• Center for Problem oriented policing

History of Problem-Oriented Policing

In the late 1970’s, researchers, police professionals, and policymakers became interested in improving the effectiveness of policing. Research during this period pointed out the limitations of random patrol, rapid response, and follow-up criminal investigations–practices that had been the foundation of policing for many years. These findings laid the groundwork for the emergence of problem-oriented policing. The research yielded important insights:

  • Police deal with a range of community problems, many of which are not strictly criminal in nature.
  • Arrest and prosecution alone–the traditional functions of the criminal justice system–do not always effectively resolve problems.
  • Giving the officers, who have great insight into community problems, the discretion to design solutions is extremely valuable to solving the problems.
  • Police can use a variety of methods to redress recurrent problems.
  • The community values police involvement in non-criminal problems and recognizes the contribution the police can make to solving these problems.

Early experiments in problem-oriented policing occurred in Madison, Wisconsin; London; and Baltimore County, Maryland in the early 1980’s. The first evaluation of an agency-wide implementation of problem-oriented policing took place in the Newport News, Virginia Police Department by the Police Executive Research Forum in the mid-1980’s. Since then, many police agencies in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Scandinavia, Australia, and New Zealand have continued to experiment with problem-oriented policing, to apply it to a wide range of crime and disorder problems, and to change their organizations to better support problem-oriented policing.

As problem-oriented policing has evolved over the last two decades, researchers and practitioners have focused on the evaluation of problems, the importance of solid analysis, the development of pragmatic responses, and the need to strategically engage other resources–including community members, city departments and government agencies, and local business and service organizations.