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As community policing evolved, police departments across the United States altered their structures and operations to better fit the goals of the community-oriented approach.
These efforts seek to increase officer familiarity with specific community problems on their beats, foster order maintenance and problem management activities by officers, and enhance relationships between police and citizens.
From the operational perspective, police strategists now attempt to shift away from the reactive approach to crime control that dominated during most of the 20th century.
The arrival of the 20th century marshaled with it an increasing reliance on science and technology to rationally structure police operations.
To be sure, police abandoned beat foot patrols in favor of random motor patrols while emphasizing rapid response and retroactive investigations to deter and solve crimes. In subsequent years, police began to consult emerging theories on crime and delinquency to identify environmental and structural factors that revealed where crime was concentrated—sometimes referred to as “hot spots”—and through the analysis of statistics realize that crime was not evenly distributed over time (e.g., home burglaries are more likely during the day when residents are at work).
More innovative methods draw upon the resources of the community or other government agencies.
It is not unusual, for example, for police to partner with prosecutors to enhance civil penalties for violators or to work with environmental engineers and architects to “design out” opportunities for crime in public places.
Therefore, by controlling minor offenses, police may prevent occurrences of more serious crime.
Although responses to community problems often involve traditional police tactics such as arrests or citations at a specific location, simply making arrests or issuing citations may not resolve a recurring problem.
Their superior officers discouraged police from proactively handling minor community problems and providing other social services to the public.
Instead of an intimate relationship with citizens, officers received encouragement to remain professionally remote “crime fighters.” The popular 1950s television show Dragnet effectively depicted this image of the impartial law enforcement officer with Sergeant Joe Friday’s famous line, “Just the facts, ma’am.” This law enforcement strategy did much to enhance the image of police, develop better training and supervision of officers, and improve internal management and organizational concerns.