To implement successful community-oriented policing initiatives that effectively supplement traditional policing, law enforcement agencies need seamless communication tools.
Traditional policing tends to be reactionary — police patrol communities to respond to crimes after they are committed or stop them as they occur. This legacy system is still effective in many cases, especially in life-threatening scenarios, but the focus on reacting to new alerts often means police units have limited time and resources to keep track of communities on a day-to-day basis. Low-profile crimes that do not qualify as emergencies often go unreported or are reported too late for an effective response. To compound the problem, police departments are often stretched thin in communities with high crime rates, further limiting their resources.
By focusing on cleaning up messes after they happen or as they arise, traditional policing tends to fall short when it comes to stopping crime before it occurs. That’s where community-oriented policing methods come in: Supplementing traditional methods with this added approach can help address these limitations by working from the root of the problem.
Benefits of Community Policing: A Collaborative Approach
To define it simply, community-oriented policing (or “community policing”) is a strategy that enables police departments to partner directly with the community to proactively address public safety concerns. Unlike a rapid-response system, community policing methods aim to lower crime rates by engaging members of the community to help identify crimes or potential public safety issues that might have otherwise gone unnoticed by law enforcement.
The purpose of community policing is to build ties with the community, enhance trust in the police department, and better promote a crime-free future. Instead of simply reacting to crimes in progress, community policing methods aim to proactively suppress the conditions that enable crime before they arise. To do this, law enforcement agencies employ a number of community policing tactics, including scheduling regular consultations with local residents, decentralizing authority by giving discretion to individual police officers, and deploying citizen foot patrols in place of regular police patrols.
Since the passage of the Public Safety Partnership and Community Policing Act of 1994, the U.S. has seen a marked increase in the number of community policing operations. A majority of police departments in the U.S. now have some form of community policing in place. Research shows that when successfully implemented, community policing initiatives can lower crime rates in target areas, reduce public mistrust, and increase cooperation between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Although community policing initiatives will never replace emergency-response systems altogether, they’ve proven wildly successful when supplementing traditional police work.
How to Implement Community Policing: Challenges and Solutions
Community policing methods require a high degree of collaboration between area business owners, residents, and law enforcement agencies. In underserved communities, where community policing may have the most to offer, however, there are a few hurdles to cross to ensure this level of collaboration is possible.
Departments are often strapped for officers, so time is scarce and the geographical areas they cover may be too large to effectively address all community concerns. The length of officers’ assignments may also be too short to allow them to become familiar with and establish relationships with local communities. Finally, many agencies lack the infrastructure and mechanisms necessary to invest in new policing procedures.
Law enforcement agencies need a cost-effective and efficient way to incorporate community information and build trust with the residents they serve. This is where technology can help. Integrating seamless communication tools into community policing methods can give citizens a voice while also keeping officers in the know.
Coolfire’s purpose-built community app can serve as an intuitive, mobile space for citizens to report suspicious behavior or request for an officer to perform a home check. Targeted alerts and asset-mapping through the app can give local business owners more visibility, allowing them to feel safer in their communities. And officers themselves can use the app’s geo-fencing capabilities to understand where other police units are located in relation to them, enabling more efficient collaboration. What’s more, Coolfire’s app is customizable to different public safety needs, it can integrate easily with legacy systems, and it uses cloud technology to build out a robust database of historical incidents.
The right communication tools can allow entire communities to share a common operational picture around efforts to reduce crime in their area. Community policing may present a unique set of challenges, but the right software can provide a strong foundation to bring communities closer together toward a united cause. By enabling all involved parties to communicate more transparently around community issues, tech-powered community policing means that officers are better able to improve security outcomes.
To learn more about how Coolfire can help better connect your community, get in touch with one of our specialists today.