Law enforcement agencies know only too well that preventing a crime from happening takes precedence over solving it. An effective crime prevention program can help agencies respond proactively to a situation rather than having to react to it. And the one most important aspect of a successful crime prevention program is community engagement.
Residents possess a wealth of knowledge about what is happening in the community, and are usually willing to cooperate with police by sharing what they know. What is it then, that deters them from doing so? Typically, they tend to be concerned about their privacy and any potential repercussions that may ensue. How can a law enforcement agency go about allaying these concerns and effectively engage with their communities? Agencies can experience more effective community engagement in 3 steps:
Connect & Converse: Don’t expect your communities to seek out methods to communicate with you. Instead, find where they connect and how they connect, then start a dialog. Social media can be an effective platform to establish that initial connection and initiate conversation with residents in your community, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or any other medium. Initiating a two-way dialog with them allows you to listen to and address any concerns they may have regarding the potential repercussions of engaging with your agency. Then follow it up with good old fashioned face-to-face interaction. Nothing builds trust and empathy like looking someone in the face and hearing each other's voices. Doing so helps instill trust and convey to citizens the importance of their role in a successful crime prevention program.
Empower with the Right Tools: You must give something before you get something. Empower your community by providing them with the right set of tools and information to engage with you. Educate them about the advantages and capabilities of the tools your agency uses, emphasizing how these tools help inform them while preserving their individual privacy and safety. For instance, providing a crime map so citizens can see police activity, or a simple crime tip service that allows them to attach multimedia when submitting an anonymous tip, provides them with tools to increase their awareness and provide you with critical intelligence, aiding your department’s ability to serve and respond more effectively. Providing tools is only half of the solution. You must share with your community members best practices on using these tools when engaging with your agency to help them maximize their value and better help you prevent crime.
Promote the Impact: It’s important to promote and share success stories with your community to let them know how they helped you. Letting them know what a difference they make plays an important role in encouraging citizens to work in proactive partnership with your agency and feel invested in the safety of their community. The Chicago Police Department, recently shared one such success story with their community in an effort to promote engagement. Chicago PD recently launched TipSubmit and within just fifteen minutes of receiving a tip, they were able to make a juvenile gun arrest, confiscate the weapon and successfully prevent a crime from happening by taking a gun off the streets. Chicago PD then quickly shared their success story with the community via Twitter.
Better engage your community to help you prevent crime and solve more cases. Let them know that you’re in this together and make it easy for them to connect with you.
Steve Sebestyen is Product Manager of Community Engagement Solutions at Motorola Solutions.