Monday, August 8, 2016

Let the Problem Oriented Policing Center’s POP Guides guide you

I originally wrote this post for a software company’s blog in 2014. This company was bought out and recently their blog and website have been removed from the web permanently. I am reposting it here for posterity. 

There are a lot of tasks that fall to crime analysts in a police agency: compiling statistics, generating BOLO’s, producing reports. But there is one task that crime analysts are particularly suited for but is often overlooked; helping to mitigate troublesome crime problems. Patrol officers are often too busy answering calls, detectives have individual cases to work, and agency heads are often ensuring that their agency has adequate resources. Often, only the crime analyst can focus on individual problems for a long enough period of time to develop an adequate solution.

Let’s look at what Problem Oriented Policing is. Professor Herman Goldstein states:

“Problem-oriented policing is an approach to policing in which discrete pieces of police business (each consisting of a cluster of similar incidents, whether crime or acts of disorder, that the police are expected to handle) are subject to microscopic examination (drawing on the especially honed skills of crime analysts and the accumulated experience of operating field personnel) in hopes that what is freshly learned about each problem will lead to discovering a new and more effective strategy for dealing with it.”

In Problem Oriented Policing, a “crime problem” is usually pervasive, repetitive and resists easy solutions. You’re not going to go out with a typical police response and make the problem go away. It’s going to take a carefully crafted approach and some outside the box thinking to make the problem go away or at least be reduced to a less problematic level.

One thing I wanted to accomplish with my blog posts this year was to give some guidance to crime analysts from smaller agencies that might not have been able to get the kind of formal crime analysis training that larger agencies provide. Looking at Goldstein’s definition of problem-oriented policing above, some analysts might feel they don’t have the formal schooling to conduct “microscopic examinations” of crime problems because they don’t feel their analytical skills to be very finely “honed”.

Don’t worry about this. The Problem Oriented Policing Center has done a lot of the heavy lifting by providing some excellent resources that you can use to guide your examination of crime problems and help you with the collective wisdom of a lot of analysts way smarter than me. One of these resources is the excellent series of POP Guides.

POP Guides come in three types, Problem Specific Guides, Response Guides and Problem Solving Tool Guides. The last two deal with responses to problems and analytical techniques or tools that are used to deal with problems in general. The first type, Problem Specific Guides is what I find most useful. There are over 70 Problem Specific Guides that cover a wide variety of crime problems that police agencies face from the common such as False Burglar Alarms (POP Guide #5) to the more obscure Student Party Riots (POP Guide #39).

Each one of these Problem Specific Guides is organized into sections that define the problem and help you to know the questions to ask to understand your local problem, look at the advantages and disadvantages of potential responses, a bibliography of resources and academic research into these problems and handy summary table of potential responses to specific problems.

As you examine your local crime problem with a POP Guide to assist you, you can leverage the wisdom of other agencies, other analysts and criminologists in analyzing your local crime problem. You can cut straight to responses that are more likely to be effective by relying on these other agencies’ experiences with similar problems.

In addition to being excellent and easy to use resources, POP Guides have another advantage especially for small, often times cash strapped agencies. These guides are free. You can view them on the web, download a PDF of ebook copy or even order printed copies for free.

Look over the list of Problem Specific Guides. What guides would be useful in mitigating problem crimes in your jurisdiction?

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