directed patrol | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Policing

Directed patrol is a policing strategy where officers patrol specific areas to deter crime or respond swiftly when crime happens.

Directed patrol is one of the strategic measures law enforcement agencies use to prevent and combat crime. Rather than randomly patrolling a broad area, officers assigned to directed patrol focus on specific locations. These locations are often identified as “hot spots” or areas with high crime rates. The idea is that a consistent police presence can deter criminal activity and ensure quick response times when incidents occur.

This strategy employs various forms of patrol, including on foot, by bicycle, or in a patrol car. The type of patrol used often depends on the nature of the area. For instance, foot patrol might be most effective in a busy city center with high pedestrian traffic, while vehicle patrol might be more appropriate in suburban or rural areas.

Targeted Approach to Crime Prevention

Directed patrol is a proactive rather than reactive policing strategy. This means that the police aim to prevent crime from happening in the first place rather than just responding to it after it occurs. By maintaining a visible presence in high-crime areas, police can discourage potential criminals and reassure the community.

In addition to deterring crime, directed patrol also allows officers to become familiar with the areas and communities they serve. This familiarity can enhance their ability to identify potential problems and intervene before situations escalate into major incidents.

Integration with Other Policing Strategies

Directed patrol is often used in conjunction with other policing strategies, such as problem-oriented policing and community policing.

Problem-oriented policing is a strategy that focuses on identifying and solving the specific problems that contribute to crime in a particular area. For example, if an area has a high rate of burglary, officers might work with the community to improve lighting, install security cameras, or encourage residents to form a neighborhood watch.

Community policing involves building relationships with community members and working collaboratively to address safety concerns and prevent crime. Officers involved in directed patrol can play a crucial role in community policing by interacting regularly with residents and business owners, understanding their concerns, and working together to find solutions.

Benefits and Limitations of Directed Patrol

Directed patrol has several benefits. It can prevent crime, improve police response times, and build positive relationships between the police and the community. However, it also has limitations. It requires a significant investment of resources, as officers must spend considerable time patrolling specific areas. Furthermore, while directed patrol can deter crime in the targeted areas, it might not reduce the overall crime rate, as criminals may simply move their activities to other areas (research suggests that this isn’t completely true).


Directed patrol is a focused approach to crime prevention. By targeting high-crime areas and maintaining a visible police presence, law enforcement agencies aim to deter criminal activity and respond quickly when incidents occur. Though it has its challenges when used effectively and combined with other strategies, directed patrol can be a valuable tool in the fight against crime.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/16/2023

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