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Community-Oriented Policing and Problem-Oriented Policing

Literature Review: A product of the Model Programs Guide
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In 1979, Hermon Goldstein observed from several studies conducted at the time on standard policing practices that law enforcement agencies seemed to be more concerned about the means rather than the goals of policing. He argued that law enforcement agencies should shift away from the traditional, standard model of policing and that police become more proactive, rather than reactive, in their approaches to crime and disorder (Hinkle et al., 2020; Weisburd et al., 2010). Goldstein’s work set the stage for the development of two new models of policing: community-oriented policing (COP) and problem-oriented policing (POP).

COP is a broad policing strategy that relies heavily on community involvement and partnerships, and on police presence in the community, to address local crime and disorder. POP provides law enforcement agencies with an analytic method to develop strategies to prevent and reduce crime and disorder, which involves problem identification, analysis, response, and assessment (National Research Council, 2018).

Although COP and POP differ in many ways, including the intensity of focus and diversity of approaches (National Research Council, 2004), there are several important similarities between them. For example, COP and POP both represent forms of proactive policing, meaning they focus on preventing crime before it happens rather than just reacting to it after it happens. Further, both COP and POP require cooperation among multiple agencies and partners, including community members (National Research Council, 2018). In addition, POP and COP overlap in that each involves the community in defining the problems and identifying interventions (Greene, 2000).

Although few studies focus on youth involvement in COP and POP, youths can play an important role in both strategies. In COP, youths often are part of the community with whom police work to identify and address problems. Youths can be formally involved in the process (i.e., engaging in local community meetings) or informally involved in efforts to strengthen the relationship between the police and members of the community. For example, a police officer on foot patrol may decide to engage with youths in the community through casual conversation, as part of a COP approach (Cowell and Kringen, 2016). Or police might encourage youth to participate in activities, such as police athletic leagues, which were designed to prevent and reduce the occurrence of juvenile crime and delinquency, while also seeking to improve police and youth attitudes toward each other (Rabois and Haaga, 2002). Using POP, law enforcement agencies may specifically focus on juvenile-related problems of crime and disorder. For example, the Operation Ceasefire intervention, implemented in Boston, MA, is a POP strategy that concentrated on reducing homicide victimization among young people in the city (Braga and Pierce, 2005).

This literature review discusses COP and POP in two separate sections. In each section, definitions of the approaches are provided, along with discussions on theory, examples of specific types of programs, overlaps with other policing strategies, and outcome evidence.

Specific research on how police and youth interact with each other in the community will not be discussed in this review but can be found in the Interactions Between Youth and Law Enforcement literature review on the Model Programs Guide.

Last Update: January 2023