Purpose and Effectiveness of Police Patrol

Topics: Police, Crime, Law enforcement Pages: 6 (1750 words) Published: December 1, 2011
The Purpose and Effectiveness of Police Patrols
To begin studying this topic I’d like to provide a brief definition of a patrol officer. In law enforcement, patrol officers are uniformed police officers assigned to patrol specified geographic areas. They are the officers most commonly encountered by the public. Their duties include responding to calls for service, making arrests, resolving disputes, taking crime reports, and conducting traffic enforcement, and other crime prevention measures. The patrol officer is the first on the scene to arrive. What they do or fail to do at the scene can greatly influence the outcome of an investigation. The patrol officer, as the person daily in the field, is closest to potential crime and oftentimes has probably developed contacts that can provide information that may assist in solving the crime. The general purpose of police patrols whether on foot, bicycle, horseback or motor vehicle is to have a visible presence in the community, maintain public order and a sense of security in the community, build relationships with citizens and business owners, and deter crime especially in trouble spots.

The basic activities of these patrols are divided into four different categories.

Preventive Patrol – By maintaining a presence in a community patrol officers prevent crime from occurring. This usually accounts for about 40% of the officer’s time. Calls For Service – This is when officers are responding to 911 calls for emergency service, or other citizen problems and complaints. This accounts for approx. 25% of the officer’s time

Administrative Duties – This is the general paperwork of the job, and takes up about 20% of the officer’s time Officer initiated activities – These are incidents in which the patrol officer initiates contact with citizens such as making traffic stops, checking on something suspicious, questioning citizens etc. This usually accounts for about 15% of patrol time.

These percentages are national averages and may vary widely among police departments.

The question is how effective are these police patrols? Well it seems to all depend on what report you read. While researching this topic I found many departmental reports that would suggest that their efforts helped reduce crime substantially in targeted areas while other reports suggest that police patrols are not fully effective in controlling criminal victimizations, and that police patrols do not reduce the actual amount of crimes that occur.

Some of the police department studies I read had patrol officers focusing on just one crime, such as guns, drug, speeders, impaired drivers, etc. The results of these reports were generally favorable and showed a reduction, sometimes substantial, in one particular area.

An example of this was with the Kansas City Police Department. A study was conducted to examine the effectiveness of the Kansas City PD Gun Experiment, in which additional police patrols focused on gun detection. Between July 1992 and January 1993, police

patrols were increased in gun-crime "hot spots," and police officers assigned to the target area concentrated exclusively on gun detection through proactive directed patrol. Data for the same period was gathered for a comparison area in which no changes were made in the number or duties of patrol officers. In the target region, police seized 65 percent more guns from July through December 1992 than in the first six months of 1992. In contrast, gun seizures by police in the comparison area declined slightly in the second half of 1992. In the target area, gun crimes decreased significantly in the latter part of the year, whereas they increased slightly in the comparison area.

These findings indicate that a police department can implement a program through increased police patrols to boost seizures of illegally carried guns in high gun-crime areas. Other police departments reported success with similar programs, and the reports were...


References: Gaines, Larry K. & Miller, Roger LeRoy, “Criminal Justice In Action The Core” Fourth Edition, Wadsworth 2008
Police Quarterly Vol. 6 No 4, December 2003, Policing Tactics and Perceptions of Police Legitimacy Sage Publications 2003
Wells, L. Edward, & David N. Falcone. Developing a Comprehensive Empirical Model of Policing in the United States, 1996-1999 [Computer file]. ICPSR04338-v1. Normal, IL: Illinois State University [producer], 2005. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2006-09-06.
Travis, Lawrence F. III, & Beth A. Sanders. EFFECTS OF COMMUNITY POLICING ON TASKS OF STREET-LEVEL POLICE OFFICERS IN OHIO, 1981 AND 1996 [Computer file]. ICPSR version. Cincinnati, OH: University of Cincinnati [producer], 1997. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 1999.
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Brownfeld, Allan C. "A Strong Police Presence Prevents Crime." Opposing Viewpoints: Crime and Criminals. Ed. Tamara L. Roleff. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2000. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. University of MD University College. 20 Apr. 2008
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, v64 p4-5 May, 1995, The Kansas City Gun Experiment
Retrieved April 20, 2008
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