The purpose of community policing is to decrease crime and disorder by cautiously observing the characteristics of problems in neighborhoods and applying suitable problem solving solutions. The community where a patrol officer is given the duty should consist of a small area. Foot beats (walking the beat) should be organized in a means that preserves the distinctive physical and social features of the neighborhoods, while still allowing resourceful services. Community policing is a viewpoint that promotes structural strategies that support the efficient use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to proactively tackle public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.
As policing changes throughout the years, there has been a reappearance and incorporation of foot patrol programs within communities. The expansion of foot patrol is to have police be placed within the daily lives of the community in a way to form connections and relations, rather than the everyday service calls. It is considered amongst most police departments as a specialty unit and not just their everyday patrol. However, there are some departments that may incorporate the foot patrol program into their regular daily shift, requiring officers to still have to respond to their calls. Many smaller and larger sized communities have implemented distinctive variations of “community policing” programs, each concentrating on some sort of crime reduction and prevention, to expand community unity and relaxed social control, with applying these policing strategies.
The history of foot patrol and community policing starts back prior to the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829. Community policing is often considered as an alternative form of “traditional policing”. The idea behind community policing was first discussed during the birth of modern policing. When Sir Robert Peel founded London’s Metropolitan Police in 1829. Peel’s principles stated that the central mission of the police is “to prevent crime and disorder”, and that they are an alternative to “repression by military force”. The principles stress that the police needed to gain the respect and cooperation of the public, to create a bond amongst each other.
Peel, the first chief of the police force, is credited with developing several innovations that are still practiced today. First, he assigned his officers to regular foot-patrol areas, charging them with the task of preventing and suppressing crime in their assigned geographic areas. Patrol beats enabled the police officers to get to know their assigned neighborhood and for residents to become familiar with members of the local police department.
Many community-oriented police structures focus on assigning officers to a specific area called a “beat” and having those officers become familiar with that area or beat through a process of “beat profiling.” The officers are then taught how to design specific patrol strategies to deal with the types of crime that are experienced in that beat. Foot patrols increase police visibility in busy areas, enhance our citizens’ feeling of safety, and build bridges between citizens and police. Beat officers have an intimate knowledge of their area, often knowing shopkeepers and regulars by name.
These ideas are implemented in a multipronged approach using a variety of aspects, such as:
• Broadening the duties of the police officer and individualizing the practices to the community they’re policing
• Refocusing police efforts to face-to-face interactions in smaller patrol areas with an emphasized goal of preventing criminal activity instead of responding to it
• Solving problems using input from the community they’re policing
• Making an effort to increase service-oriented positive interactions with police.
Successful community policing depends on boosting positive connection between patrol officers and the community members. Patrol cars are only one method of conveying police services. Police departments can increase cruiser patrols with foot, bicycle, scooter, motorcycle, Segway’s, and in some communities, horseback patrols. Mini-stations tare also another method to enhance the connection in bringing the police closer to the community. Regular community meetings and discussions will provide police and community participants an opportunity to discuss their concerns and jointly find ways to address them.
The conflicts within communities are just as essential as the cohesions amongst the communities. Police need to distinguish the presence of both conflicts and cohesion to construct mutual connections needed to maintain order, provide a sense of security, and control crime in the community. Police should create lasting relationships that include all components of the community and focus around the essential issues of public safety and quality of life. The main link to overseeing this challenging task is trust.
Community partnership means agreeing to a policing viewpoint that exceeds the ordinary law enforcement importance. Things that could consist in building that partnership could include: assisting accident or crime victims, providing emergency medical services, assisting resolution for domestic and neighborhood conflicts (family violence, landlord-tenant disputes, or racial harassment), working with residents and local businesses to improve neighborhood conditions, controlling motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic, providing emergency social services and referrals to those at risk (adolescent runaways, the homeless, the intoxicated, and the mentally ill), and providing a model of citizenship (helpfulness, respect for others, honesty, and fairness). Creating and providing mutual trust is the central goal of community partnership.
The theory behind problem oriented policing is that the underlying circumstances create problems. These situations could involve the individualities of the people involved (offenders and potential victims), the public setting in which these people network, the physical environments, and the way the public deals with these conditions.
The main goal governing any foot patrol initiative is to reduce crime and/or disorder. There are three main theories of crime that help us to understand crime in a spatial context and more importantly, provide support for the rationale of foot patrol policing. These theories fall under the ecological theories of crime and the environmental theories of crime and include: Broken Windows Theory, Rational Choice Theory, and Routine Activities Theory. Together, these theories help to explain why the policing method of foot patrol would affect crime and/or disorder. While each theory offers a different perspective or explanation, they each focus on the physical environment, which provide opportunities for crime that can in turn influence criminal activity and disorder if not manipulated.
The “Broken Windows Theory,” which is a direct outgrowth of the Newark, New Jersey, Foot Patrol Experiment, in which foot patrol was reintroduced into community areas in an effort to reduce crime (Kelling, 1981). Early research suggested that foot patrol was ineffective at reducing levels of crime.
One of the earliest attempts to test and validate Broken Windows Hypothesis was conducted by Skogan (1990), which findings empirically supported the causal relationship between disorder and serious crime (Kelling & Coles, 1996, p. 24). In this study, Skogan (1990) used survey data from 40 residential urban neighborhoods, as well as from direct observations of recorded instances of disorder (e.g., street prostitution, drug dealing, graffiti) from a sample of these neighborhoods in order examine the relationship between disorder, fear, and crime (p. 19-20; Kelling & Coles, 1996, p. 24-25). Skogan (1990) concluded that regardless of resident characteristics (e.g., age, income level, home ownership status), residents were found to agree on what comprised of disorder and the extent of how much disorder was present in their neighborhoods.
While an evaluation of foot patrol in Flint (MI) found crime reductions of 8.7% for foot patrol areas (Trojanowitcz, 1982), other studies found foot patrol’s effect to be negligible. Both the Newark Foot Patrol Experiment, conducted by the Police Foundation, and an evaluation of Boston Police Department’s 1983 Patrol Reallocation Plan failed to uncover any reductions in crime associated with foot patrol (Bowers & Hirsch, 1987; Kelling et al., 1981). Similarly, other studies failed to demonstrate support for an effect of foot patrol on levels of crime in other regions (Esbensen, 1987; Esbensen & Taylor, 1984). Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment indicated that, while foot patrol reduced violent crime by 23% compared to areas without foot patrol (control areas), none of the foot patrol beats exhibited residual deterrence after the experiment ended (Sorg et al., 2013).
Guided by place-based insights, directed foot patrol efforts in crime hotspots were undertaken, and the Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment established through a randomized control trial that targeted foot patrols in violent crime hotspots can significantly reduce violent crime through a deterrent effect at the micro-spatial level (i.e. street segments and intersections) (Ratcliffe et al., 2011).
Routine Activities Theory is an important theoretical perspective that can be applied to the understanding of foot patrol policing and its impact on neighborhood crime. An increase in police presence results in a reduced opportunity for motivated offenders to commit crimes because there is an increased likelihood that the capable guardian will see the offender. In turn, the opportunity for a crime to occur is reduced and/or prevented. Rational Choice Theory was developed by Derek Cornish and Ronald Clarke in an attempt to explain an offender’s decision-making approach to committing an offence (Lersch, 2007, p. 79). The mere visible presence of foot patrol officers in an area alters choice structuring properties and as a result, impacts an offender’s decision to commit crime. As well, the increased visibility of officer’s results in the costs of committing an offence to outweigh the benefits and immediate gratification that could be achieved if the offence was committed. Offenders will also choose not to commit an offence here because the visibility of foot patrol officers increases his or her risk of apprehension and detection. Simply put, the crime becomes too risky and the costs of getting caught outweigh the perceived benefits that could be obtained by committing an offence.
All of these methods and theories are what consist of community policing and crime prevention strategies. It begins with the trust amongst the communities and law enforcement and what the best interest of the particular communities’ needs are.
Slide 5: Why is the program effective? Over the span of American policing, views on foot patrol as an enforcement strategy have changed. Originally considered a fundamental component of policing, foot patrol was later viewed as unnecessary and at times it was considered outdated. Foot patrol was later recast as an innovative approach. Perhaps most importantly, belief in foot patrol’s ability to achieve law enforcement goals has wavered back and forth with foot patrol being commended as effective at times and criticized as ineffective at others.
It is the most effective, and most expensive type of patrol. Officers get to know their beats very well. They become part of the landscape. They know the people, and they get to know when things are not quite right. They develop the trust and respect of the people on the beat.
However, it is very manpower intensive, meaning it is expensive. A foot patrol can only cover a fraction of the area a patrol car can during shift. This means to cover a zone equal to a radio car zone, it might require 12 to 15 officers a two-man patrol car can cover (assuming two-man teams). Then you have to factor in shifts, vacation days, days off, sick days, etc., and you begin to see the difference and the cost effect. Officers may be able to be more proactive in crime fighting because their knowledge of the community they serve allows them to better recognize when something is not right. When the officers see something that is not typical of a business owner on their beat, it raises the attention of the officer who may respond, where a patrol car officer may not. When a community and its members are better known by officers, it is clearer to officers when there is something suspicious occurring that demands their attention. This creates the results of crime prevention or reduction.
Also, patrol cars can carry more technology and specialized equipment, and they can usually get to a scene faster than a foot patrol can (of course, there are exceptions). But the negative aspect of this is that it separate officers from the public, because they are driving around and not walking and speaking with the public. Despite the fact that motor patrol officers can respond to calls for service more quickly than their foot patrol counterparts, the real effectiveness of foot patrols should not be measured in response time or area covered but in citizen perceptions of the police, police knowledge of the community and its residents, and citizen satisfaction with the police. “Foot patrol officers are involved with the public on a much more proactive basis than motor patrol officers” (Payne and Trojanowicz,1985).
Slide 6: Importance: The importance of foot patrol is that is assists in relationship-building between officers and members of the communities. By improving the relationships within the communities successively improve the enforcement and problem-solving ability of the law enforcement officers and also changes how the officers are viewed within the community. However, researchers found that agencies can face a number of challenges when deploying foot patrol officers, such as resource constraints, identifying appropriate performance measures for officers, and promoting internal acceptance for community engagement activities performed by foot patrol officers.
Slide 7: Pro/Cons The advantages and disadvantages can be many different aspects depending on the departments and towns. While theoretically foot patrol is beneficial to community relations and crime prevention, foot patrols are not a cure-all, end-all answer to crime prevention. Food Patrol can potentially present some real officer safety hazards that need to be addressed prior to executing this strategy. Foot patrols may be supplemented with the addition of a bike patrol, which is another community policing strategy on the rise in some cities and towns.
Administrators and Town managements must take a number of factors into account, asking and answering a series of questions. Is it wise to put officers on sidewalks in areas so engulfed by anti-cop intensity that it has the opposite of the intended outcome and actually creates more animosity among citizens? Does putting officers on foot patrol create an officer safety issue? Does this strategy adversely affect response times for the offices that remain in squad cars? Have we given abundant consideration to officer morale about a foot patrol assignment?
These are just a few questions that should be addressed before determining if foot patrol will be an effective or ineffective strategy in the department and town/city. These types of considerations can apply to several different types of community policing strategies and programs. At the end of the day we need to find solutions to issues and crime prevention, with making sure results are proactive and not reactive.
Conclusion: It appears that foot patrol has a positive impact on satisfaction among police and citizens, fear of crime, perceptions of one’s own safety, and citizen attitudes. However, the effect of foot patrol on crime and disorder remains less certain. Additionally, a large proportion of research in this area focuses on the effect of foot patrol on crime and social disorder; yet, less emphasis has been placed on the impact of foot patrol on community relations, expectations and perceptions. Nonetheless, research into the investigation of the impact of foot patrol has demonstrated that it does work in high crime, residential, and commercial areas.
“At the end of the day, We ALL GO HOME.”