In the 21st century Americans are becoming more aware that traditional means of policing the streets and communities of cities are no longer effective. It is hard to ignore the increasing crime rate. There is marked concern for youth crimes wherein juveniles are involved in petty crimes as well as offenses that are more serious that it will require them to spend time in juvenile correctional facilities. This is a very important issue because it can be argued that juvenile correctional facilities can do more harm than good. Placing youth offenders behind bars may not be the best solution at this point in their lives.
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Combining the need for more police involvement as well as the need for alternative dispute resolution methods reveal that community policing is an attractive option. This paper will reveal that community policing offers adaptation, mobility, diversity and locality of decision-making (Brogden & Nijhar, p. 42).These are qualities seriously lacking in traditional methods of policing the neighborhood and may explain why many cities are not able to reduce the high crime rate as well as offer alternative solutions that can help mitigate the impact of youth crime.
Traditional Forms of Policing
The local police department is an institution that is government regulated. This is tantamount to saying that traditional form of policing is slow to react and many times irrelevant because police officers do not have the slightest clue with regards to the people that they are supposed to serve. The traditional form of policing that is popular in America is impersonal. There is no connection to the people that they are trying to protect.
In this regard police officers are prone to abuse and misconduct and worse they can easily become uninterested in their job (Pastor, p. 166). Traditional forms of policing are also heavily burdened by a job requirement that is increasingly becoming more wearisome everyday due to radical changes brought about by changes in technology, rapid urbanization of the American landscape, increase in the number of immigrants both legal and illegal, as well as the constant threat of terrorism. They have so many things to do and yet unable to complete each task in a very efficient manner.
The inadequacies of the local police department are highlighted when it comes to dealing with youth crime (Fiadjoe, p. 118). In many cases the police officer will make unnecessary arrests and will be forced to use physical force when what is needed is an alternative means to resolve disputes and to create a more positive image for police officers so that youth offenders may come to see them as friends and not their enemies. If the teenagers in the community can find it easy to approach a police officer then it can create a chain-reaction of events that will lead to a more peaceful community. The goal then is to make law enforcement accessible to the members of the community, especially in neighborhoods wherein one can see a melting pot of nationalities and culture. It is time to consider the benefits of community policing.
Community policing is characterized by the following attributes (Brogden & Nijhar, p. 24):
- The neighborhood or the community is the primary focus of police work;
- The realization that each particular community has its distinct policing problems that traditional law enforcement cannot resolve;
- It is community consensus and structures that will guide police response to crimes committed in the community; and
- Police discretion is used to create a positive impact such as maximize community confidence in police officers.
Without a doubt community policing is the better alternative. But there are problems that the local community must resolve first before they can begin to enjoy this new form of policing their community. The major concern is resources such as the manpower, facilities and equipment that will be needed by those who will police the neighborhood.
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The quick reply to this problem is to develop a special branch of the city’s police department that will be trained to behave like a community police force and having the attributes of flexibility, mobility, and a more community-oriented approach to apprehending criminals as well as the use of alternative dispute resolution. If this is the case then a whole new group of police officers will have to undergo special training and must be immersed in a new culture. This is a good way of creating an instant community police initiative but the cost can be prohibitive for the government (Pastor, p. 11). There has to be another way.
The second solution is to outsource, meaning to hire a private security firm to handle the security problems of a particular community. Again, this can be a good way to deal with the problem. But it will not take long to realize that in this kind of arrangement only those who are wealthy can afford to pay a private security firm. The best solution is something that can take the best of what the local police department can offer and then fuse it with what the community can contribute (Pastor, p. 13). In this manner the police department will still have a part in patrolling the local community but at the same time the members of the said community can help participate in crime prevention as well as in dispute resolution.
A good example of a community policing initiative can be found in the city of Monterey, California. The local police department embraced the principles of community policing. The result is a low crime rate and surveys also indicated that the public were satisfied with their efforts. Monterey’s police department was able to achieve this by using an innovative approach that was designed to facilitate direct personal communication between officers and the community members that they serve (Monterey Police Department, par. 2). They divided the city into 20 Community Policing Area (“CPA”) and each CPA has one to two officers assigned to the area along with a civilian support person (Monterey Police Department, par. 3). The civilian is employed by the local government creating a sense of permanence and continuity.
Youth crime is difficult to solve using traditional forms of policing. Community policing is a better alternative especially when it comes to the sensitive nature of juvenile crime. There are times when what is needed are police officers who can help provide an alternative solution to conflict and not just simply arrest every teenager that they feel is linked to the crime. Community policing will also help in improving the image of law enforcement agents and can help youth offenders to appreciate the law and instead of rebelling against the system they may be encouraged to conform if they will see that police officers are not there to arrest them but to help.
Brogden, M. & P. Nijhar. (2005). Community Policing and International Models and Approaches. Oregon: Willan Publishing.
Fiadjoe, Albert. (2004). Alternative Dispute Resolution: A Developing World Perspective. Oregon: Cavendish Publishing.
Monterey Police Department. Monterey Community Policing Initiative. City of Monterey, California. Web.
Pastor, James. (2002). The Privatization of Police in America: An Analysis and Case Study. North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc.