Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Benefits of Publicity Campaigns

Low Cost

Crime prevention efforts that include publicity components need to address the campaign’s cost-effectiveness. Police agencies have numerous media options to promote their message, each with differing costs and convenience. As mentioned above, the different formats range from television campaigns to common fliers. With proper planning and organization, most police departments can undertake a publicity campaign with minimal costs.

  • While television can be a costly medium, police can make effective use of local channels and airtime dedicated to PSAs to promote crime prevention.
  • Community businesses can help defray campaign costs by donating materials or disseminating information.
    • A print shop, for example, can donate or discount the cost of fliers.
    • Taxi and bus companies can display posters or signs on their vehicles, and other businesses can display them in store windows.
    • The North Brunswick Police Department worked closely with car dealerships and local stores in spreading anti-car theft messages to customers.25
  • Most police agencies can design and produce professional-looking messages with the help of modern desktop computers and printers. There are also private companies that produce customizable signs that police departments can use to publicize their message.

A key consideration in the cost of publicity campaigns, especially ones that involve signs and/or posters, is that their visibility be constant, allowing agencies cost-effective message dissemination. While other components of the intervention may be in effect only when people are actively promoting crime prevention measures, a posted sign is always “at work.”

Improved Public Relations

Police agencies can also reap indirect benefits by initiating publicity campaigns, including the following:

  • The public may appreciate that the police are proactively working toward solutions to crime problems.
  • Citizens may increasingly participate in the crime prevention effort.
  • Citizens may start seeing law enforcement agencies as prevention partners instead of a sanctioning force, which will help to improve public-police relations.26With a properly administered campaign, police departments not only produce publicity, but also advertise themselves as a concerned public-service entity.

Anticipatory Benefits

Research has shown that when a publicity campaign advertises an upcoming police intervention, crime reduction benefits may occur before implementation. This phenomenon is called “anticipatory benefits.”27This occurs when the pre-intervention publicized warning alters offenders’ perceptions of risk. Thus, police agencies can maximize their crime reduction potential through the early advertising of future prevention efforts.