Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Getting Started: The Five Most Useful Websites

The best way to begin is by visiting the websites described in this section. These websites are the ones most likely to contain the kind of information you are seeking. Not everything on the websites will be of equal interest to you, and the descriptions focus on the sections that you are most likely to find useful. If you find nothing of relevance on these websites, it is unlikely that a more detailed search of the Internet from your computer at home, or the one at work, will yield much useful information, and it may be time for you to visit a library or get some expert help. Before doing that, however, it might just be worth undertaking a general search on the Internet using Google or other search engines, and also searching the electronic archives of some of the major newspapers. The next section of the guide tells you how to do this.

You will save time by visiting the websites in the order they are listed here. You may be tempted to skip the Australian and U.K. websites, but this would be a mistake. Problem-oriented policing is practiced widely in both these countries and many of the crime problems are similar to those in the United States. In fact, crime occurring, let us say in San Francisco, may be more like that in Sydney, Australia, than in a small town in Louisiana or Tennessee. It is also the case that more research has been conducted in the United Kingdom on specific crime problems than in the United States because of different criminological traditions in the two countries.

A Word of Warning

Even with a high speed connection, you may experience numerous problems in connecting to websites, finding your way around them and locating and downloading documents that you know to be there. (Always check the number of pages to be downloaded.) Websites vary greatly in their ease of use and how regularly they are updated and maintained. A good website can deteriorate and a bad one can improve. Many are constantly being redesigned to improve them–but not always successfully. The Internet is also prone to many unexplained glitches and if you cannot gain access to a website or have a frustrating visit on a particular occasion, it can be worth trying again on another occasion.

Center for Problem-Oriented Policing (www.popcenter.org)

Your first Internet stop should be the Center for Problem -Oriented Policing, which is a website developed with funding assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Service (the "COPS Office") specifically to help police undertake problem-oriented policing projects. The website is managed by the same organization that produces the Problem-Oriented Guides for Police Series for the COPS Office. All the guides produced to date can be found here, as well as on the COPS website (see below). The website also has direct links to all the other websites discussed in the section, as well as a number of others.

† When you are searching for information on the World Wide Web, you may find "links" or "hyperlinks" that you can click on that will take you directly to another relevant document on the Web or to another place within the same document where more information related to the word in question can be found.

The first thing you should do is to check whether a guide already exists on your topic. If it does not, you should look at any guides that deal with related topics. For example, say your problem is one of drug dealing in a public housing complex. Assuming no guide on this topic has been written, but guides are available on "Drug dealing in privately-owned apartment complexes" and "Drug dealing in open-air markets," reading these guides might be helpful, even though they are not directly focused on your problem.

You should pay particular attention to the "References" listed near the end to see if there are books or articles you would like to read. Many of the references listed in the guides are available on the website in .pdf format and you can read and download these as well. If they are not on the website, this is because the copyright owners of the article have withheld permission for it to be made available on the website. (See "Visiting a Library" below for information about obtaining the article in this eventuality.)

It is important that you look at other sections of the website, which contain a wealth of other articles and reports. Especially important is the section on "POP Projects and Awards." This section contains hundreds of reports of problem-oriented policing projects submitted over the years for the annual problem-oriented policing awards in the United States (the Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing) and the United Kingdom (the Tilley Awards). The website's search engine allows you to search these awards by topic, so you can quickly identify the projects that are likely to be relevant and read or download the reports.

National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) Abstracts Database (http://www.ncjrs.gov/abstractdb/search.asp)

The National Criminal Justice Reference Service is an information clearinghouse created by the U.S. Department of Justice for people involved in research, policy, and practice related to criminal and juvenile justice, and drug control. The "NCJRS Abstracts Database" is the largest collection of criminal justice abstracts in the world. It contains summaries of over 180,000 U.S. and international publications, including federal, state, and local government reports, books, research reports, journal articles, audiovisual presentations, and unpublished research. It contains far more material than the website for the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, though only a small proportion of the abstracts deal directly with problem­ oriented policing or specific crime problems. Even so, it is likely to contain material that will be useful to you.

In some cases the abstracts are linked to the full text of the article or report, which you can read online or download and print. Where reports and articles are not online, some are available free of charge. Many others are available for a small fee. This service is efficient–it generally takes no more than two to three weeks to receive the material. (It usually helps to refer to the NCJ number for each publication you want to order.)

The website includes an "online tutorial" on how to search the abstracts, which will save you time and help you find your material in an efficient way.

The Home Office, United Kingdom (www.homeoffice.gov.uk)

The Home Office is the government department responsible for U.K. internal affairs. It is roughly equivalent to the U.S. Department of Justice and has overall governmental responsibility for crime matters and the criminal justice system, including the police. As you might expect this is a large website with many links and, while you can browse the many sections, it is best to start with a "quick search" using the search box on the home page. You can ask it to search "any words" in your search term, "all words" or "exact phrase." Results will be delivered from three sources:

  • the Crime Reduction Website (see below),
  • the Research and Statistics Series published by the Home Office, and
  • the Criminal Justice website of the Home Office.

You can choose to limit your search to any of these three sources. A small summary is given for each entry and you can click on the title to take you to the full document.

A useful section of the website for you to browse is "Research and Statistics." The Home Office sponsors or conducts a large amount of high quality research, much of it dealing with policing and specific crime problems.

Crime Reduction Website, Home Office, United Kingdom

The Crime Reduction website was established by the Home Office to provide a single point of access to U.K. government documents, statistics and legislation relating to crime reduction topics. The search box on the general Home Office website will allow you to search this website, but you should browse its two most important sections– the "toolkits" and the "mini-sites." The toolkits are similar in concept to the Problem-Oriented Guides for Police Series, and are designed to provide practical guidance in dealing with the particular topic covered; the mini-sites bring together key information and new material on topics of concern to the government. The topics covered under both these sections are continually being expanded. The categories of crime covered in the toolkits include: vehicle crime, street crime and robbery, residential burglary, rural crime, racial crime and harassment, trafficking in people, arson, business and retail crime, and public transport crime. Those covered under the mini-sites include: domestic violence, street crime and victimization of college students.

Australian Institute of Criminology (www.aic.gov.au)

The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) is Australia's national organization for the study of crime and criminal justice and for the dissemination of information on these subjects. It conducts and sponsors research, holds conferences and maintains a fine library. The website contains many full-text documents and reports. The best way to begin is by searching from the opening page. A short description is provided of each entry yielded by the search. By clicking on the title, you can get a fuller description and you can also download full-text copies of many of the documents. The website also allows you to search the library catalog, which will yield material not accessible through the home page search box. However, little more than the title of the document is listed so this will be of limited value to you.

Other Useful Websites

You may not have found much information directly relevant to your problem at the five recommended websites and you may wish to explore others. Those listed here sometimes contain useful material not available elsewhere and are worth a visit.

Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) (www.cops.usdoj.gov)

The COPS Office provides grants to state and local law enforcement agencies to hire and train community policing officers, acquire and deploy new crime-fighting technologies, and develop and test innovative policing strategies. The website allows you to download or order COPS publications that deal with problem-oriented policing. These can be downloaded or ordered from the website. The Problem-Oriented Guides for Police Series can be downloaded from this site. The COPS website has links to its network of Regional Community Policing Institutes.

Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) (www.policeforum.org)

PERF is a national membership organization of police executives from large law enforcement agencies. Its mission is to improve policing and advance professionalism through research and involvement in public policy debate. The website may be entered as a guest or as a member. It contains POPNet, a searchable database of problem-oriented policing projects, many of which are also included in the "Goldstein Awards" on the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing website.

"Publications and Information Services" lists publications for sale from the "online store" and "public publications" that may be downloaded free.

Community Policing Consortium (www.communitypolicing.org)

The Community Policing Consortium, funded by the COPS Office, is a training and technical partnership of five of the nation's leading law enforcement organizations: the International Association of Chiefs of Police; the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives; the National Sheriffs' Association; the Police Executive Research Forum; and the Police Foundation. Its mission is to deliver community policing training and technical assistance to police departments and sheriffs' offices. The website's "electronic library" contains community policing publications, some of which can be downloaded. It also allows you look for information in back issues of three of the consortium's newsletters: "Sheriff Times," "Community Policing Exchange" and "Community Links."

Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science (www.jdi.ucl.ac.uk)

The Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science at London University is devoted specifically to reducing crime through teaching, research and public policy analysis. The website lists "Crime Science: Short Reports" for practitioners and policymakers concerned with finding ways to reduce crime and disorder. "Ad Hoc Publications" covers a general range of research from the Institute. Some publications are available in full text, while for others only a brief summary is provided.

Police Foundation (www.policefoundation.org)

The Police Foundation conducts a wide range of research projects on a variety of policing issues. The website lists the Foundation's publications under "List and Order Form." A short summary of each publication is provided. Many of the publications can be downloaded free of charge while others can be ordered for a small fee. The "Ideas in American Policing" series and "Crime Mapping News" are also in this section.

International Association of Chiefs of Police (www.theiacp.org)

The largest police association in the world, IACP is dedicated to advancing professional policing. The most useful section of the website is "Publications," which provides current and back issues of "Police Chief Magazine”. Many of the articles are available in full text. A search capability is provided for the periodical, but it is limited to searching only recent issues of the magazine. A second useful section is "Research Center Documents," which contains the full text of many recent reports of the IACP.

RAND (Public Safety and Justice Center) (www.rand.org/research_areas/public_safety)

The RAND Public Safety and Justice center conducts research and analysis on various public safety issues, including: illegal immigration and border control; domestic counter-terrorism, terrorism preparedness, threat and vulnerability management; drug use and prevention; violence prevention; and a wide range of issues relevant to law enforcement. Website publications are arranged by category, or one can search by specific words. Many of the reports can be downloaded free.

FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin (www.fbi.gov/publications/leb/leb.htm)

"FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin" is published monthly by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The website contains full text of all issues. No search function is available, but you may have found references to articles from this journal when you have used other indexing or abstracting services.

California Commission on Peace Officer Standards & Training (POST) Library (www.post.ca.gov)

The POST Library was established to assist the Commission, staff, and California peace officers in their research efforts. The POST Library database contains citations and brief abstracts for over 48,000 articles dating from the early 1960s. Where possible, links to the full text are included. Keyword searching is possible in the abstract/table-of-contents field. Many of the Command College projects ("futures studies" that are similar to masters' theses) are available in full text on the Internet. Books are loaned directly to POST staff only, but others may borrow materials via interlibrary loan through their local library.