Friday, March 2, 2012

Is Uncommitted Patrol Time The Key To Crime Reduction?

The Ventura County Star had a news story recently about a study commissioned by Ventura, California city officials that looked at how the community's police and fire services were doing. The news story had this that I thought was worth commenting on:

Pipkin's 92-page report says Ventura's crime rate is "relatively low." He determined Ventura officers' "uncommitted time" — hours not spent handling calls, making arrests or doing paperwork — to be about 40 percent. 
"A 35-40 percent overall uncommitted time level is a reasonable target/goal for a community of approximately 110,000," he wrote. 
The uncommitted time, however, fluctuates from as low as 10 percent between 8 a.m. and noon to as high as 67 percent between 4 and 8 a.m., Pipkin wrote. 
The more the uncommitted time, the more the "police force is able to provide a higher level of service to the community in the form of proactive policing," he wrote.
Each police agency and each community they serve is different. I'm not going to go out on a limb and say how much uncommitted time your officers should have. However, I do believe that it is important for an agency to maximize the amount of uncommitted patrol time your officers have.

Let's face it, the clearance rates for many crimes is pretty low. It is extremely hard to solve a crime after the fact. Preventing a crime before it happens, or interrupting it as it is beginning to occur is likely to be easier and a whole lot more cost effective. Prevention or interrupting a crime is easier if your officers are not tied up on a call.

Has your agency measured your officers uncommitted patrol time? Did you feel they need more or less uncommitted time?


  1. It's what the agency does with the uncommitted time that really matters. Uncommitted patrol time is where a lot of agencies make the most use of crime analysis through directed patrols, park and walks, community outreach, suspect-oriented patrols, field interviews, and other tactics. An agency that uses its uncommitted time to drive around randomly might as well have fewer officers.

    But, of course, you have to have the uncommitted time first. I work with a lot of agencies who say that they just don't have it. For them, I recommend looking at ways to reduce calls for service (changing policies to respond to fewer medical incidents, for instance) and setting an explicit target goal of around 40-50%. This allows plenty of time for proactive measures even if a lot of it gets eaten up in transit, meals, administrative duties, and so on.

  2. Chris, You are right in that any uncommitted time has to be used productively. Hopefully, an agency's crime analyst has informed command staff with analysis on problem areas that can be the focus of this time.

    We can't create uncommitted time where none exists but I bet that we can identify it if it does.


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