Array of Tactics and Strategies

In many police departments, the typical and usual response to any identified crime pattern, crime series, hot spot, crime trend, or crime problem is the directed patrol (Bruce and Ouellette, 2008). A directed patrol is a focused patrol; that is, patrol resources are concentrated at the times and in the places with the highest risks of serious crime. The hypothesis is that the more of a patrol presence that is concentrated at the hot spots and “hot times” of criminal activity, the less crime there will be in those places and times (Sherman and Weisburd, 1995). Unfortunately, in some agencies it is often the only response. Directed patrols can be valuable for certain issues and can lead to both suppression of crime and apprehension of offenders (Bruce and Ouellette, 2008). However, there is a much larger list of potential responses at an agency’s disposal.

As Bruce and Ouellette (2008) point out, tactical analysis and the identification of crime patterns require tactical responses—fast, effective responses that stop a crime pattern or series in its tracks. Generally, this is accomplished through one of three means:

  • 1 Apprehending offenders
  • 2 Hardening potential targets
  • 3 Suppressing underlying opportunities for crime

What is the correct approach for a particular crime pattern? That depends on the characteristics of the pattern, as determined by the analysis. There is likely no existing published model for analysis-based tactical action, but Table 11.1 suggests several tactics based on the focus of the pattern and the tactical avenue that a police department might choose to pursue.

As is seen in Table 11.1, the police department response could change based on the focus (whether location, offender, or target) and based on which tactical avenue (apprehension, target hardening, or suppression) is selected by the department. For example, if the crime analyst has a good description of the suspect, or if the analyst was actually able to identify the offender by name and address, the department might well choose apprehension as the best tactical avenue. The options if apprehension is desired would include traditional evidence-based investigation to gather evidence against this suspect, surveillance of the suspect, patrol oriented toward awareness and tracking of the suspect, or providing community and media information to locate the suspect.

Table 1 l.l Police tactics based on focus of the pattern


Tactical Avenue

Apprehension I

Target Hardening


Location: limited locations for next offense; small target area

Rapid response Silent alarms Stakeouts Hidden cameras Channeling

Security surveys Alarms

Security guards or dogs

Directed patrols

Phantom cars

Checkpoint closures

Visible cameras

Offender: strong offender description or name; good physical evidence

Traditional evidence-based investigation


Suspect-oriented patrol

General community and media information

General community and media information

Profile interview patrols

Target: limited number of potential targets;

targets easy to identify and reach


Controlled buys

Property identification

Bulletins to potential victims

Market disruption

None: broad geography; no suspect; large number of available targets

Planned response Informants

Warning signs



General community and media information

Saturation patrols

Source: Bruce and Ouellette (2008), n.p.

Encouraging Initiative throughout the Police Department

Given that a pattern has been identified, the police department leadership should disseminate information throughout several units while encouraging initiative at the following levels of their organization:

  • Patrols: Patrols should review crime analysis information and implement what tactics and strategies they can to address a particular issue. These might include suspect-oriented patrols, profile interview patrols, directed patrols, talking to informants, and warning members of the community.
  • Investigators: Investigators can group related crimes, prioritizing those that are part of a pattern or series, and implement such effective tactics as surveillance, stakeouts, and controlled buys.
  • Supervisors: Supervisors should plan and direct more resource-intensive tactics, such as decoys, saturation patrols, and planned response.

The Ideal Is a Formal Response Process

Ideally, a police department will support the development of a formal response process which ensures that something is done about emerging crime patterns. A few law enforcement agencies allow the crime analysis unit to recommend assignments, and officers are expected to follow these crime analysis unit assignments unless a supervisor countermands them.

For instance, the Shawnee, Kansas, Police Department has a program known as Crime Analysis Directed Enforcement (CADE). In CADE, the crime analyst determines directed patrol locations by location and shift. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Crime Analysis Unit can assign “park and walks,” which are essentially directed patrols, to route officers.

Such policies and procedures place a lot of power into the hands of analysts, but they can generate resentment within the police department if not handled carefully. This suggests another reason for crime analysts to leave their computer screens behind and get to know officers in other units.

In other police departments, established groups of officers who are given assignments by crime analysts spend their shifts intervening in patterns and problems. These officers are detached from regular patrol so as not to be distracted from their missions with routine calls. One name given to these officers is “impact teams.” Another name applied to them by some police departments is the “split-force model.” This term means that the department has divided its operations divisions into regular operations units (that respond to calls) and tactical-action or problem-solving units. Chief Gary Gemme of the Worcester, Massachusetts, Police Department instituted such an approach in 2005, and the agency’s Community Impact Division has since been credited with solving several crime patterns (Bruce and Ouellette, 2008).

But such models are not limited to large police departments. For instance, the Redmond, Washington, Police Department created a ProAct Unit with five officers and a detective.The ProAct Unit was to specifically intercede in auto-related crime. They use offender intelligence from the crime analysis unit as their “to-do list.”

It might be said that the mother of all formal response development methods is CompStat. As you have learned already in Chapter 10, CompStat was established by the New York City Police Department in the 1990s, and it involves getting all of the decision-makers in the department in a room on a regular basis, reviewing current activity, deciding what to do about it, and reviewing success or failure at subsequent meetings. CompStat-style systems go under many alternative names and acronyms, so much so that Lincoln, Nebraska, chief of police Tom Casady, with tongue in cheek, suggested OOVOC (Our Own Version of CompStat) as an umbrella term. Various OOVOC systems are characterized by how they balance accountability with problem-solving. The New York style of CompStat features a sometimes harsh view of “accountability,” with precinct commanders expected—under the threat of demotion or transfer—to know the details of crime volume, as well as individual crimes, in their areas. The precinct commanders themselves present the current crime figures and pattern information and are questioned in detail by the commissioner and chiefs.

Other models care less about who presents the data and more about facilitating a collaborative process to intercede in emerging patterns and solve long-term problems. In these models, accountability and confrontation are less important than effective results.

A properly designed CompStat-style system can make excellent use of crime analysis. Ideally, the department discusses information that the crime analysts have prepared and decides how to respond. The best systems ensure that no pattern or problem goes unaddressed, encourage creative thinking, and reward effective (rather than traditional) strategies and tactics (Bruce and Ouellette, 2008).The Fort Worth,Texas, Police Department’s CIDAT process, for instance, requires a written action plan to follow any discussion of a pattern or series.

An important element of CompStat that perhaps should be adopted by every police agency with a crime analysis unit is the requirement that all units of the police department must work together. In older models in police departments, specialized units operated independently from other units and conducted police operations to achieve their own objectives. In the CompStat model, all units must be represented and held jointly responsible for the successes and failures. The benefit is that much more creative and effective crime control measures are designed when all units develop and implement the strategy (Schick, 2004).

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