Traditional policing usually consists of officers answering calls for service. Traditional methods of policing rely heavily on deterrence through a visible presence of the police on patrol. However, many social changes have occurred over the decades and traditional policing methods may not be as effective in addressing the needs of the communities. Communities have become more diverse and the problems have changed as drugs and violent crimes have become more common in urban communities. Additionally, the budget deficits of the early 1990s prompted law enforcement administrators to seek out more creative solutions for providing law enforcement services to the community.
Community policing differs from traditional policing in how the community is perceived and in its expanded policing goals. While crime control and prevention remain central priorities, community policing strategies use a wide variety of methods to address these goals. The police and the community become partners in addressing problems of disorder and neglect (e.g., gang activity, abandoned cars, and broken windows) that, although perhaps not criminal, can eventually lead to serious crime. As links between the police and the community are strengthened over time, the ensuing partnership will be better able to pinpoint and mitigate the underlying causes of crime.
Community policing is certainly not the traditional sort, and the two can have trouble existing in the same police department, or the same city, or among people with different ideologies. Put simply, community policing as a theory is an alternative form of policing. It is proactive instead of reactive, progressive instead of regressive, compassionate instead of angry. And it can be hard to sell to hard-line conservatives who support a “lock-em-up-and-toss-the-key” approach to law enforcement.
Traditional policing tends to appeal to conservatives who believe that a police force should solve crimes on their own, using tough strategies to deter other criminals, a relationship that scientific data tend to find doubtful. Community policing involves multiple actors who are not ordinarily involved in crime. It is more effective, more informative, generates more leads and uses resources not available in the past.
Yes, the police get out in the community, but they interact with community members in a way that’s not typical in traditional policing tactics. And they’re often out there before crimes are committed, for instance, getting to know kids or, for that matter, the adults in the community before they run into trouble.
Community policing was implemented to break many of the cycles of crime blamed on traditional patrol policing. As policing became more centralized and neighborhood precincts were closed to make policing more efficient, a shift from neighborhood policing to car patrolling peaked in the 1960’s through the 1980’s. The rise in community crime has been blamed in part to the passive and distant patrolling nature of police-work that leaves police out of contact and distant from individual communities.
So it is evident that community policing has decreased crime in many areas, but it is also obvious that it needs improvement in many areas, as well. When one compares traditional policing to community oriented policing, then it appears quite clear that this change is for the better. The objectives that it has are also good, but will be changed depending on the area that they are being implemented, or the time that they take place. In the years to come, opinions will change, and so to will the ideas behind community policing.