The goal of the Crime Prevention Program is to connect the department with other community clubs, committees, and the citizens to improve the prevention of crime in our community. Simply refer to the Chester Police Department Mission Statement, adopted in October 2008.
“The mission of the Chester Police Department is to work in cooperative partnership with the community to reduce crime and enhance the quality of life for all the citizens”.
As we've said, the primary goal is to provide a crime prevention program that brings the entire community together to help the police fight crimes. The success depends primarily on improving the line of communication between the police and the public. Another priority is to educate the public. To explain that successful crime prevention cannot be accomplished by the police alone. Educating the public on the importance of taking ownership in crime prevention is vital.
Research / History:
In researching these types of programs, I learned very quickly that the concept is not entirely new. I found a number of examples of "what works" and "what doesn't work". For example, both New York and Chicago are credited with spearheading two very successful and very different programs. The success of these programs and the differing philosophies in the application gave other communities a way of choosing or considering what type of direction a given community might want to go, depending on the community’s needs and priorities. The programs soon funneled down to the smaller communities and have had lasting positive results.
The approach or philosophy I’ve chosen to operate under is that of the Chicago philosophy. I feel it has more of a positive approach and connects to small town priorities. This program is entitled the “Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy”, also known as CAPS. This program began as an experiment in five police districts and based upon its initial success was expanded citywide. The program is based on the philosophy that police alone cannot, and should not, be responsible for addressing the wide-ranging factors contributing to problems of crime and social disorder. Rather, this program promotes the community working together as partners with police. Overall, the research revealed that this cooperation could significantly impact crime and improve the “quality of life” in their respective neighborhoods. The CAPS program is very similar to that of our crime prevention program.
Introducing the Crime Prevention Project:
As I mentioned earlier, the goal of this project is not unlike that of the mission of the police department. In fact you could say that the core of the Crime Prevention Program and the mission of the Chester Police Department are one in the same. This project simply takes our mission and aids the department in identifying its own weaknesses, allowing the department to convert them into strengths.
Simply put, the Crime Prevention Program will put greater influence on the crimes committed against our own citizens and property, and less influence on our generic, wide-range patrol. In addition, the program promotes thinking outside of the box with regard to patrol and to improve the line of communication with business owners and the citizens. Tactically, the program will incorporate foot patrol as a regular form of our officers' patrol duties. This allows us to vary the patrol times and locations, eliminating patterns. As a result we establish no predictability, which is the cornerstone of successful police patrol. Schedules regarding the implementation of foot patrol will be left to our own operations and not for public dissemination, only to say that the program begins on April 1st for example. In short, the details of the program (scheduling and application) will be kept confidential for tactical reasons. A police officer’s success or goals will be based on a dual objective, (1) to be visible to the public, and (2) to catch criminals.
The remainder of the program will operate under the common goal to build relationships and create a better line of communication between the business community and the police department. I plan to start by educating businesses and other concerned parties about public safety issues and crime prevention techniques. The face-to-face contact between the business owners or other concerned citizens and the police officers will encourage merchants and residents to report crimes. I feel this direct contact will also encourage the officers to take more ownership in the prevention, apprehension, and prosecution of these crimes.
There are many options to consider when attempting to build on communication and a good working relationship with the police/public. I plan to educate not only the officers, but also the public on the “broken windows theory”. This theory suggests that community disorganization, left unchecked, leads to the decay of the neighborhood and sends a signal that nobody cares. Consequently, new opportunities for crime emerge, attracting more criminals and further social disorganization (abandoned buildings, graffiti, etc.) rather than more business or residents. At this point you can probably see the commonality between this program and the mission of several other community groups or organizations, like the Beautification Committee or the Chamber of Commerce “River City Main Street Project” for example.
Referring back to my research I found there were significant differences in the approach in tackling the same problem. For example, even though both New York and Chicago embrace the broken windows’ theory of crime, their strategic response is operationally very different. A professor with Northwestern University made this very important observation: “An important feature of Chicago’s approach to solving (crime) problems is that it does not just involve arresting people. Unlike New York’s “zero tolerance” approach to addressing community problems by making tens of thousands of arrests for minor offenses, Chicago’s solution for broken windows is to fix the windows“. This strategy enlists both the community and the police in identifying and correcting neighborhood problems that allow crime to occur and recur. “Fixing the windows” is the philosophy I’d like to instill in our program and is where we inject the participation and backing from a group like the Chamber of Commerce, or the Beautification Committee, and the community as a whole.
Ryan Coffey, Chief of Police
Chester Police Department