Problem Oriented Policing
Community: The concept of community is one that is not easily defined. In some cases a community may be defined in terms of specific neighborhood boundaries. In other cases community must be defined in terms of common interest, experiences and shared activities that are not limited by geographic boundaries. Thus, senior citizens throughout the city constitute a "community" within this context.
Problem: A problem consists of two or more incidents that are similar in one or more ways (i.e. same location, same actors, same type of call-for-service, etc.), or a problem may be a matter of substantive concern to the public.
Problem-solving is the primary strategy of Community/Problem-Oriented Policing. This philosophy holds that it is not sufficient to merely respond to a report of a specific crime. Rather, attention should be directed towards finding a permanent solution to any possible recurrent problems by identifying and correcting the underlying conditions that created the need for the investigation in the first place.
The problem-solving process developed to implement Problem-Oriented Policing consists of a four-step, decision-making model:
S canningA nalysisR esponseA ssessment
Scanning is nothing more than the process of actively looking for, and identifying problems which affect the level of crime and disorder in a community. It may be something as clear cut as identifying a sudden pattern of criminal activity in a neighborhood. It may be something as obscure as identifying the causes for deteriorating property conditions in an area, which send the message to criminals that a given neighborhood is particularly vulnerable to criminal attack.
In the Analysis stage, the officer gathers information about the problem in order to thoroughly understand it. The officer gathers information on such things as the people associated with the problem (e.g. victims, perpetrators, third parties associated with the incident(s), the physical setting of the incident(s), its social context, the duration and sequence of events, and the immediate results of the incident). Finally, an analysis is made of the community and agency response to the incident. Obviously, such a process requires officers to tap sources of information outside of the department.
When formulating the analysis of the problem, it is necessary to understand these questions: 1) What is the underlying problem? 2) What will change if the problem is solved? 3) What will happen if nothing is done?
In the Response stage, the member attempts to devise and implement a response to the problem that will address the problem in at least one of the following ways:
- Totally eliminate or substantially reduce the problem, or
- Reduce the harm caused by the problem, or;
- Deal more effectively with the problem (e.g. reduce costs associated with handling the problem, treat victims more humanely, reduce losses, etc.), or;
- Remove the problem from police consideration.
When devising a response, members are encouraged to consider the following:
- Consider as many potential solutions as possible.
- Consider new solutions, not just ones that have been previously used.
- Seek possible solutions from knowledgeable peers and supervisors within the department.
- Involve organizations, communities and individuals outside of the department in the development of solutions. Whenever possible, solutions should not rely solely upon police responses.
- Consider the pros and cons of each choice, their risks, the resources needed for implementation, the projected outcome, and who will be affected.
The final stage in the process is that of Assessment. This is important, as it is results or outcomes that count most, not the activities. Whether the response produced the desired result is of primary concern. If not, was the problem defined correctly at the initial stages? Did the response reveal new problems that were unanticipated? How was the response perceived by the group which it was targeted to assist?
Assessment allows officers to determine if the solution is working. If the response is not working, more analysis can be completed so that a more appropriate response can be applied. If the officer's solution was the reason that the problem was eliminated or reduced, the evaluation reveals that information and the officer can take credit for the success of a particular response.