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Law enforcement agencies hoping to ramp up their crime prevention efforts must turn to the communities they serve along the way. As organizations work to improve community relations to support crime prevention, they must carefully consider their training, policy and document management capabilities. The right strategies in these areas can simplify community engagement and crime prevention by giving your officers the tools they need to create, manage and distribute relevant content. Two recent initiatives highlight this requirement, as each measure emphasizes the connection between law enforcement and the community in preventing crime.

New Jersey police department going public in crime prevention

According to a recent report from the Cedar Grove/Verona Observers, the Cedar Grove Police Department in New Jersey recently released materials advising the public on how they can play a role in crime prevention. The release featured fairly straightforward advice, like asking people to keep a lookout for strangers driving around the block repeatedly, walking around looking into parked cars or trying to gain entry into a home. All of these suspicious behaviors can be explained away, but police are urging residents to report such incidents because they can be clear indications of potential lawbreaking. However, all of these bits of advice offer somewhat limited benefits unless people are willing to respond, and that is one reason why police wanted to reach out.

The news source explained that the recent urge to get people on the lookout stem from two key issues – that reduced daylight hours means criminals have more time to move under the cover of darkness and that community members have been reticent to report suspicious activity. This represents a key problem, as residents who are afraid of being labeled as nosy or of creating problems for their neighbors will be largely unable to contribute to crime prevention efforts.

Citizens can play a vital role in crime prevention.Citizens can play a vital role in crime prevention.

This is an area where effective training is key. If you can train your officers to protect the anonymity of those who call cases in and interact with the community in discrete ways, you can create a culture where people do not feel as afraid of contacting the police. This requires careful judgment, as it isn’t just about protecting the name of a caller, but also being able to address the suspicious situation on site in such a way that nobody who is behaving appropriately ends up feeling embarrassed. Training videos and similar tools, all of which can be easily housed in a Web-based document management system, can make it easier to train users in these nuanced community interactions.

Private task force in New Orleans creates policy management challenges

The Huffington Post recently reported that the French Quarter Task Force – a privately funded citizen group that works to monitor potential criminal activity in New Orleans’ French Quarter – received funding from the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau for the next five years. The group began when a wealthy individual repeatedly called out city government for being unable to clean up the streets and, when the government responded with a message along the lines of “put your money where your mouth is,” the individual followed up by funding a private task force. Thus far, the group has been successful enough at preventing crime to get some public funding from the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Getting the community involved in crime prevention is rarely easy, but it does present law enforcement agencies with an opportunity to get more eyes out on the streets. Being able to easily create policy and training materials to help your officers interact with citizenry can make it much easier to establish a strong framework for crime prevention.This private group emphasizes the many policy issues that can come up when establishing crime prevention plans. What degree of public intervention should be encouraged? To what degree should private citizens be allowed to react to crime even if it isn’t encouraged? How will officers on the streets interact with groups like the French Quarter Task Force that clearly have a degree of acceptance, but are not afforded the same rights as law enforcement agencies? Clear policies are needed to address all of these questions, and a cost-efficient document management software system makes it easier to create, edit and distribute policies.