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Preventive Patrol - Traditional Versus Specialized

NCJ Number
Journal of Police Science and Administration Volume: 9 Issue: 2 Dated: (June 1981) Pages: 167-183
L J Szynkowkski
Date Published
17 pages
This article discusses traditional preventive patrol, specialized patrol, directed patrol, and team policing; functions and characteristics of each approach are highlighted.
Traditional preventive patrol is defined as the routine movement of uniformed officers by vehicle or foot through delineated geographic areas. Patrols of this type usually have five goals: deterrence of crime, apprehension of criminals, satisfaction of public demands for services unrelated to crime, development of a sense of security and confidence in the law enforcement agency, and recovery of stolen property. However, these five goals interfere with each other's attainment and conflict with deterrence. For example, high visibility patrols provide deterrence but lower the probability of arresting a criminal in the act of committing a crime. Moreover, the more activity that is devoted to providing secondary services unrelated to crime, the lower the sense of security and satisfaction that exists in the community. The article notes that the patrol division of a law enforcement agency should determine which of the police goals they can perform without interfering with the accomplishment of the other goals. Examples of police departments creating specialized patrol units are discussed to demonstrate how this approach reduces conflict between the various patrol goals. A study by the Institute for Human Resources Research shows that some form of specialized patrol is used by three-fourths of the law enforcement agencies in U.S. cities with populations of 50,000 or more. While traditional patrol depends upon the discretion of individual officers, directed patrol involves prior planning of patrol activity in terms of specific goals and tasks. Another type of patrol is team policing, which has been implemented more in large agencies than in medium or small agencies. Team policing is decentralized with decisionmaking responsibility dispersed to the lower management and line officers who plan, investigate, and perform community relations activity. This type of program results in increased motivation and service. Finally, the experiences of various police agencies have shown that the implementation of nontraditional patrol methods is difficult, although such programs may prove to be helpful to future police patrol units. Figures, tables, and about 15 references are provided.