Criminal gangs have caused alarm amongst the people for many years. This has always made the public to live in fear of crime in business as well as in the neighborhoods of residential areas. In order for the police forces to contain the problem of criminal gangs, there was need to establish a strong relationship with the community, who usually possess vital information regarding criminals who live in their midst. This was important because it would take longer for them to differentiate between members of the gangs and the public. The public usually assists in collection of information thereby upholding the intelligence of the police. It assists the police in tracing the social foundation of the criminal gangs, which is important in setting up strategies for termination of their activities.
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Community Policing in America was introduced with the aim of promoting and maintaining peace in the society through a community based approach whereby the community is given the mandate to find a solution to transgression and general social disorders that occur amongst its members. This is achieved through establishing partnerships between the community and the police. It was also aimed at enhancing service delivery by the police to the community. It involves consultations within the community in local meetings whereby police acquire information from the community that is essential in prioritization of policing activities. It is a practice that that is assumed to remove the barriers that separate the public from the police and bringing convergence in their activities for a common interest (Wilson 2006 p 242). The practice has had many effects on the community in general as well as on the operations of the police. This essay is a critical evaluation of the current effects of modern community policing on gangs in America. It mainly concentrates on current community policing geared efforts to combat criminal gangs.
Effects of Community Policing and Gangs
Community policing is a practice that has promoted partnership between the law enforcement officers, local government and the public in setting strategies to combat crime in America. It has been successful in ensuring that crime within the communities is contained, as well as reduction of fear among the people, mainly because they feel protected due to the fact that they are close to the security personnel (Katz and Webb 2006 p 96). It has helped in the improvement of the quality of life amongst the Americans since people no longer live in fear. However, the practice is still new in the security system and therefore some aspects that may influence its success still need to be researched on in order to improve service delivery.
It is a practice that has led to a change in the police organization whereby policies regarding security of the public was traditionally the task of the police, to a modern approach where the official procedure has been replaced by interactions with the community in order to set up the most appropriate policies and strategies for enhancement of community safety with their contribution. The chain of command in the police service has changed to integrate other actors in the public and the private sector for the purpose of public safety (Glensor et al 2000 p 78).
The practice has enhanced the devolution of security apparatus from the headquarters to the local level.
Crime is currently being dealt with locally by people who understand the ways of the criminals due to the fact that they live in their midst. Several smaller stations have been established in order to facilitate communication between the police and community members (Wilson 2006 p 243). This interaction has been enhanced by the fact that police move to the local level in their regular patrols and speak to members of the public who usually possess vital information in regard to the crimes that occur in the residential areas. The safety of communities has been enhanced through incorporation in to community policing of the zero tolerance approach in regard to trivial crimes and any kind of mayhem, which is important in maintaining feelings of safety within the communities.
There are a number of supporters of community policing who have been witnesses in proving that the practice has been successful in combating criminal activities in the communities. These include police heads and mayors. They present it as one of the successful approaches that has led to a decline of crime rate in America. According to (Katz and Webb 2006 p 106), the witnesses point out that the major crime that has been contained through community policing is illegal trading in drugs. Initially, the illegal drugs business was thriving as well as criminal gangs, especially as Peak (2007 p 35) observes, in New Yolk City. It has significantly reduced the level of crime and the use of illegal drugs.
Community policing has led to an increase in the number of arrests in America per year since its establishment. Most of those arrested are mainly the minor offenders, a fact that is understood to be a major step towards prevention of major crimes that may adversely affect peace in the community. The decline in the number of violent crimes is associated with community policing. In the late 1990s, community policing assisted in the discovery of more than 40,000 criminals believed to be in possession of dangerous weapons such as guns. This was accomplished by the NYPD through the leadership of mayor Giuliani who served in New Yolk City (1996-2001). Currently, fewer cases of killings and shooting are being reported in New Yolk City and other major cities where community policing is being practiced (Wilson 2006).
The practice has promoted the capacity of members of the public to stand firm against crime and mayhem in the society. They are empowered to maintain safety in their residential areas. On the other hand, it has enhanced the link between the police and the communities, a significant factor that lacks in many modern societies. Priorities are set with the participation of community members and therefore their interests are effectively represented. People have the privilege to get a share of the power that the police command hence they feel part of the security apparatus (Glensor et al 2000 p 92). Community policing has also led to the general reforms that have seen the improvement of service delivery by the police through establishing a connection between their roles and some of the municipal ones.
Officers in the police service have been presented with more roles to play since the establishment of community policing. They have to make regular patrols in the community and interact with the community in order to gather information regarding criminal activities. According to (Katz and Webb 2006 p 111), the new system of policing has been successful in generating commitment and empowerment amongst police officers who have a greater role to play than before the community policing approach. The administration of justice is more localized and crime has declined.
Community policing has made it possible for the police to set their objectives with the community in mind since there is regular interaction and exchange of ideas in regard to security issues. This has led to the improvement in the quality of life due to the fact that people do not live in fear of criminal gangs. On the other hand, the police are able to offer better services to the people while on the other hand the community has a role to play in overseeing and evaluating the performance of the police (Lab and Das 2002 p 91). In such a case, the police are capable of assisting the communities in solving their own problems.
Before the establishment of community policing, the police were meant to focus on implementation of their duties without much focus on external factors such as those that arise from the opinion of the public, legislative agencies as well as individual citizens. Currently, the police service integrates all these outside factors. Community policing has also led to a shift in the police objective of containing crime to one that is focused on decreasing the fear of crime in the community. More over, it has resulted in the focus of the police turning to the enhancement of relationships in the society and minimization of disorder in the community (Rahtz 2001 p 56). The improvement of the quality of life is attributed to this new turn of police operations.
The practice has also increased police assignments of enhancement of the well being of the community in residential areas as well as in businesses. This has made it necessary for the police to acquire interpersonal skills in order for them to interact and communicate effectively with community members. It has compelled the police to integrate a diversity of tools for implementation of the activities of community policing, which according to (Fenwick 2002 p 51), makes them go further than what is provided by the criminal law”. The scope of the police and the public has been broadened in matters regarding their interventions in criminal activities, which Fenwick further observes is “due to the use of public and administrative law” (p 52).
Community policing has resulted in the tendency for land lords to monitor their tenants and to ensure that those conducting suspicious activities in their premises such as drug dealers are reported to the police. Businessmen dealing with the members of the public such as bar and hotel owners are also required to monitor customers who may be conducting illegal business within such establishments. This has considerably widened the extent to which police can reach the public, and also strengthening their tactics for unearthing criminal gangs in America. In addition, the police have been made to get involved in a variety of activities in the society which help in reducing the problems that the community faces (Peak 2007 p 36).
The integration of activities geared towards improvement of the community’s well being and mobilization through community policing are significant in establishing connections with other social service organizations, which enhances the safety of communities. The practice has led to a reduction of police bureaucracy, as well as making their operations more diverse and decentralized, which is an improvement from the highly specialized and largely hierarchical police service. This has made it possible for the police to deliver services to the communities more effectively. The public has been presented with an opportunity to inform the police on matters concerning their safety, a chance that many desire. The fact that community policing has led to the presence of police officers in the public, whereby some walk around on foot has raised the confidence of the public in regard to their security (Fenwick 2002 p 71). It has helped in the alleviation of the fear of crime.
Community policing largely affects the organization of the police service. This effect is usually manifested in issues regarding police departments. The techniques that are used by the police in order to maintain a balance between the resources input and the output of police activities facilitated by these resources are largely affected by this practice. It has led to a change in the manner through which police conduct their evaluation in regard to the desirable interventions and measurement of out put in matters regarding dealing with crime. It has made police to re-define their strategies in fighting criminal gangs in the community. The manner in which the police department has laid out its working framework has also been affected by community policing. Division of labor has been extended to the community level in order to integrate community based initiatives (Katz and Webb 2006 p 116).
The department’s organizational culture has been affected, which according to Peak (2007) has led to “a change in organizational values, attitudes, signs and perceptions that form the basis of the organization” (p 47). The human resource practices in the police service have also changed in regard to staff selection, instruction, compensation and social interactions in regard to community policing goals. This effect has come as a result of encouraging the police department to embrace certain principles and objectives that lead to actions that facilitate partnership between them and the community in order to enhance crime prevention and police involvement which is logical and considerate. The cordial relationship that has resulted between the police and the community has been significant in elimination of police brutality towards the community members, who on the other hand usually feel free to interact and socialize with the police, thereby creating an enabling environment for the fight against criminal gangs.
Even if community policing has been successful in preventing crimes to a certain extent, there are some major failures that have led to a negative effect on the security apparatus. The practice is usually different in various states, and therefore there lacks guidelines that can apply to all the states that engage in it. Many detractors are of the view that it leads to the reluctance of the police assuming that community policing carries the bulk of their activities of law enforcement (Wilson 2006 p 243). This is mainly because it lacks clear structures that can form the basis of a clear definition of the role of community policing and the extent to which the practice can be carried out.
The practice has led to a change in the allocation of resources meant for security purposes. Most of the time the police are usually busy responding to public calls thereby leaving insufficient resources and time for their own duties. This leaves most of the problems unattended to in the public since community policing alone can not handle all of them as the police are the ones who are professionally trained to deal with advanced criminal activities. This is one major negative effect despite the practice leading to a reduction of petty offenders (Rahtz 2001 p 66). The practice usually fails due to the fact that the organization of the police is generally complex and community policing has not effectively been integrated in the system.
The major drawbacks in the effectiveness of community policing arise when police are unable to determine precisely what the needs of the communities are. On the other hand, the accountability of police concerning crime is disregarded as the community is assumed to take care of its own security, and the police only act as facilitators of the process. This leads to the police not exercising their work effectively or viewed in a different angle, they may be submitting their duties to the public (Fenwick 2002 p 66).
Community policing is a practice that enhanced cooperation between the public and the police in dealing with criminal gangs in America. It has notable positive effects in the reduction of criminal activities in the community, especially the petty crimes. This is a significant step towards achieving the elimination of the hardcore criminals in the society. However, it has had some adverse effects on the police, especially the organizational operations. In some cases, it is thought to have made the police to delegate much of their roles to the people, leaving them unaccountable for public safety. The allocation of resources has also been affected, mainly getting focused on promoting community policing as well as leading the police to give so much emphasis to public calls at the expense of their other duties. All in all it can be concluded that the positive effects of community policing are more than the negative impacts.
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Glensor R., Correia M., and Peak K. (2000). Policing Communities: Understanding Crime and Solving Problems, Roxbury Publishing Company.
Katz C. M. and Webb V. J. (2006). Policing gangs in America, Cambridge University Press.
Lab P. S. and Das K. D. (2002). International Perspectives on Community Policing and Crime Prevention, Prentice Hall.
Peak J. K. (2007). Community Policing and Problem Solving: Strategies and Practices, Prentice Hall.
Rahtz H. (2001). Community Policing: A Handbook for Beat Cops and Supervisors, Criminal Justice Press.
Wilson J. M. (2006). Community Policing in America, Routledge