and residents to reduce fear ofimminent crime, the crime itself and to maintain law and order.
Community policing brings down the traditional police policy-makingbureaucracies and brings up a wider scope of interrelationshipbetween the public and law enforcers in an interactionistorganizational-environmental mantra (Greene, 2000). It also flattensthe hierarchial frame work of the police force emphasizing on a morecoordinated and harmonized service delivery involving the public andother private firms to maintain community safety (Greene, 2000).
Crime prevention and policing benefits from mechanisms aimed atcommunity security through community policing and environmentaldesign. Environmental design involves management of physicalenvironment of neighborhoods, buildings and businesses whichtranslates to safer neighborhoods and reduced fear of crime by thepublic (Greene, 2000). Community policing increases the policevisibility in the communities and familiarize them with the peoplehence, promoting public-police partnership in fighting crime.
Principles of Community Policing
Community policing involves specific principles in its operations.One of them is hardening, that is, controlling the people accessingthe neighborhoods, buildings and businesses as well as carrying outsurveillance on specific places to reduce any likelihood of crime(Fleissner & Heinzelmann, 1996). Another main principle isterritorial reinforcement. This involves increasing the securitysense in living and working environments through encouragement ofinformal environmental control.
The principle of decentralization of the police force services allowsthe public to be involved in decision making on matters that affecttheir communities and aid in bringing these services nearer to them(Fleissner & Heinzelmann, 1996). Collaboration between the lawenforcement departments and other private agencies is also a keypillar of community policing. Private agencies such as utilitydepartments and parks collaborate with the police to maintain safety,solve problems and carry out frequent police-public dialogues on theperceived threats and problems facing them.
Community policing also involves focused, personalized andproblem-oriented approach where residents in a community solve crimesin a personalized manner and in their own terms through communitybased programs and organizations. Such personalized crime solving isimportant because people from a specific neighborhood know theirproblems better and are likely to solve them amicably.
Effectiveness of Community Policing
For many years the American National Institute of Justice hasfinanced many research studies on crime prevention with primary focuson creation of safer neighborhoods through environmental design andcommunity policing (Fleissner & Heinzelmann, 1996). Some of thesestudies involved revisiting such policing concepts as foot patrols,mobile patrols and block watchdog programs. The results were thatsuch initiatives had a positive effect on the community, lesseningthe fear of crime and improving the relationship between the policeand the public (Fleissner & Heinzelmann, 1996). The researchersalso found that crime was likely to flourish in run-down communitiesor neighborhoods which create an increased fear of crime by thepublic. Such fear of crime and likelihood of being a victim isdangerous because if forces the residents in these neighborhoods towithdraw in their premises, abandoning the community safety programs.
With cooperation with the local police departments, the publicthrough community policing is able to conduct joint safety programsto clean up the neighborhoods such as removing graffiti on walls,removing run-down vehicles and street lighting the residential andbusiness areas (Fleissner & Heinzelmann, 1996). If such communitypolicing programs are absent, crime would continue to flourishputting the public and the police at risk.
Other than the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) efforts,there have been a series of seminars by Harvard University and theNational Institute of Justice which primarily focus on the programsthat publicize community policing. For instance, over the years therehave been articles written about community policing efforts, whichgives insight on the system. All over the American society, there hasbeen mentoring and tutoring for students programs, surveys forcitizens, personalized problem-solving programs, citizen-policeacademies, meetings in communities involving police and residents andwebsites involving regional community policing.
Community policing has brought many benefits to the community.Although there is limited research on the effectiveness of theseprograms, the few studies done on various American cities have provedto be beneficial (MacDonald, 2002). The setbacks for communitypolicing have been few regular and systematic evaluation of communitypolicing programs, lack of implementation of some of the programs dueto politics and financial burden and hostility towards the police byspecific communities especially African-Americans and Spanishneighborhoods (MacDonald, 2002). In spite of these set-backs, thecommunity policing has been successful in preventing crime, fear ofcrime as well as maintaining law and order in the society.
Community policing has enabled constant monitoring and surveillanceof communities through the mutual cooperation of the people and thepolice bringing down crime rates such as burglary, thefts, robberies,rape, drug trafficking, assault, abductions and domestic violence(MacDonald, 2002). The public has taken the responsibility ofguarding their neighborhoods and reporting any bizarre individualsand activities in the community. Such endeavors are only possible ifthe people are willing to guard themselves and remit any informationto the police (MacDonald, 2002). This way, they both work togetherfor the common good of the community.
Community policing has also helped to maintain the safety of thecommunity through the various changes that ensue overtime. Societiesare flexible and constantly changing overtime with new crimes comingup (MacDonald, 2002). Community policing enables the people in thesecommunities to maintain the law and order by tackling the ardentproblems facing their communities in a personalized manner. Multiagency involvement with public, police and private agencies workingtogether provides a platform for successful policing and publicsafety.
In conclusion, community policing has existed for many years takingdifferent forms over a period of time. The modern era communitypolicing requires a mutual cooperation between the police and thepublic. The cooperation is essential in fighting crime andmaintaining law and order. Through such cooperation, communitypolicing will be effective in realizing the benefits to both thepublic and the law enforcement officers. Moreover, the system will beeffective in improving the relationship between the police and thepublic. More research is needed to quantify the effectiveness ofcommunity policing in various cities in America since the existingdata does not fully account for the community policing programs inthe country.
Dempsey, J. S., & Forst, L. S. (2015). An introduction topolicing 8Ed. Boston: Cengage Learning.
Fleissner, D., & Heinzelmann, F. (1996). Crime preventionthrough environmental design and community policing. USDepartment of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Instituteof Justice.
Greene, J. R. (2000). Community policing in America: Changing thenature, structure, and function of the police. Criminal justice,3(3), 299-378
MacDonald, J. M. (2002). The effectiveness of community policing inreducing urban violence. Crime & Delinquency, 48(4),592-618