Communities Use Variety of Crime Prevention Strategies

Article excerpt

Crime prevention strategies are as diverse as the communities they serve. In some communities, police officers ride bicycles as part of community policing programs, while others use mentoring to help children at risk for delinquent behavior.

In all cases, the linchpin of successful crime prevention programs is cooperation between local law enforcement, city administrators and the communities they serve.

"Ultimately, crime prevention has to be a city wide effort," said Jack Calhoun, president and CEO of the National Crime Prevention Council in Washington, D.C. "A city's best strategy is a comprehensive plan. That is where we've seen the most hope and effect."

In Flushing, Mich., the police department built on existing programs that served the city's senior citizens. The end result, Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (SALT), is a community policing program that encourages senior citizens to exchange crime prevention information with police. An advisory board made up of nine senior citizens, the city manager, police chief and a designated SALT officer meet monthly to current concerns.

Det. Dean Gross, the SALT liaison, said the program now has 30 senior representatives who also assist the department in other ways. They work with residents under the Safe Homes for Seniors program, which provides free deadbolt locks, fire safety and emergency warning equipment to seniors who request it. SALT members also are empowered by Flushing's police chief to write citations for handicap parking violations and provide traffic control at special events.

"Since 1997, the senior citizens have become more involved in the city. We now refer to them as the public relations arm of the police department," said Gross. "They have provided the extra set of eyes we need to do better serve our community."

Another key component of successful crime prevention is making police officers visible in the communities they serve. Dover, Del., accomplished that goal in 1989 with the formation of a bicycle unit.

The unit first targeted five neighborhoods, three with documented crime problems, with a goal of reducing service calls to those areas by 5 percent. By its second year, the unit was cited with a 47 percent decrease in the number of service calls to the neighborhoods.

The city no longer has an official bicycle unit, but its five-person community policing unit still relies on bicycles, said Lt. Ken Balke.

"The bicycles definitely have a deterrent factor. The officers are still uniformed, but they can come up on a suspect without making any noise, they aren't as easy to see as a marked vehicle and they are very effective in areas where there is a lot of traffic," said Balke. "Plus, in the neighborhoods where the community police officers work, they are more approachable than a marked unit. …