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Advantages and disadvantages of community policing

Updated July 20, 2017

More commonly known as walking the beat, community police constables patrol neighbourhoods on foot. Community policing allows PCs to become acquainted with their assigned neighbourhoods and the individuals who reside and work there. The difference between patrol officers and the bobby on the beat is the level of involvement within a community. Patrol officers drive through and scan for criminal activity. Community PCs are personally involved with citizens who comprise a specific community.

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Direct contact

PCs dedicated to a specific community have the opportunity to come into direct contact with residents and business owners repeatedly. Trust in law enforcement develops as designated police constables form relationships with community members. Public support for law enforcement increases in communities that have designated community police constables. Programs such as Neighborhood Watch aid community policing by joining citizens and law enforcement in the common interest to fight crime. Police are more effective in fighting and preventing crime with information provided by citizens.


Direct community involvement provides PCs with intimate knowledge in order to be able to identify and analyse crime patterns. Community policing utilises problem solving techniques to respond and correct potential weaknesses rather than responding to a crime after the crime takes places. The emphasis shifts from fighting crime to crime prevention. Crime prevention creates safer communities.

Accurately defining a community's borders is essential for successful community policing. Traditional models of police districts and jurisdiction may not accurately reflect the community as a whole. Persons impacted by crime in a community may not reside within the police district that is providing community policing. Long-term crime prevention relies on police involvement in all aspects within of a community, regardless of jurisdictional boundaries.

Contentious relationships

Citizens who have had negative encounters with law enforcement are not likely to assist them. Community police constables must also confront negative public opinions regarding law enforcement's relationship with the judicial system. Officers report citizens lack faith in the judicial system due to public perceptions of lenient sentencing. A lenient judicial system perpetuates criminal activity by not holding criminals accountable for crimes, some PCs state. Criminals exploit lenient sentencing by continuing to commit criminal acts and challenging police constables' authority, according to some PCs.

Inhibited citizen involvement

Effective community policing requires citizen involvement. There are two main reasons why citizens won't get involved in crime prevention: fear of reprisal and apathy. Some citizens won't get involved unless it affects them personally. Fear also prevents some citizens from collaborating with law enforcement. Citizens prefer to keep to themselves and will avoid filing a complaint in order to remain invisible within the community. Citizens who do not have faith in the judicial system are also less likely to become involved.

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About the Author

Jodi Strehlow has been a freelance writer since 1992 and has experience writing employee how-to handbooks. Jodi earned an Associate of Arts in social and behavioral sciences from Merritt College and a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from San Francisco State University.

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