Friday, July 8, 2011

Crime Analysis 101: Problem Oriented Policing

On Wednesday I posted about the SARA Model. Today I'd like to touch on the related Problem Oriented Policing (POP) approach to combatting crime.

In a traditional, reactive policing model, police patrol randomly until summoned to the scene of a crime, then they investigate and hopefully, lock up an offender. The problem with this approach is that it does not often address the environmental and social conditions that may make the occurrence of a crime more likely. You may lock up that one offender and other offenders may take his place if those conditions aren't changed. You can't always arrest your way out of a crime problem.

Problem oriented policing, examines a crime problem in depth to attempt to determine the conditions that allow a crime problem to occur. Then after a thorough analysis, formulates a response, assesses the effectiveness of that response and makes necessary adjustments to make the response as effective as possible. That sounds a lot like SARA doesn't it?

A Problem Oriented Policing approach will examine a crime problem using the Crime Triangle to attempt to understand the problem. It's this thorough understanding of the problem that leads to formulating an effective response.

Sometimes the most effective response to a crime problem is not the traditional police model of arresting an offender after the crime has occurred. It may involve changing the conditions favorable to criminal activity and preventing the crime from happening in the first place.

Tom Casady was the Chief at the Lincoln, Nebraska Police Department. He's now been promoted to the Director of Public Safety for Lincoln. But a few years ago Tom wrote about his officers using POP to combat a burglary problem in their city.

After examining residential burglaries in their city, they found a significant portion of them were occurring at night at residences with open garage doors. Thieves would enter these open garages and help themselves to lawn mowers, golf clubs and other items.

The reality is that catching the burglars in the act, or even after the fact is a very difficult proposition. What was feasible was for LPD officers to contact the homeowners when they saw open garage doors and ask the homeowners to shut and lock the doors even if it was 3AM when the officers found the open door. The result was that LPD was able to cut their burglaries in half.

A thorough analysis of the crime problem faced by LPD at the time led to a response that targeted one of the environmental variables that made this crime more likely to occur, and one that was easy to change.

Next post in Crime Analysis 101, we'll look at using the Crime Triangle to understand crime problems better.

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