Edited by Johannes Knutsson
Problem-oriented policing is now a common term among police. Under the umbrella of the term, many commendable projects have been carried out–especially by street-level officers. Continued support for the concept is most likely explained, in part, by the self-evident nature of the central premise: police practices in responding to common problems that arise in the community should be informed by the best knowledge that can be acquired about those problems and about the effectiveness of various strategies for dealing with them. But many projects under the problem-oriented policing label are superficial, and examples of full implementation of the concept, as originally conceived, are rare. This paper argues that if problem-oriented policing is to advance beyond its current state of development and reach its greater potential, a much larger investment must be made within police agencies in conducting more in-depth, rigorous studies of pieces of police business, in implementing the results of these studies, and in the evaluation of implementation efforts. The paper identifies five major impediments in reaching this goal. A specific proposal to overcome some of these impediments is offered. By concentrating commitment and resources, the proposal is designed to create the leadership, skills and momentum to produce, within policing, a critical mass of high-quality studies that would (1) inject a body of new knowledge into the overall field of policing of immediate value in upgrading practice; (2) serve as exemplars of the greater need; and (3) hopefully also serve to begin to build an institutional capacity to continue the effort.
Police agencies have, for the most part, not yet integrated the principles and methods of problem-oriented policing into their routine operations. This is so for several reasons. First, many police officials lack a complete understanding of the basic elements of problem-oriented policing and how problem-solving fits in the context of the whole police function. Second, the police have not yet adequately developed the skill sets and knowledge bases to support problem-oriented policing. And third, the police have insufficient incentives to take problem-oriented policing seriously. This paper begins by articulating what full integration of problem-oriented policing into routine police operations might look like. It then presents one framework for integrating the principles and methods of problem-oriented policing into the whole police function. The paper then explores the particular skill sets and knowledge bases that will be essential to the practice of problem-oriented policing within police agencies and across the police profession. Finally, it explores the perspectives of those who critically evaluate police performance and considers ways to modify those perspectives and expectations consistent with problem-oriented policing.
Advancement of problem-oriented policing has been stymied by over attention to police organizations and under attention to police problems. This paper develops a research agenda for understanding police problems by addressing four fundamental questions: What are problems? What causes problems? How can we find effective solutions to problems? And how can we learn from problem solving? For each question a possible direction for theory, research, or evaluation is suggested. The variety of police problems, their non-linear feedback systems, the diversity of responses that can be applied to problems, and the difficulty of learning from problem solving experiences highlight the complexity of police problems. The paper closes with a list of research questions designed to improve the science and practice of problem analysis and solution.
Traditional crime analysis has limited utility for police problem-solving. Such analysis usually involves summary reports and aggregated statistics, primarily of Part 1 crimes, providing little insight into most crime problems. Although technology and techniques such as GIS (Geographic Information Systems) are increasingly used to address crime and disorder and identify trends and patterns, such methods which focus exclusively on temporal and spatial relationships, typically lack the rich contextual variables which have potential for understanding problems. These methods are useful for enumerating, establishing prevalence and identifying subsets of problems to be examined. Analysis for problem solving requires an iterative process of developing and testing provisional hypotheses, often through the collection of primary data about community problems.
The British Crime Reduction Program ran from 1999 to 2002. One of its streams, the Targeted Policing Initiative, was specifically concerned with fostering problem-oriented policing. Fifty-nine projects were funded at a cost of some £30 million, over two rounds. This paper outlines the ways in which projects were agreed and reviews the analyses contained in the bids for funding. As with previous British and American accounts of analysis in problem-oriented policing, the extent and quality of the work undertaken was found to be rather limited. Several possible implications of this pattern of findings are outlined and discussed. First, despite the difficulties uncovered it does not follow that problem-oriented policing is fundamentally flawed and should be abandoned. Second, problem-oriented policing may require substantial increases in agencies’ capacities for the required forms of analysis. Third, the Crime Reduction Program may have provided inadequate and inappropriate support for problem-oriented policing, and thus comprises a flawed test of police analytic potential. Fourth, differing forms of problem addressed by a problem-focused police agency may require varying types of analytic skill, not all or which could realistically be expected within a police agency.
The widespread adoption of problem-oriented policing requires a dramatic and fundamental change in both the organizational focus of the police and the manner in which day to day policing is performed. The focus of this article is on the factors that have limited the implementation of problem-oriented policing. These are partitioned into two groups; those inhibiting the problem orientation of the organization and those inhibiting the problem solving of police officers. The key principles of successful organizational change are discussed, drawing upon the relevant psychological literature. Examples are given with an emphasis upon public sector agencies. Finally, solutions for overcoming the apparently intractable implementation problems are presented that draw on the principles identified in the change management literature.
This paper discusses some of the difficulties encountered in attempting to introduce ideas derived from research on repeat victimization to the police services of the United Kingdom. Repeat victimization is the phenomenon in which particular individuals or other targets are repeatedly attacked or subjected to other forms of victimization including the loss of property. It is argued that repeat victimization is a good example of the kind of problem solving envisaged by Goldstein and discussed in his original conception of problem oriented policing. The paper first briefly describes the UK research program on repeat victimization and a chronology of the action taken to implant the ideas into the routine of policing. It then pinpoints some of the structural features of policing in England and Wales, which facilitated the process described. These features are missing in many other jurisdictions, which have a fundamentally different policing structure and call for a different approach in introducing research-based evidence to tackle problems. The implications for repeat victimization in particular and problem oriented policing in general are discussed.
In the early 1990s American policing, applying a problem-oriented approach, displayed much creative energy in closing drug markets. This has not translated to a wider range of quality efforts in tackling other common crimes, such as burglary, auto theft, and shoplifting. While few of the factors that combined to fuel wide exploration of creative solutions in drug markets are present for other crime and safety problems, there may be some simple ways to engage the police to further study and impact other crimes. Three strategies are offered: identifying, understanding, and responding to snowball crimes; using a situational crime prevention approach to graded responses for repeat victimization; and examining privately owned properties for disproportionate demands on police service with an eye towards shifting responsibility for crime-place management to these owners.
This paper describes a problem-oriented policing project, extending over a period of more than two years, which was designed to reduce thefts from cars parked in the center-city of Charlotte, NC. A progressive tightening of focus led to a detailed analysis of the risks of theft, and the associated security features, in the 39 decks and 167 surface lots in the center city. This analysis showed (1) that risks of theft were much greater in lots than in decks and (2) that higher risks of theft in lots were associated with inadequate fencing, poor lighting and the absence of attendants. These data played an important part in obtaining the agreement of lot owners and operators to make security improvements. Before most of these improvements had been made, however, thefts in the lots began to decline, possibly as the result of more focused patrolling by police and security personnel. The paper concludes with a discussion of the difficulties encountered by police in undertaking problem-oriented projects, and of ways to help them meet these difficulties.