Preventive Patrol: Definition, Study & Experiment

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  • 0:00 Preventative Patrol
  • 0:38 Traffic Enforcement
  • 2:12 Patrol
  • 3:51 Community Outreach
  • 5:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jesse Davis

Jesse has worked in law enforcement for over 10 years in various capacities including patrol and investigations. For five years, his duties included instruction to area schools. He has a Bachelors Degree in Psychology.

Preventive policing is the idea of stopping crime before it starts. This lesson provides a brief overview of three types of preventive policing: traffic enforcement, patrol, and community outreach.

Preventive Patrol

When you think of a police officer, you might think of them putting handcuffs on a criminal or being in a police chase. Although responding to calls for service or calls for help are the most common, there are several roles that any police department must take on. One of these is to prevent crime, which is known as preventive policing.

Preventive policing involves traffic enforcement, patrol, and community outreach. We'll discuss each of these in this lesson to show why preventative policing is important to the public, and to see the difference between proactive and reactive policing.

Traffic Enforcement

We've all been there. You're driving along without much attention to what you're doing or where you are, when suddenly, you glance at your rear view mirror and see a patrol car is behind you. Immediately, you look down at your speedometer and notice you're doing 35 in a 25-mile-per-hour zone. You can feel your heart racing, waiting for those lights to turn on and your day to suddenly get worse.

Certainly, no one likes to be pulled over and given a ticket. Traffic enforcement is one aspect of preventive policing. Our society was designed with rules and consequences for when those rules are broken.

By and large, the public typically follows those rules. But when the law is broken, either by speeding, driving under the influence, or any other traffic violation, there are punitive damages that can occur. This is typically in the form of a citation, but can also be an arrest. It's important that police officers are out on the road, enforcing the law so that people are compelled to self-govern themselves while on the roadway.

This is why you may get nervous at the sight of an officer behind you while you're driving. You've seen people pulled over before, and may even have even been pulled over yourself. But without this type of preventive policing, the roads would be a much more dangerous place.

Oftentimes, the public will call and complain about people speeding in their neighborhoods or near a school, so officers will provide extra patrols or traffic enforcement to that area in an attempt to prevent speeding, or possibly an accident, which has the potential to save lives. Preventing an accident before it happens is more desirable than reacting to a crash where someone may have been injured.


Another form of preventive policing is patrol. Officers typically will patrol by foot, car, or bicycle, but also sometimes by aircraft, boat, or even horseback, depending on their assigned areas. The patrol division of most police agencies is meant to be out in public, looking for ways to serve.

This can be by helping a stranded motorist, giving directions, or driving through neighborhoods or city shopping areas. Directed patrol is a tactic for officers to target specific areas, depending on the level of need. Basically, by being out in the public, when an emergency happens, they can respond quickly.

As an added benefit, patrol is a visual deterrent to crime. This is because an officer's mere presence can be a crime deterrent. A study done in 1989 logged the impact of officers patrolling certain hot spot areas. Every minute of these areas were documented during the study, including how long officers were in that area, and the crimes committed. The study found that the longer an officer was in the area, the longer it took for a crime or disturbance to occur in that same area.

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