Problem-Oriented Policing: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:04 Definition and Background
  • 1:46 Prevention of Drug…
  • 3:23 Prevention of Traffic…
  • 4:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joseph Jones
In this lesson, problem-oriented policing will be defined, its origin and background will be discussed, and some examples describing problem-oriented policing will be given.

Definition and Background

There used to be a television show where a rather smart sheriff had to deal with complaints about a town drunk in the conservative town of Mayberry. The sheriff thought about the situation and devised a plan in which the town drunk would come to the police station when he was intoxicated and lock himself in the cell. The sheriff's development of a solution is the essence of what is now considered problem-oriented policing. Problem-oriented policing can best be defined as the development of a strategy that identifies the root causes of a problem, along with a solution to prevent that problem from happening.

The idea of problem-oriented policing was first developed by Professor Herman Goldstein at the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1979. His idea was that police should develop a strategy to identify problems and formulate appropriate responses to those problems. The problem-oriented policing model proposed that law enforcement be proactive and prevent problems from happening in the first place as opposed to being reactive by responding to problems in progress.

In the problem-oriented policing model, a problem is anything that concerns a citizen. It may be criminal activity or it could be a safety issue. The problem must be thoroughly understood and analyzed. The expected outcome needs to be fully understood. Everybody involved in the problem and solution needs to be identified. If there are past successes or failures in dealing with this problem they need to be identified and examined to see why they worked or failed. Once this is complete, a systematic strategy can be implemented with the hopes of eliminating the problem.

Prevention of Drug Sales and Gang Activity

In most big city areas the police respond to complaints of the illegal use and sale of drugs on a regular basis. These complaints usually contain gang involvement. History has shown that most of these same cities have established special response teams to deal with these problems. In the past, these teams patrolled the city and responded to drug and gang-related complaints. Though there was some limited success with these teams, it did little to solve the problem.

Over the last several years the city of Chicago has developed a problem-oriented policing strategy that is proving to be effective. A study was completed and areas of drug use complaints were identified. As it turned out, all of the areas identified were two- or three-block sections of the city. Usually there would be two to three police officers assigned to a much larger area that contained those two or three blocks. They would respond to complaints, take police action if necessary, and leave the area, which did little to solve the problem.

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