Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Intelligence-Led Policing

Academic journal article Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Intelligence-Led Policing

Article excerpt

This paper is timely, given that policing is currently going through a period of significant change in both operational tactics and organisational structures. New ideas in crime reduction and changes to short- and long-term policing strategies are underway. Intelligence-led policing represents a recent approach and is one of the more prevalent of the current "shifts in crime control philosophy and policing practice" (Maguire 2000).

Surprisingly, given the wide distribution of the term "intelligence-led policing", considerable confusion remains in regard to its actual meaning to both front-line officers and police management. This paper provides an introduction to intelligence-led policing and discusses some of the related limitations and opportunities.

Adam Graycar


Since the 1990s, "intelligence-led policing" (also known as intelligence-driven policing") has entered the lexicon of modern policing, especially in the UK and more recently Australia. Yet even with the ability of new ideas and innovation to spread throughout the policing world at the click of a mouse, there is still a lack of clarity among many in law enforcement as to what intelligence-led policing is, what it aims to achieve, and how it is supposed to operate. This can be seen in recent inspection reports of Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) in the UK (HMIC 2001, 2002), and in the lack of clarity regarding intelligence-led policing in the United States. A recent summit in March 2002 of over 120 criminal intelligence experts from across the US, funded by the US government and organised by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, may become a turning point in policing within the US. The participants called for a National Intelligence Plan, with one of the core recommendations being to "promote intelligence-led policing through a common understanding of criminal intelligence and its usefulness" (IACP 2002, p. v). The aspirations of the summit are considerable, but what is unclear from the summit report is a sound understanding of the aims of intelligence-led policing and its relationship to crime reduction.

As intelligence-led policing is now a term in common usage within Australian law enforcement (a search of web pages and media releases found the term "intelligence-led" in all Australian police sites and the web site of the new Australian Crime Commission), it is timely to consider the origins of intelligence-led policing, the crime reduction levers it aims to pull, and the limitations and possibilities for this type of operational practice.

Origins of Intelligence-led Policing

Intelligence-led policing entered the police lexicon at some time around the early 1990s. As Gill (1998) has noted, the origins of intelligence-led policing are a little indistinct, but the earliest references to it originate in the UK where a seemingly inexorable rise in crime during the late 1980s and early 1990s coincided with increasing calls for police to be more effective and to be more cost-efficient. The driving forces for this move to a new strategy were both external and internal to policing.

External drivers included an inability of the traditional, reactive model of policing to cope with the rapid changes in globalisation which have increased opportunities for transnational organised crime and removed physical and technological barriers across the policing domain. In the new "risk society" (Ericson & Haggerty 1997) the police were seen as the source of risk management data for a range of external institutions. With such an influence beyond the boundaries of law enforcement, it was never going to be long before the "new public management" drive to increase efficiency in public agencies reached the police.

At the same time there was an internal recognition that changes were taking place in the dynamic relationship between the private security industry and the public police. …

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