In today’s era of tight budgets and hiring freezes, law-enforcement agencies must develop creative ways to fight violent crime with limited resources. Thanks to innovative policing strategies nationwide, the FBI reports that national violent crime rates dropped in 2010 for the fourth consecutive year. Here are five examples of these successful new methods:
1. Targeting repeat offenders
“One of the most effective ways to reduce violent crime is to reduce recidivism of repeat offenders,” says Steven Campas, MS, a 30-year retired veteran of the Sacramento Police Department and current campus college chair for the College of Criminal Justice and Security.
“FBI studies show that the recidivism rate among violent offenders nationally approaches 70 percent,” Campas says. “But if we reach out to released prisoners early and show them an alternative to a life of crime, that can help reduce the recidivism rate.”
A parole-intervention program Campas led in Sacramento, Calif., included reintegration sessions, education, job placement and mental health counseling for recently released offenders.
2. Embracing community-oriented policing
Developing a feeling of community is “very important for policing, especially in big cities,” says Rudy Pichardo, a 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department who also teaches criminal justice courses at University of Phoenix. “In order to achieve that, police departments need to get citizens and businesses directly involved.”
Local police departments should engage the public through volunteer programs and monthly town-hall meetings between citizens and police, and communities should focus on improved lighting, landscaping, and open-space design in public parks and streets, Pichardo advises. “Crime has a tendency to flourish in places without caretakers,” he says.
3. Engaging at-risk youth
Reaching out to youth who live in high-crime areas can reduce crime, according to Campas, who teaches at the University of Phoenix Sacramento Valley Campus. “It’s important to show at-risk youth that there are better alternatives to gang involvement and violent crime,” he says.
Campas and his fellow police officers in Sacramento volunteer their time with their local chapter of the Police Athletic League, a national organization that provides after-school activities to kids living in high-crime areas. CeaseFire, an initiative of the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America also offer similar programs nationwide.
4. Using technology to outsmart criminals
Resourceful police departments are using new technologies to broaden their reach. Police street cameras, electronic bracelets for monitoring early-release prisoners, and electronic highway signs that notify motorists of Amber Alerts — all are part of the new expanded approach.
5. Implementing predictive policing
In this relatively new policing concept — adopted by national organizations such as CeaseFire and many big-city police departments —crime-analysis units use complex algorithms, geographic information systems and mapping technology to evaluate crime data.
At the LAPD, the police use this data to “map where crime is occurring the most.” Then they share the info with district captains who allocate resources accordingly, Pichardo explains. “You can’t just arrest your way out of a problem,” he says. “You have to use smarter policing methods.”