• Center for Problem oriented policing


Response Guides

Sort Web Guides: These web versions of the guides have links to additional resources and are designed to be read on-line.

About the Response Guides Series

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

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

The Response Guides summarize knowledge about whether police should use certain responses to address various crime and disorder problems, and about what effects they might expect. Each guide:

  • Describes the response
  • Discusses the various ways police might apply the response
  • Explains how the response is designed to reduce crime and disorder
  • Examines the research knowledge about the response
  • Addresses potential criticisms and negative consequences that might flow from use of the response
  • Describes how police have applied the response to specific crime and disorder problems, and with what effect

The Response Guides are intended to be used differently from the Problem-Specific Guides. Ideally, police should begin all strategic decision-making by first analyzing the specific crime and disorder problems they are confronting, and then using the analysis results to devise particular responses. But certain responses are so commonly considered and have such potential to help address a range of specific crime and disorder problems that it makes sense for police to learn more about what results they might expect from them.

Readers are cautioned that the Response Guides are designed to supplement problem analysis, not to replace it. Police should analyze all crime and disorder problems in their local context before implementing responses. Even if research knowledge suggests that a particular response has proved effective elsewhere, that does not mean the response will be effective everywhere. Local factors matter a lot in choosing which responses to use.

Research and practice have further demonstrated that, in most cases, the most effective overall approach to a problem is one that incorporates several different responses. So a single response guide is unlikely to provide you with sufficient information on which to base a coherent plan for addressing crime and disorder problems. Some combinations of responses work better than others. Thus, how effective a particular response is depends partly on what other responses police use to address the problem.

These guides emphasize effectiveness and fairness as the main considerations police should take into account in choosing responses, but recognize that they are not the only considerations. Police use particular responses for reasons other than, or in addition to, whether or not they will work, and whether or not they are deemed fair. Community attitudes and values, and the personalities of key decision-makers, sometimes mandate different approaches to addressing crime and disorder problems. Some communities and individuals prefer enforcement-oriented responses, whereas others prefer collaborative, community-oriented, or harm-reduction approaches. These guides will not necessarily alter those preferences, but are intended to better inform them.

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. 

For more information about problem-oriented policing, visit the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing online at www.popcenter.org. This website offers free online access to:

  • The Problem-Specific Guides series
  • The companion Response Guides and Problem-Solving Tools series
  • Special publications on crime analysis and on policing terrorism
  • Instructional information about problem-oriented policing and related topics
  • An interactive problem-oriented policing training exercise
  • An interactive Problem Analysis Module
  • Online access to important police research and practices
  • Information about problem-oriented policing conferences and award programs