proactive | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee


Course: Introduction / Policing

In the policing context, proactive means controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to an event after it has happened.

In the context of law enforcement, proactive policing is a strategy that emphasizes the prevention of crime before it occurs rather than simply responding to criminal activity. This approach typically involves more aggressive enforcement of low-level offenses, increased police presence in high-crime areas, and the use of data analysis to identify areas or individuals that are at high risk for criminal activity.

Proactive policing emerged as a response to the limitations of traditional reactive policing, which relies on responding to calls for service and investigating crimes after they occur. Critics of reactive policing argue that it fails to address the underlying causes of crime and that it can lead to a cycle of violence and retaliation. In contrast, proactive policing seeks to address the root causes of crime by focusing on prevention and deterrence.

One example of a proactive policing strategy is community policing, which seeks to build partnerships between police departments and the communities they serve. Community policing emphasizes collaboration and problem-solving and encourages officers to build relationships with residents and business owners in their patrol areas. By working together, police and community members can identify and address the underlying causes of crime in a given area.

Another example of proactive policing is hot spot policing, which targets high-crime areas with increased police presence and targeted enforcement efforts. This strategy is based on the idea that crime is not evenly distributed throughout a city and that a small number of high-crime areas are responsible for a disproportionate amount of criminal activity. By targeting these hot spots with increased patrols and enforcement efforts, police can reduce crime in the most vulnerable areas of a city.

Proactive policing is not without controversy, however. Critics argue that it can lead to racial profiling and other forms of discrimination and that it can undermine trust between police and the communities they serve. In addition, some studies have suggested that aggressive enforcement of low-level offenses can lead to over-policing and can disproportionately impact low-income and minority communities.

Despite these concerns, proactive policing remains an important strategy for law enforcement agencies across the country. By focusing on prevention and deterrence, police can work to reduce crime and improve public safety in their communities.

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Last Modified: 04/10/2023


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