Prevention-Focused Community Policing

Dan Keller
Law enforcement agencies nationwide are striving to improve relationships with community members and enhance the overall trust and respect for police, which supports their ability to address and prevent crime.

This is commonly referred to as community policing, a phrase heard by most adult Americans but seldom understood in terms of implementation and benefit. It has become a catch-all for improving law enforcement services, but rarely well understood by community members, politicians, the media and, in some cases, law enforcement leadership.

Instilling Prevention-Focused Community Policing Strategies at Your Agency

Prevention-focused community policing is a modern organizational philosophy with the primary goal of working cooperatively with citizens to identify and resolve issues that can affect the quality of life in their neighborhoods through a prevention-based approach. A prevention-focused model of community policing can strengthen trust between the community and the police that serve it. 
In its truest form, prevention-focused community policing is an alignment of organizational management structure, personnel and information systems to support community partnerships and proactive methods of reducing crime. It requires genuine organizational transformation of law enforcement agencies and, when implemented properly, can serve as a force multiplier.
Community policing should not be a stand-alone program, person or agency division – it’s an organizational philosophy that must be embraced from the top-down and the bottom-up. It guides law enforcement agencies in the building of partnerships with the community to solve community problems.
These strategies should be institutionalized and infused throughout entire departments, and blend tactics from crime prevention, community engagement and problem-solving policing methodologies. The ultimate goal should be the reduction of overall criminal activity leading to safer and healthier communities.

Barriers to Adoption

There are genuine barriers to the adoption of prevention-focused community policing, however. It requires additional training, personnel resources and an unwavering commitment from law enforcement leadership.
Many agencies have developed creative approaches, such as police ice cream trucks, Homeless Outreach Teams, #9PMRoutine, Multicultural Advisory Committees, Living Room Conversations, and Cops and Barbers, etc.
However, these are often limited to a small group of officers within a single department who have taken the initiative to develop these unique and effective programs, and do not become widely adopted to meaningfully impact crime across an entire community.
We regularly hear new ideas and creative techniques from agencies of all sizes across the country (and the world) during our training programs. This type of best practice sharing benefits everyone involved; in addition to providing new ideas, it can lend credibility and justification to other agencies for committing the resources required to implement department-wide solutions.
Modern law enforcement agencies are adopting a customer-service driven model of policing that features a proactive approach, rather than a responsive approach to policing. Formal training and certification programs must be supplemented by grassroots efforts of creative thinking and best practice sharing to ensure it becomes the predominant operational strategy for law enforcement nationwide. It is not a panacea, but it is the right approach at the right time.
American Crime Prevention Institute has helped thousands of law enforcement agencies and communities effectively reduce crime since 1998. To learn more about our prevention-focused training and certification programs – including our latest on Community-Oriented Policing – please visit
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