Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Assessing Responses to Problems: Did It Work?

An Introduction for Police Problem-Solvers, 2nd Edition

Tool Guide No. 1 (2017)

by John E. Eck

About This Guide

About Problem-solving Tools

About the Smart Policing Initiative Problem-Oriented Guides for Police

In 2013, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) funded CNA to work with the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing to develop a series of Smart Policing Initiative (SPI) Problem-Oriented Guides for Police. The purpose of these guides is to provide the law enforcement community with useful guidance, knowledge, and best practices related to key problem-oriented policing and Smart Policing principles and practices. These guides add to the existing collection of Problem-Oriented Guides for Police.

SPI is a BJA-sponsored initiative that supports law enforcement agencies in building evidence-based and data-driven law enforcement tactics and strategies that are effective, efficient, and economical. Smart Policing represents a strategic approach that brings more “science” into police operations by leveraging innovative applications of analysis, technology, and evidence-based practices. The goal of SPI is to improve policing performance and effectiveness while containing costs, an important consideration in today’s fiscal environment.

The SPI is a collaborative effort between BJA, CNA (the SPI training and technical assistance provider), and local law enforcement agencies that are testing innovative and evidence-based solutions to serious crime problems.

For more information about the Smart Policing Initiative, visit

About the Problem-Solving Tools Series

The Problem-Solving Tools are one of three series of the Problem-Oriented Guides for Police. The other two are the Problem-Specific Guidesand Response Guides.

The Problem-Oriented Guides for Police summarize knowledge about how police can reduce the harm caused by specific crime and disorder problems. They are guides to preventing problems and improving overall incident response, not to investigating offenses or handling specific incidents. Neither do they cover all of the technical details about how to implement specific responses. The guides are written for police—of whatever rank or assignment—who must address the specific problems the guides cover. The guides will be most useful to officers who:

  • Understand basic problem-oriented policing principles and methods
  • Can look at problems in depth
  • Are willing to consider new ways of doing police business
  • Understand the value and the limits of research knowledge
  • Are willing to work with other community agencies to find effective solutions to problems

Extensive technical and scientific literature covers each technique addressed in the Problem-Solving Tools. The guides aim to provide only enough information about each technique to enable police and others to use it in the course of problem-solving. In most cases, the information gathered during a problem-solving project does not have to withstand rigorous scientific scrutiny. Where police need greater confidence in the data, they might need expert help in using the technique. This can often be found in local university departments of sociology, psychology, and criminal justice.

The information needs for any single project can be quite diverse, and it will often be necessary to use a variety of data collection techniques to meet those needs. Similarly, a variety of different analytic techniques may be needed to analyze the data. Police and crime analysts may be unfamiliar with some of the techniques, but the effort invested in learning to use them can make all the difference to the success of a project.

These guides have drawn on research findings and police practices in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia. Even though laws, customs and police practices vary from country to country, it is apparent that the police everywhere experience common problems. In a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected, it is important that police be aware of research and successful practices beyond the borders of their own countries.

Each guide is informed by a thorough review of the research literature and reported police practice, and each guide is anonymously peer-reviewed by a line police officer, a police executive and a researcher prior to publication. CNA, which solicits the reviews, independently manages the process.

For more information about problem-oriented policing, visit other topics on the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing website. The website offers free online access to:

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