What Is Community Policing? - Definition, History & Strategies

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  • 0:00 Definition
  • 1:06 History
  • 2:13 Strategies
  • 3:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

After you complete this lesson, you should know more about how the method of community policing works. Moreover, you should understand the history and the strategies involved in the philosophy of community policing.


Have you ever seen signs in a neighborhood that read 'Neighborhood Watch?' This is an example of community policing, where individuals partnered with traditional police forces work to make their neighborhoods safer and to minimize crime.

The United States Department of Justice defines community policing as a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies in the community to combat potential situations that might create public safety issues. For instance, crime, social unrest and fear of crime are all public safety issues that community policing seeks to address.

Community policing involves the use of partnerships between municipal agencies, businesses, individual citizens, non-profit groups and the media in order to develop methods to police the community. These organizations work together to address criminal matters and reduce crime. Instead of simply leaving it to the police force, community policing revolves around a philosophy that the entire community can help take measures to prevent crime.


Community policing started when police decided to become more involved in local communities in order to deter and reduce criminal activity. Today's community policing has its origins in the 1960s. The 1960s saw its fair share of urban riots and gang activity. Police often responded to these criminal actions with brute force, and the police's reputation was subsequently damaged. Many citizens did not trust the police departments in their neighborhoods. As a result, some police departments realized that the community was where the police needed to show a presence and regain trust. Consequently, the police started to develop an increased local community presence.

In the 1970s and 1980s, community policing became the new norm, with more police walking the beat in communities throughout the United States. More and more, the police began to engage community members, businesses, non-profits and others in partnerships to combat crime in joint problem solving efforts. Currently, community policing is present in most regions throughout the United States and failure to have such a model is rare.


There is a model used in community policing known as SARA. This stands for 'scanning, analysis, response, and assessment.' First, there is the scanning portion of the model. Scanning involves the identification of a criminal problem in a community. In addition, the nature and scope of the problem is examined. For example, a neighborhood may determine that gang recruitment is a serious problem in the community. Next, the problem is analyzed in order to determine how to respond to the issue. In this phase, the specific details of the problem are identified, such as the victims, where and when the crimes occurred and how the crimes happened.

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