Monday, June 18, 2012

60 Steps Revisited: Step 14 - Use the CHEERS Test When Defining Problems

Back in 2009, I did a series of posts covering the excellent book Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers. The book is published by the US DOJ's Problem Oriented Policing Center (POP Center). Because of the value I think this book has for crime analysts, and policing in general, I am going to re-post this series on here on the blog.

In today's post about Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers we're going to cover Step 14 - Use the CHEERS Test When Defining Problems. The CHEERS test refers to an acronym that will help you to understand a crime problem you need to analyze. The authors describe CHEERS this way:

A problem is a recurring set of related harmful events in a community that members of the public expect the police to address. This definition draws attention to the six required elements of a problem: Community; Harm; Expectation; Events; Recurring; and Similarity. These elements are captured by the acronym CHEERS. Source: Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers
The article goes on to more fully describe each element. I would encourage you to hit the link back to the original article and explore them. It is also important to understand that everything police are called upon to deal with is not a problem suitable for the Problem Oriented Policing (POP) approach. The authors indicate there are six questions that need to be answered in the affirmative, if the answer to anyone of them is "No" then it may not be a "problem" even though your agency may need to deal with it. These questions are:
  • Who in the community is affected by the problem?
  • What are the harms created by the problem?
  • What are the expectations for the police response?
  • What types of events contribute to the problem?
  • How often do these events recur?
  • How are the events similar? Source: Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers
The Problem Oriented Policing strategy is only suitable for situations with certain elements. For instance, it would be nearly impossible to apply this approach to a single event such as a barricaded gunman call. For most agencies thankfully, these types of events are pretty rare. Because they are so rare they fail the Recurrence test. While your agency is going to have to respond, a full blown POP strategy will in no way help you to deal with it.

Additionally, you don't want to define an area with multiple problems as one problem. For example a blighted neighborhood is not suitable for POP strategy. The component problems that make up the blighted neighborhood may be suitable for a POP approach, but if you try to lump them all together as one big problem your strategy won't be successful.

The authors also stress that Status Conditions such as homelessness or truancy are not problems. Based on experience with my agency I can almost guarantee you that citizens in your community are going to turn to your agency to "fix" the problem. However, homelessness in and of itself is not suitable for POP strategy. If the condition was defined a little less broadly such as "homeless persons squatting in abandoned buildings on X street" then this may be more suitable for POP.

Next time we'll cover Step 15 - Know What Kind of Problem You Have.

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