Incorporating Victims in Community Policing

Stamp of Police Office holding a child's hand with the word Law and Order

Community policing can enhance services to crime victims by working with victim advocacy groups and by incorporating victims into neighborhood watch programs or police-citizen partnerships, according to a recent report from the Crime Victims’ Institute authored by Dr. Willard M. Oliver of the College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University.

In Community Policing and Victim Services in Texas, the Crime Victims’ Institute (CVI) at Sam Houston State University explores methods to better serve crime victims within the community policing model. According to the report, community policing is broadly defined as "a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies, which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques, to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder and fear of crime."

"This report focuses on the intersection of community policing and victim services in Texas," said Dr. Glen Kercher, Director of CVI. "We hope it will be informative and be the catalyst for innovative ways to assist victims of crime."

The report highlights two recent methods which demonstrate the possibilities of incorporating victims into community policing. To combat domestic violence and other sex crimes, a multi-jurisdictional task force could be formed to address issues through multi-agency partnerships and shared problem-solving.

Another opportunity is partnerships between organizations and institutes that have some bearing on the problem, but are often not brought into the fold of crime prevention. One example is collaborative efforts between law enforcement and the medical community to prevent victimization and more effectively and efficiently respond to crime victims.

Recent program initiatives sponsored in part by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and the National Center for Victims of Crime, have assessed ways to bridge the gaps between community policing and victims. Among the key themes that emerged from these programs are:

  • Victims are stakeholders
  • Victim service organizations offer unique opportunities for partnerships
  • Productive relationships between police and victims require better communication
  • Reducing the risk of repeat victimization is an important component of effective response to crime
  • Partnerships are key to preventing repeat victimization
  • Police and victim service organizations can find common ground in preventing crime

The Office of Community Oriented Policing also assessed problem-solving methods to better address the issue of domestic violence. Some of the recommendations from the program research include:

  • Educating collaborative partners
  • Tailoring police response on the basis of offender and victim risk
  • Educating potential victims and offenders
  • Encouraging domestic violence victims and witnesses to call police
  • Encouraging other professionals to screen for domestic violence victimization and make appropriate referrals
  • Providing victims with emergency protection and services after an assault
  • Assessing the threat of repeat victimization
  • Issuing and enforcing restraining orders
  • Aggressively pursuing criminal prosecution of severe domestic violence cases
  • Establishing special domestic violence courts
  • Providing treatment for batterers

"The concept of community policing, specifically community partnerships and problem solving, are important to the development of improved police services for the victims of crime in the state of Texas," concluded Dr. Oliver.

Member of The Texas State University System