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One of the most difficult tasks in the work of a police administrator is assigning the limited resources of the police department to fulfill the objectives of law enforcement in the given area. On many occasions, the number of available officers is insufficient to address all the issues at the same time. This fact requires the police administrator to approach resource distribution in a carefully planned fashion with the help of scientific theories and models of operation. The following position paper will outline the possibility of police patrol distribution in Centervale based on preventive patrol, directed patrol, and other theories and models of police allocation throughout a community.
Available Information on Centervale and its Police Department
Several basic statistics are available for the presented community of Centervale. Centervale is a larger than average suburban community positioned near a major city. Its population is predominantly working class. The data shows that the population of the community is evenly split by a railroad going through the middle of it. Despite the even split, however, the crime in the community is disproportionately focused on the north side of the railroad tracks. It is reported that 80% of all crime in the community occurs in that area alone, with the remaining 20% situated on the south side of the community.
The community is most populated during the day, as the traffic from reverse commuters and retail activity increases the number of people present on the streets. However, despite the increase in daytime traffic, the crime rates significantly go up only during the night. The exact nature of crimes is unclear and varies wildly from the day to day operation. The tax base is also distributed disproportionately as only 20% of it comes from the north side of the railroad tracks, with the remaining 80% majority of the funding coming from the south of the community.
The police department of the community includes 100 patrol officers. The average response time varies depending on the location of the available officers. If an officer is dispatched from one side of town to an incident occurring on the other side, the average time is around ten minutes. If an officer is present on the side of the community where the crime is occurring, the average response time is shortened to only five minutes. As assistant chief of the Centervale Police Department, I propose an overview of possible patrol strategy that would serve the needs of the community.
Preventive patrol is one of the oldest types of patrol employed by police officers today. As its name suggests, in its most basic function it is designed to reduce the crime rate through preventative measures focused on eliminating the opportunities for the commitment of criminal actions. By eliminating these opportunities, the patrol serves to control unwholesome stimuli and to encourage wholesome ones. It is often considered the default type of patrol. However, it has several weaknesses that make it less effective in certain cases. It would be valuable to examine a variety of patrol methods to find the one that would be most appropriate for the situation in Centervale (Bruinsma & Weisburd, 2014).
Preventative patrol operates on the idea that by spreading out the available police officers, the response times would become shorter, and the presence of officers in the area would deter criminal activity. It is often utilized as a practical exercise for rookie police officers because it allows them to learn cultural values and production norms while demonstrating police competency. The most often used model for preventive patrol is based on geographically determined patrol beats, with officers assigned to the beats according to the requirements of the area. Factors such as residential population, commercial business density, crime rates, and the number of calls for service determine the size of the area covered by the specific patrol beat. This is done to create an evenly distributed workload between the officers (Bruinsma & Weisburd, 2014).
The presented situation in Centervale suggests that two separate patrol beats would be required to address the issues of the community in the traditional patrol manner. The north side of the railroad tracks has a higher crime rate while having the same level of population. This fact suggests that the size of the patrol boat on the north side must be larger than the patrol beat on the south side. Around 80 officers would be assigned to the north side beat, with the majority operating during the night, while the remaining 20 would operate on the south side of the community. Common wisdom would suggest that this would address the issues of disproportionate crime rates in the presented areas due to the higher availability of officers. However, evidence suggests that this type of patrol in actuality does not have a strong effect on crime rates. Most reports find that it significantly reduces the time during which the officer is engaged in crime prevention activities, with the majority of time being left uncommitted (Bruinsma & Weisburd, 2014).
The standard preventive patrol is designed to deter crime by increasing the odds of police presence in the area during criminal activity. Unfortunately, this notion assumes that the majority of crimes are committed with careful calculation of possible police presence. The reality suggests that the majority of crimes are committed impulsively, due to passion or presented opportunity. This spontaneous nature often does not allow for consideration of police presence, rendering preventive patrols less effective in crime prevention. Crimes committed outside of the visible range of the officers, such as crimes committed indoors are also not affected by patrols. The fact that a significant number of crimes are reported after the criminal has fled the scene also diminishes the ability of the officers to intervene in the case of criminal activity (Cordner, 2016).
There are positive aspects to the preventive style of patrols, however. This type of patrol is expected out of every police department by the population of most communities, and its absence can lead to a negative perception of the police department. More actively, the officers on patrol can create relationships or at least familiarity with the citizens of the area which can lead to an increase in cooperation between the population and the police force. Preventive patrols offer a strong symbolic role in the community but are unlikely to solve the issue of Centervale’s crime rates (Cordner, 2016).
Directed police patrols are a more modern type of patrol that was first implemented in the 1990s. While standard patrols involve random driving around the designated area which can be interrupted by emergency calls, directed patrols are much more strategic. Officers assigned to a direct patrol do not answer service calls to focus on smaller, more concentrated areas of criminal activity in the community. During the directed patrols, officers engage in arrests, vehicle stops, and field interrogations designed to focus on specific activities such as illegal gun possession, theft, or any others that are common in the designated region (Frogner, Andershed, Lindberg & Johansson, 2013).
The places themselves are selected according to the recorded crime activity and are much smaller than the beats utilized by preventive patrols. The nature of crime in these areas is examined, and the officers are prepared for the problems encountered in the specified areas. This type of patrol has shown to be much more effective than preventive patrols based on several studies and statistics. It has shown to be much more effective while using a smaller number of resources than large-scale preventive patrolling. This data suggests that the situation in Centervale can be positively affected by the use of such police patrolling (Rosenfeld, Deckard & Blackburn, 2014).
Initially, the available data on the nature of crimes in the north of the community would have to be analyzed. The unified area of the north would have to be divided into smaller areas, with specific centers of criminal activity. The approximate time and location of the criminal activity would have to be defined, and officers would be specifically trained to operate in the area before being dispatched. A smaller number of officers would be needed for the task of directed patrolling, and their activity would not need to last as long as preventive patrols.
This means that out of the 80 officers dispatched to the north side of the community, around 40 could be assigned to direct patrols. These patrols would be combined with preventive patrols to both create a symbolic presence of the police and provide a solution to the high crime rates in the area. The south side of the community would also require analysis, as crime is still present in some areas of the southern side. If a specific problem is discovered, a similar strategy should be implemented in the southern area but on a smaller scale. 10 out of 20 officers can be assigned to direct patrols in the specified area of the southern side. However, likely, the majority effort would still be focused on the north of the community.
As a possible addition to the directed patrols, a CCTV monitoring solution should be considered. Although its implementation would require additional funds, it could not only save money in the long run but also significantly improve the effectiveness of directed police patrols. A study performed on real situations had shown that the number of violent crimes and social disorder as well as their severity had significantly reduced in areas when CCTV monitoring was implemented as opposed to areas where directed patrols operated on their own (Piza, Caplan, Kennedy & Gilchrist, 2014).
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A later study performed on the financial implications of such collaborative work found that the cost-effectiveness completely depends on the existing infrastructure of the area (Piza, Gilchrist, Caplan, Kennedy & O’Hara, 2016). This is where a major issue lies in this plan. The northern side of Centervale has a very limited CCTV coverage and would, therefore, require a possibly cost-prohibitive budget to implement in full. Perhaps a partial implementation in the most affected areas could be performed to aid the officers that would be performing direct patrols. Despite the prohibitive cost, the benefits are still likely to provide modest cost savings in the future, and due to the severity of the current situation, this option should be considered. However, if it is seen as extraneous and beyond the available budget, it could be passed on, as direct patrols should still have a significant effect on the crime rates in the area.
Broken Windows Theory and Equality
The broken windows theory proposes that disorder such as acts of vandalism can lead to an increase in crime in the area. Therefore broken windows policing encourages police officers to be more focused on preventing even the smallest signs of disorder with full force to prevent further, more serious crimes. The idea lies in the notion that by keeping the streets clean of small crime, large crime would become less frequent. This theory has been implemented with various approaches in large cities like New York, but it quickly brought a lot of controversy and studies that show that perhaps it is not the most effective way of crime prevention (King, 2013).
Statistics on the matter show varying results, and studies have found that the implementation of the broken windows policing theory can hurt the work of the police departments. Despite the reduction in crime, the theory has led to alleged cases of racial profiling and an increase in complaints and critiques of the police departments. Actions such as repeated frisking of passersby in ethnic neighborhoods, and lack of action on the part of the police to create positive familiarity with the innocent citizens stopped for frisking has created an atmosphere of inequality and unfairness in cities that actively practice the broken windows theory (Newberry, 2017).
The focus of the police department in Centervale should be to provide an equal and fair policing to the community. Recent studies of the theory show that its current implementation is not only ineffective but can lead to the disempowerment of the community and civil unrest. Police officers of the Centervale community should not be seen as the enemy of its citizens. Police practices such as a quota of frisking implemented in New York risk turning police officers from guardians of the civil peace into profit-focused accountants with no regard for the wellbeing of the citizens. With the substantial evidence against the use of this theory, I believe that its implementation would be harmful to the community and inefficient in its ability to prevent crime in the northern area.
The presented case of high crime rates in Centervale deserves a significant amount of attention as the current methods of policing are proving to be ineffective in controlling the situation. After examining the available literature on the topic, I concluded that the most effective measure of handling this situation would be a combination of preventative and directed patrols with the focus on the northern side of the Centervale community. Implementation of CCTV monitoring in the areas with the highest rates of violent crimes and disorder could also have a significant effect on the current situation, however, if it is deemed prohibitively expensive, this option can be passed on. The broken windows theory has shown to have significant drawbacks that could lead to a perception of unfair policing, and therefore should not be considered for implementation.
Bruinsma, G., & Weisburd, D. (Eds.) (2014). Encyclopedia of criminology and criminal justice. New York, NY: Springer.
Cordner, G. (2016). Police administration. London, UK: Taylor and Francis.
Frogner, L., Andershed, H., Lindberg, O., & Johansson, M. (2013). Directed patrol for preventing city centre street violence in Sweden — a hot spot policing intervention. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 19(4), 333-350.
King, M. (2013). “Broken windows,” urban policing, and the social contexts of race and neighborhood (dis-)empowerment. Critical Criminology, 21(4), 533-538.
Newberry, J. (2017). Racial profiling and the NYPD. New York, NY: Springer International Publishing.
Piza, E., Caplan, J., Kennedy, L., & Gilchrist, A. (2014). The effects of merging proactive CCTV monitoring with directed police patrol: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 11(1), 43-69.
Piza, E., Gilchrist, A., Caplan, J., Kennedy, L., & O’Hara, B. (2016). The financial implications of merging proactive CCTV monitoring and directed police patrol: A cost–benefit analysis. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 12(3), 403-429.
Rosenfeld, R., Deckard, M., & Blackburn, E. (2014). The effects of directed patrol and self-initiated enforcement on firearm violence: A randomized controlled study of hot spot policing. Criminology, 52(3), 428-449.