All Better Policing Toolkit Strategies
The strategies listed here are part of the Better Policing Toolkit’s effort to determine the effectiveness of different approaches to police work. On this page, strategies are highlighted to indicate whether they are effective, somewhat effective or effective in specific situations, or ineffective for different kinds of problems, which are shown in bold. The Better Policing Toolkit is a work in progress and does not yet represent all the research on effective policing. You can help us improve that. Some content will likely change as we add new studies.
Directed patrolling simply means to put more visible patrols, whether via vehicles or on foot, where and when more crime is expected. Rather than being an end in itself, directed patrolling is best used as the first step of problem-oriented policing.
This strategy is somewhat effective for reducing crime in places at elevated risk when diagnosing underlying crime-generating problems.
Learn more about directed patrolling in our strategy guide.
Focused deterrence is a strategy to intervene with high-risk groups and individuals to prevent future crimes, primarily future violence.
This strategy is effective for reducing crime in places at elevated risk when problems are related to known persons and groups at high risk. It is effective for reducing individuals’ risk of involvement in serious crimes. It is potentially effective for improving relations with the community if done in partnership with communities. It can potentially lead to solving more-serious crimes when using the parts of the strategy that involve collecting and following up on tips from the community.
Learn more about focused deterrence in our strategy guide.
Guarding Small Areas
Guarding small areas simply refers to assigning officers to guard very small areas against crime close to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It has the disadvantage of being extremely resource intensive, but evidence from a few cases employing the strategy suggests that it can be effective if there is a very small area that needs to be secured. (Here, “very small” means within the line of sight of one guarding officer.)
This strategy is somewhat effective for reducing crime in places at elevated risk when a small area needs to be completely secured.
Homicide Process Mapping
Homicide Process Mapping: Best Practices for Increasing Homicide Clearances is a guidebook on practices employed consistently by a group of major police departments that have historically solved over 80 percent of homicides. Sponsored by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, this guidebook includes
- model organizational teams and resources to solve homicides and other serious crimes
- summaries of best practices in homicide investigations
- checklists of activities to do within the first 8, 24, and 48 hours of a homicide
- model worksheets for homicide callouts and investigation briefings.
This strategy is effective for solving serious crimes. It is potentially effective for improving relations with the community when done in partnership with the community.
Legitimacy policing describes a broad set of strategies that are focused on improving the “respectworthiness” of police.
This strategy is effective for improving relations with the community.
Learn more about legitimacy policing in our strategy guide.
Problem-oriented policing means diagnosing and solving problems that are increasing crime risks, usually in areas that are seeing comparatively high levels of crime.
This strategy is effective for reducing crime in places at elevated risk. It is potentially effective for improving relations with the community if done in partnership with communities. It can potentially lead to solving more-serious crimes when using the parts of the strategy that involve collecting and following up on tips from the community.
Learn more about problem-oriented policing in our strategy guide.
Standard Model of Policing
The standard policing model can be thought of as the historical baseline for policing in recent decades. The Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy (undated-b) describes the standard model as having five core practices, of which the following three are most relevant from a strategy perspective:
- placing high emphasis on being able to respond to 911 calls for service quickly, with the underlying idea that the police respond to crime and seek to hold offenders accountable rather than try to prevent crime from occurring
- when not responding to a call, carrying out patrols largely at random (as opposed to making decisions about where to patrol based on data)
- providing incentives for officers getting sheer numbers of arrests and enforcement actions (not to the same extent as zero tolerance and aggressive policing), with limited focus on the severity or importance of specific arrests and actions.
The reported improvements in effectiveness for the other strategies covered in this toolkit, whether in terms of crime reduction (e.g., for problem-oriented policing and focused deterrence) or community approval (e.g., for legitimacy policing), are in comparison with this default for U.S. policing.
Zero Tolerance and Aggressive Policing
Zero tolerance policing is sometimes known as "aggressive policing" or "aggressive order maintenance" and is sometimes incorrectly tied to "broken windows" policing. A zero tolerance strategy consists of stopping, questioning, and frisking pedestrians and drivers seen as acting suspiciously and arresting them for offenses (typically low-level offenses, such as possessing marijuana) when such offenses occur.
This strategy is ineffective for reducing crime in places at elevated risk. It is ineffective for improving relations with the community.
Learn more about zero tolerance and aggressive policing (and why to avoid it) in our strategy guide.
- Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, “Broken Windows Policing” webpage, undated-a. As of September 25, 2017: http://cebcp.org/evidence-based-policing/what-works-in-policing/research-evidence-review/broken-windows-policing/
- Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, “‘Standard Model’ Policing Tactics” webpage, undated-b. As of September 25, 2017: http://cebcp.org/evidence-based-policing/what-works-in-policing/research-evidence-review/standard-model-policing-tactics/
- Community Oriented Policing Services, Community Policing Defined, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, 2014. As of May 8, 2018: https://ric-zai-inc.com/Publications/cops-p157-pub.pdf
- Weisburd, David, and Malay K. Majmundar, eds., Proactive Policing: Effects on Crime and Communities, Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2018. As of October 23, 2018: https://www.nap.edu/read/24928/chapter/1