Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Problem-Solving Tool Guides 

Sort Web Guides:  These web versions of the guides have links to additional resources and are designed to be read on-line. 
Sort PDF Guides:  These are print versions of the guides for easy download and printing.
Sort EBOOK Guides:  These guides are formatted for E-book readers (e.g., Kindle, Nook)

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 Guides and 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

The Problem-Solving Tools summarize knowledge about information gathering and analysis techniques that might assist police at any of the four main stages of a problem-oriented
project: scanning, analysis, response, and assessment. Each guide:

  • Describes the kind of information produced by each technique
  • Discusses how the information could be useful in problem-solving
  • Gives examples of previous uses of the technique
  • Provides practical guidance about adapting the technique to specific problems
  • Provides templates of data collection instruments (where appropriate)
  • Suggests how to analyze data gathered by using the technique
  • Shows how to interpret the information correctly and present it effectively
  • Warns about any ethical problems in using the technique
  • Discusses the limitations of the technique when used by police in a problem-oriented project
  • Provides reference sources of more detailed information about the technique
  • Indicates when police should seek expert help in using the technique

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. 

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