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It’s tempting for busy police departments to try to implement an FDI “off the shelf”—that is, to merely replicate the approach taken by another police agency. This will likely prove to be a big mistake. Central to the logic of both problem-oriented policing and Smart Policing is that all policing problems have important local dimensions that must be understood in order to develop responses that work in that community for that particular problem. Understanding the general principles of focused deterrence and how other jurisdictions have adopted (and adapted) it is important but not sufficient.
Every community’s problems are distinctive in some respects, even if they are similar in most respects to those types of problems in other communities. Often the key to success is in discovering the distinctive features of the local problem that suggest specific interventions tailored to those features.10 Perhaps one community’s problem is less about highly organized adult gangs and more about loose confederations of youths with overlapping group loyalties. Or in one community, violence is confined to small geographic areas, whereas it is dispersed over large areas in another. Perhaps the cultural norms of crime groups vary by location, or the weapons or drugs of choice differ. Any of these and a number of other factors, once understood, could point an FDI in a somewhat different direction than others. Local analysis of a problem will inform decision-makers as to which way to turn.d
The following conditions can vary across jurisdictions in ways that will be important to the development and implementation of a local FDI:
Nearly all FDIs have been guided by careful data analysis for at least the following purposes:
The following illustrates the types of analyses that might be beneficial in an FDI:
Often overlooked is the need to collect and analyze data during FDI implementation. This ongoing assessment of what components are actually being implemented—both on the enforcement side and on the service-provision side—is vital to making mid-course corrections and to building a detailed record of implementation that will aid subsequent assessments of the initiative’s impact on the targeted problems.11
In most early FDIs, external researchers from local universities led or assisted in data analysis. Police analysts, if available, should likewise be involved. So, too, should the police detectives, patrol officers, gang- and drug-squad officers, prosecutors, and others who work directly with known offenders or who work the areas or cases associated with the problem, so that the data-driven aspects of an FDI can be validated with the experiences of police officers working on the problems on a day-to-day basis.12 Data analysts and line-level law enforcement officials bring different sets of knowledge and expertise to the analysis, both of which are critically important.
Keep in mind that FDIs are a still relatively new innovation and, as such, not all of the important issues concerning them have been thoroughly examined through careful research. Accordingly, some of the recommendations in this guide are based on a limited set of practitioner experiences rather than on firm research findings. There is much yet to be learned about FDIs through both practitioner experience and research.
d For further information, see Problem-Solving Tools Guide No. 11, Analyzing and Responding to Repeat Offending, by Nick Tilley. See the Rochester, NY, reports (Klofas, Delaney, and Smith, 2005) for excellent examples of local problem analyses.
e For further information, see Intelligence Analysis for Problem Solvers, by John E. Eck and Ronald V. Clarke, available at: http://www.popcenter.org/library/reading/pdfs/Intell-Analysis-for-ProbSolvers.pdf.
f For further information, see Problem-Solving Tools Guide No. 3, Using Offender Interviews to Inform Police Problem Solving, by Scott Decker.