The St. Petersburg, Florida, police department wanted to repair the divisions that all too often characterize the relationship between urban police departments and the citizens they aim to protect. In response, it designed and implemented a new policing model based on building community partnerships and making use of technology to efficiently capitalize on these relationships. The resulting Community Problem-Solving Policing Model is an effort to engage the entire community to solve crime and address quality of life challenges on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.
Community Problem Solving Policing Model efforts begin with the administration of yearly citywide citizen surveys in each of the 48 Community Policing Areas (CPA) to ensure the correct identification of the unique needs, priorities, and capabilities in each community. These surveys serve in an evaluative capacity and assist in establishing priorities to direct internal and external resources.
The 48 CPAs, whose boundaries are delineated through a methodology created by the St. Petersburg Police Department called Crime-Tract Analysis for Geo-Based Community Profile/Assessment, encompass the entire city. CPAs are patrolled by Community Policing Teams consisting of full-time Community Police Officers (CPO) who serve as the core of a team. CPOs, whose primary responsibility is to be a resource manager and facilitator, are trained to utilize all local, state, and federal resources. These resources have been cataloged in a comprehensive “Information and Referral Guide” provided to each officer. Community Policing Teams also include patrol officers, detectives, and supervisors. Patrol sergeants serve as team leaders, patrol lieutenants serve as sector leaders, with patrol majors having district-wide team responsibility.
To assess the success of this new model in building community relationships, the St. Petersburg police department again looked towards its annual citizen surveys. Surveys reported that, since implementation, approximately half of the respondents had contact with police officers. Of the respondents who had contact, nearly 80 percent rated their interactions “good.” This rating steadily increased in surveys from 1991 to 1993. These figures indicate that the gap between community and law enforcement are closing. Perhaps the most telling result of the new policing model is that St. Petersburg has seen a 15 percent reduction in crime over two years of implementation.