03 December 2020

Spotlight on the evidence: Updating problem-oriented policing on the Crime Reduction Toolkit

Problem-oriented policing (POP) is an approach to tackling crime that involves the identification of a specific problem, thorough analysis to understand the problem, the development of a tailored response and an assessment of the effects of the response.

Problem-oriented policing (POP) also known as problem-solving policing can be described in the context of the SARA model of problem solving. This model assumes that by identifying and understanding the root causes of a problem, the solution developed to tackle it will be more effective. The SARA model employs four stages:

  1. Scanning: the identifying and prioritising of potential crime and disorder problems
  2. Analysis: the analysis of potential problems, by gathering information and intelligence to identify underlying causes of the problem
  3. Response: the development and implementation of tailored activities to address the causes of the problem, as identified in the analysis phase   
  4. Assessment: the measurement of the impact of the response to test if it had the desired effect and to make changes to the response if required. 

Research has consistently shown that using a problem-orientated approach to policing (POP) can be an effective way of reducing crime and disorder. The latest research, based on a meta-analysis which combined data from 34 individual studies (mostly based in the US), found that POP led to a statistically significant effect on crime and disorder compared to control groups. The review reported a 33.8% reduction in crime and disorder when using an analysis approach recommended for place-based studies.

The review strengthens existing evidence that POP has a positive impact across different types of problems and crime types. It found no evidence of significant crime displacement as a result of POP (crime moving around the corner) and some evidence of a greater likelihood of a diffusion of crime control benefits (impact on crime reduction in close locations as well as target areas).

POP is an approach applied to develop targeted interventions, rather than an intervention per se. Therefore, a POP approach can be applied to any crime and disorder problem and is notan alternative to interventions on the Crime Reduction Toolkit, but a methodology to be used in conjunction with them.

For a POP intervention to have the greatest chance of success, the problem you want to solve must be well understood to ensure the intervention is tailored to the causes of that problem. The studies that had no effect, or a negative effect on crime, reported notable implementation problems. The review found that effective partnership working and sufficient available resources appeared to be important considerations when implementing a successful POP based approach. 

Additional resources are available on the implementation of problem orientated policing and tips for successful problem solving.



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