Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Identifying and Defining Policing Problems

Tool Guide No. 13 (2015)

by Michael S. Scott

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Introduction                                        previous page next page

This Problem-Solving Tools guidebook deals with the process of identifying and defining policing problems. Under the most widely adopted police problem-solving model—the SARA (Scanning, Analysis, Response, Assessment) model—the process of identifying and defining policing problems is referred to as the Scanning phase. The Scanning phase is distinct from the Analysis phase, which principally is about explaining the problem’s causes and contributing factors; the Response phase, which is about developing, selecting, and implementing new responses to the problem; and the Assessment phase, which principally is about measuring the impact that new responses had on the problem. 

The advice provided in this guidebook is based primarily upon theory and practice: there is no evaluative research into what methods most accurately and efficiently identify and define policing problems.

Figure 1. The SARA model of problem solving

Related Problem-Solving Tools Guides

This guidebook complements others in the Problem-Solving Tools series. The following other Problem-Solving Tools guidebooks address various aspects of these other three phases.*

* Some guidebooks address aspects of more than one phase of the problem-solving model.

Analysis Phase

Response Phase

Assessment Phase

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