problemsolving

RESOURCES

 

What is Problem-Oriented Policing (POP)? (Center for Problem-Oriented Policing)
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The SARA Model (Center for Problem-Oriented Policing)
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Problem-Oriented Policing (Herman Goldstein, 1990, McGraw-Hill; Book front matter available here)
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Problem-Oriented Policing and Crime Prevention (Anthony A. Braga, 2008, Criminal Justice Press; introduction and first two chapters here)
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On the Beat: Police and Community Problem Solving (Wesley Skogan et al.)

 

 

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What is Problem-Oriented Policing?

In 1979 Herman Goldstein critiqued police practices of the time by noting that they were more focused on the “means” of policing than its “ends.” He advocated for a paradigm shift in policing that would replace the primarily reactive, incident driven “standard model of policing” (Weisburd & Eck, 2004) with a model that required the police to be proactive in identifying underlying problems that could be targeted to alleviate crime at its roots. He termed this new approach “problem-oriented policing” to highlight the call for police to focus on problems instead of on single calls or incidents. Goldstein also argued that the police had to deal with an array of problems in the community, including not only crime but also social and physical disorders. He also called for the police to expand their toolbox to address problems. In Goldstein’s view, the police needed to draw on not only the criminal law but also civil statutes and rely on other municipal and community resources if they were to address crime and disorder problems.

 

Goldstein’s approach was elaborated by Eck and Spelman’s (1987) SARA model. SARA is an acronym representing four steps they suggest police should follow when implementing POP. “Scanning” involves the police identifying and prioritizing potential problems. The next step is “Analysis,” which involves the police thoroughly analyzing the problem(s) using a variety of data sources so that tailored responses can be developed. The “Response” step has the police developing and implementing interventions designed to solve the problem(s). The final step is “Assessment,” which involves assessing whether the response worked. The SARA process has become widely accepted and adopted by police agencies implementing problem-oriented policing.

 

Wesley Skogan and colleagues (1999) describe a five-step model used for problem solving as part of the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS):

1. Identify and prioritize recurring problems

2. Analyze problems using a variety of data sources

3. Design response strategies based on what was learned from analyzing the problem

4. Implement response strategies

5. Assess the success of response strategies

 

Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence (National Research Council)
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Effects of Problem-Oriented Policing on Crime and Disorder (David Weisburd, Cody W. Telep, Joshua C. Hinkle, and John E. Eck, Campbell Collaboration systematic review)
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See also Crime Prevention Research Review No. 4: The Effects of Problem-Oriented Policing on Crime and Disorder

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Problem-oriented policing (CrimeSolutions.gov)

What is the Evidence on Problem-Oriented Policing?*

Problem-oriented policing is listed under “What works?” on our Review of the Research Evidence. 

 

Weisburd, Telep, Hinkle, and Eck (2010) conducted a Campbell review on the effects of POP (i.e. studies that followed the SARA model) on crime and disorder, finding a modest but statistically significant impact among 10 experimental and quasi-experimental studies. Some of the studies in this review that showed smaller effects (or backfire effects) experienced implementation issues that threatened treatment fidelity. The more successfully implemented studies tended to show stronger effects.

 

Additionally, Weisburd et al. (2010) also collected less rigorous but more numerous pre/post studies without a comparison group. While the internal validity of these studies is weaker than those in the main analysis, these studies are notable in the remarkable consistency of positive findings. Weisburd et al. (2010: 164) concluded that “POP as an approach has significant promise to ameliorate crime and disorder problems broadly defined.”

 

 

*We do not include pulling levers or focused deterrence studies in this section as they are reviewed elsewhere. Pulling levers policing can be viewed as a type of problem-oriented policing though.

 

Problem-Oriented Hot Spots Studies:
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Problem-Oriented Policing in Violent Crime Places: A Randomized Controlled Experiment (Anthony Braga, David Weisburd, Elin Waring, Lorraine Mazerolle, William Spelman, and Frank Gajewski)
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Policing Crime and Disorder Hot Spots: A Randomized Controlled Trial (Anthony Braga and Brenda Bond)
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A Randomized Controlled Trial of Different Policing Strategies at Hot Spots of Violent Crime in Jacksonville (Bruce G. Taylor, Christopher S. Koper, and Daniel J. Woods)

 

Strategies for Implementing POP:
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25 Techniques of Situational Crime Prevention (Center for Problem-Oriented Policing)
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Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers in 60 Small Steps (Center for Problem-Oriented Policing)
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Problem-Solving Tips: A Guide to Reducing Crime and Disorder Through Problem-Solving Partnerships (Center for Problem-Oriented Policing)

 

What Should Police Be Doing to Implement Problem-Oriented Policing?

Problem-oriented policing covers a broad array of responses to a wide range of problems and the evidence base of rigorous studies remains limited. This makes it difficult to give specific recommendations as to how police agencies should deal with certain types of problems. Goldstein’s notion of problem-oriented policing, however, was not designed to provide agencies with specific ways of handling problems. Indeed, Goldstein rejected such one-size fits all tactics that had been typical in the “standard model of policing.” Essential to problem-oriented policing is the careful analysis of problems to design tailor-made solutions. While individualized solutions are important, it is also the case that police agencies across the U.S. often face very similar types of problems that may respond to similar types of solutions. The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing has recognized this, creating more than 70 problem-specific guides for police that provide recommendations on how agencies can tackle a number of different problems.

 

Weisburd, Telep, Hinkle, and Eck (2008) provided some limited guidance on the types of problem-oriented policing interventions that seem to be most effective:

 

1. Hot spots policing interventions that use POP have shown particularly successful results. In such studies, it is difficult to disentangle whether problem solving or the focus on small geographic areas is driving the success, but the two strategies seem to work quite well in concert.

 

2. Problem-oriented policing appears most effective when police departments are on board and fully committed to the tenets of problem-oriented policing. In a problem-oriented policing project in Atlanta public housing, for example, the program suffered greatly because the police were not fully committed to problem-oriented policing.

 

3. Program expectations must be realistic. Officer case load must be kept to a manageable level and police should not be expected to tackle major problems in a short period of time. In the Minneapolis Repeat Call Address Policing study for example, officers were overwhelmed by dealing with more than 200 problem addresses in a 12-month period. Conversely,in the Jersey City POP at hot spots experiment, officers were given a more manageable 12 hot spot case load, and officers were more effective in implementing the response.

 

4. Based on limited evidence, collaboration with outside criminal justice agencies appears to be an effective approach in problem-oriented policing. The two probationer-police partnerships included in the review were particularly successful in reducing recidivism.

 

5. In terms of using the SARA model to guide POP, police agencies typically fail to conduct in-depth problem-analysis. Indeed they often engage in a form of “shallow problem solving” that involves only peripheral analysis of crime data and a largely law enforcement-oriented response. While we do not want to advocate shallow adherence to the SARA model, the evidence suggests that even shallow problem analysis is effective in reducing crime and disorder. This also suggests that if police were to more closely follow the SARA model and expand their repertoire of responses beyond traditional law enforcement they might enjoy even greater crime control benefits from problem-oriented policing. The assessment phase in SARA also tends to be a weak area for many police agencies, but one that is incredibly important to inform police practice. As Sherman (1998) notes, evidence-based policing involves not only police using strategies and tactics shown to be effective, but also agencies constantly evaluating their practices. The assessment phase of the SARA model provides a framework for agencies to consistently learn from and improve their problem solving projects.

 

Micro Place Studies from the Evidence-Based Policing Matrix
Not all micro place studies are POP studies. Problem-oriented policing studies represent 12 of the 36 micro place studies in the Matrix.

microplace-slabDownload a full list of studies included in the Evidence-Based Policing Matrix

Problem-Oriented Policing Studies from the Evidence-Based Policing Matrix:

Author
Intervention
Baker & Wolfer (2003) Problem-oriented policing project in a park reduces fear and perceptions of drug use and vandalism full-circle
M
MP
F
HP
Bichler et al. (2013) Problem-oriented policing in violent crime hot spots leads to reductions in violent and property crime, disorder and drug selling full-circle
M
MP
F
P
Braga et al. (1999) Problem-oriented policing in violent crime hot spots leads to reductions in violent and property crime, disorder and drug selling full-circle
VR
MP
F
HP
Braga & Bond (2008) Focus on hot spots of crime leads to reductions in crime and disorder calls for service full-circle
VR
MP
F
P
Braga et al. (2012) Safe Street Team problem-oriented policing project associated with a reduction in violent index crimes at treatment hot spots relative to comparison places full-circle
R
MP
F
HP
Hope (1994) Case studies of problem-oriented policing and drug-market locations. Forced closure or sale of property reduced drug dealing full-circle
M
MP
F
HP
Knoxville P.D. (2002) Police-probation collaborative program participants more likely to successfully complete probation full-circle
M
I
F
R
Mazerolle, Price et al. (2000) The use of civil remedies and third party policing associated with reduced drug crime, especially in residential locations full-circle
VR
MP
F
HP
Taylor et al. (2011)– POP Problem-oriented policing in hot spots associated with a 33% drop in “street violence” during the 90 days after the intervention full-circle
VR
MP
F
HP
Tuffin et al. (2006) POP program resulted in positive changes in crime, perceptions of antisocial behavior, and feelings of safety after dark. full-circle
M
N
G
HP
Weisburd & Green (1995) Crackdowns on drug hot spots reduced disorder; no effects on violence or property crime full-circle
VR
MP
F
HP
White & Katz (2013) Problem-oriented policing at convenience store locations led to a 40% decline in calls for service at target stores. full-circle
M
MP
F
P
White et al. (2003) Comprehensive homicide initiative of enforcement and nonenforcement problem-oriented strategies led to a decrease in homicides full-circle
M
J
F
P
Buerger (1994) Problem-oriented policing in high crime addresses leads difference in calls for service in commercial treatment vs. control addresses, but small decline in residential calls in treatment area empty
VR
MP
F
HP
Groff et al. (2014) -POP Problem-oriented policing did not lead to a reduction in violent crime, however likely due to weak implementation empty
VR
MP
F
HP

 

Result:  full-circle = successful intervention; grey-circle = mixed results; empty = nonsignificant finding; backfire = harmful intervention

Rigor: M = moderately rigorous; R = rigorous; VR = very rigorous

X-axis: I = individual; G = group; MP = micro place; N = neighborhood/community; J = jurisdiction

Y-axis: F = focused; G= general

Z-axis: R = reactive, P = proactive, HP = highly proactive

Seattle Police officer image courtesy of Flickr user Hollywata and used under a Creative Commons license.