Within the United States, numerous police departments have committed to providing policing services to the residents of within their jurisdictions and entered into partnerships with the local communities and schools to improve public safety and service delivery. The current paper explores three models of policing: community-oriented policing, problem-oriented policing, and zero-tolerance policing. In the same context, the paper explores advantages and disadvantages of the three policing models alongside with their similarities and differences. From the research, it is evident that community-oriented policing remains as the most preferred choice for the county and municipal executives planning to strengthen police-community ties and implement strategies meant to reduce crime. However, due to the ever-evolving security demands and changing operational context, a blend of the approaches should be developed and tailored to fit the needs of a jurisdiction. To that end, the benefits of each model will increase, while leveraging their limitations. Consequentially, the police will address minor crimes and disorders before escalating to serious crimes. In the end, the level of fear of crime and mistrust will decrease, leading to strong community-police ties.

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Keywords: community-oriented policing, zero-tolerance policing, and problem-oriented policing

Policing Policies

In the past five decades, scholars and practitioners in the criminology realm have advanced the concepts in order to structure initiatives to improve policing. Community-oriented policing, problem-oriented policing and zero-tolerance policing are among them. With much overlap, as reflected by their names, each concept emphasizes a different need, transferring other advocated reforms to a lower role, shaped to support the needs of the three concepts. Community-oriented policing is a model that emphasizes establishment of community-police relationships and police assimilating in the community with citizens. Problem-oriented policing is a model of policing that implements strategies in response to disorder problems and crimes. Zero-tolerance policing model grounds its concept on the notion that aggressive or coercive enforcement will motivate residents of a jurisdiction to improve the care for their community. Therefore, it focuses on minor crimes and disorder through interventions that vigorously enforce civil and criminal laws. From the definitions, it is apparent that blending the benefits of the three policing models to leverage their limitations can result in the development of a strong community-police partnership that can solve a great number of problems, eventually leading to crime prevention and reduction. The current paper analyzes the advantages and disadvantages of three policing policies: community-oriented policing, problem-oriented policing, and zero-tolerance policing. Additionally, the paper highlights their similarities and differences and then discusses the effective approach to policing.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Community-Oriented Policing

Community-oriented policing is one of the policing models that developed in the result of criticism regarding the limitations of the traditional policing approach (Marion & Oliver, 2012). The model improves the ties between the public and the police for the local neighborhoods and makes the police to work jointly in addressing the problems of disorders and crime. The police partners with citizens to create strategies used to address the root causes of crime and lessen the fear of crime in the neighborhood by improving the cooperation and interaction between community members and local police (Brown, 2011; Chapman & Alqadi, 2011). The community plays a critical role in crime prevention and control in the sense that the local citizens are a source of vital information regarding the criminals and their behaviors. Additionally, citizens can identify crime-promoting signals and communicate them to the police and civic organizations for appropriate actions. To alleviate the fear of crime and real crime, the police members rely on citizens' assistance, cooperation, and support. As a result, community-oriented policing prevents and reduces crimes, increases the feeling of communal safety, and reduces the fear of crime.

One of the community-oriented policing disadvantages relates to decentralization, which may lead to abuse of power (Pollock, 2011). Decentralization may also result in a loss of control over police behavior. The opponents of community-oriented policing contend that it results in dissolution of the legitimate role of police personnel. In other words, police officers start performing duties of community organizers, rather than spending most of their time on serious crimes. Further, there is an argument that community-oriented policing presents a danger that the organized community groups can transform into political advocacy groups. Further, by identifying roots of neighborhood security and social problems, the police located in the community may limit individual liberties. Community policing also induces conflicting interest. For example, citizens or residents of jurisdiction can obstruct programs to solve community issues (Pollock, 2011). The other danger of community-oriented policing is that by encouraging police personnel to be more responsive to residents, the latter may present demands that are improper or illegal.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Problem-Oriented Policing

The problem-oriented policing method emerged in the late-1970s (Marion & Oliver, 2012). There was an observation that many police officers were focused on procedures to the extent that they derailed their attention from the ultimate goal of ensuring community security (Scott, 2006). Observably, security problems are often related, but since police are fixated on the means of solving them, they fail to analyze the results. Consequently, the problem-oriented policing model can be implemented in this regard. One of the advantages of this approach is that it helps gather as much data about the identified problem as possible (Weisburd, Telep, Hinkle, & Eck, 2008). The collected information may include interviews and police reports. This information is beneficial to police officers in the sense that it helps them gain a good understanding of the issues at hand, aiding in finding the correlation between the victims, location, and perpetrators. As part of the model's analysis, members of police personnel also have a better understanding of the challenges they face and how they can be solved (Scott, 2006). Further, the collected data helps police personnel to develop appropriate responses to alleviate crimes. Once a list of options is created, the most viable one is chosen and implemented (Pollock, 2011). For example, if students commit petty burglaries to buy drugs within the school environment, then driving away the drug dealers from schools might reduce the other crimes and social issues linked to the two crimes. The assessment or evaluation of the implemented strategies efficacy informs the policing agencies on whether a new strategy in necessary. Unlike the zero-tolerance policing model that must be carried out alongside with other policing models, the problem-oriented policing model can be implemented alone or integrated into a larger community-based policing program.

The challenge with the problem-oriented policing is that it may require further training of the police personnel, thereby, inflating operational costs (Scott, 2006). In jurisdictions with few personnel members, the process of scanning, analysis, response, and assessment may be time-consuming or erroneous as there is a need to gather data from different reliable sources and use it to inform decisions.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Zero-Tolerance Policing

Zero-tolerance policing model created in the mid-1980s in New York under the leadership of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (Marion & Oliver, 2012). As the term suggests, zero-tolerance policing entails strict enforcement of minor offenses. Generally, zero-tolerance tactics are designed to be used selectively as a crime control approach, rather than being applied indiscriminately throughout a jurisdiction. While community-oriented policing model focuses on the community, zero-tolerance policing model stems from the belief that minor crimes and disorder tend to lead to more serious crimes. For this reason, the police should selectively employ aggressive tactics to curb minor crimes, especially in large urban jurisdictions to prevent and reduce serious crimes.

The success of zero-tolerance policing method is mixed. During its introduction in New York City, it led to more arrests. However, the decline of crimes in the 1990s is credited to the success of community-based policing (Marion & Oliver, 2012). However, by eliminating the signs of the disorder or the causes of crimes, zero-tolerance policing creates an environment where crimes and disorders are tolerated, hence, restoring law and order and creating a sense of safety. Additionally, zero tolerance policing is effective for neighborhoods expressing distress and portraying fear. In such neighborhoods, the high level of citizens fear and mistrust deters them from engaging in meaningful community-police relationships. Additionally, the lack of community-police tends to prevent the restoration of order. Therefore, zero-tolerance is effective in restoring trust and eliminating citizens fear, eventually creating a foundation for developing tangible police-community ties. Further, zero-tolerance policing is effective in prevention and control of crime in hot spots. Such locations tend to create security problems based on time and individual factor. Through crackdowns on the identified hot spots of crime, police can alleviate minor crimes, hence, preventing their escalation and disorders, as well as more serious crimes.

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Zero-tolerance model is based on the attack model instead of crime prevention. Unsurprisingly, the aggressive means of the law enforcement faces resistance from various fronts, especially due to the allegation of power misuse and racial discrimination. In other words, zero-tolerance policing has the potential of creating conflict between the public and the police. The conflict induced by over-aggressiveness and dramatic increase in the number of resident complaints. The rise in complaints may be caused by the increased number of arrests. Further, complaints may result in a lawsuit regarding police misconduct. The other potential problem with this model is growth in crime in the long perspective because it focuses on short-term impacts. In the same context, the minor arrest may negatively affect an individuals career. Arguably, an unwarranted minor arrest can anger an individual or make a person defiant, thereby, leading to serious crimes. Zero-tolerance policy can also indiscriminately impact on poor and marginalized communities (Pollock, 2011). Logically, most crime hotspots are located in areas occupied by the poor or minority communities. The misconception of crackdowns as discrimination may lead to violent resistance. In fact, the minority may view the police as an occupying force. Crackdown on the illegal immigrants or terrorists may also accompany police brutality and harassment.

Differences and Similarities of Community Oriented Policing, Problem-Oriented Policing, and Zero-Tolerance Policing

Regarding main priorities, problem-oriented policing and zero-tolerance policing are outcome focused. However, the first one emphasizes on identifying and solving policing problems, whereas the latter focuses on reducing crime rates and disorders. On the other hand, the community-policing model focuses on process meant to address community concerns and improving police-community relations. Concerning the extent of other entities involvement, both community-oriented policing and problem-oriented policing models have a high emphasis on working with other parties. However, community-oriented policing emphasizes on working exclusively with the community and verified community representatives. On the other hand, the problem-oriented policing model puts emphasis on partnerships (private-public partnerships) with other agencies in aiding problem-solving. In contrast to the other models, zero-tolerance policing model has relatively low involvement of private entities. In other words, the police are primarily responsible for the formulation, analysis, and implementation of crime reduction strategies.

In regards to utilization of information, both zero-tolerance and problem-solving policing models utilize great amount of data or information to identify problems. Problem-oriented policing also uses big-data to develop flexible strategies and evaluate responses. On the other hand, zero-tolerance policing uses similar data to implement crime reduction strategies. Within the same context of information utilization, community-based policing uses limited information, but emphasizes on employing the collected information at local (community) level, rather than transforming it to propel organization-wide (police entity) responses.

Community-based policing utilizes low coercive policing policies and emphasizes on policing by harmony (Bracy, 2011). In the same context, community-based policing calls for location of police officers and mobile centers within the community. Unlike community-based policing model, problem-oriented policing utilizes low to moderate coercive policing strategies because the coercive strategy is one of the options used (Scott, 2006). Typically, the level of coercion reflects the nature of the problem at hand. Table 1 presents summary of differences and similarities among the three policing models.

Table 1 Comparison of Different Policing Models

Community-Oriented Policing

Problem-Oriented Policing

Zero-Tolerance Policing

Main priorities


Address community concerns.

Improve community-police relations.


Identify and solve policing challenges.


Reduce disorders and crimes.

Utilization of Information


Used at local level rather than organization-wide.


Used to identify problems, evaluate responses.


Used to target resources and evaluate impact.

Extent of involvement of non-government entities


Emphasizes on community-police relationships.


Emphasizes on developing partnership with other government and private agencies.

Relatively low.

Police are chiefly responsible for formulating and implementation of strategies.

Application of coercive policing strategies


Emphasizes on policing by consensus.

Low to moderate.

Coercive strategies form part of options.


Extensive use of search stops and arrest powers.

Considering the fact that there are numerous models of policing, they all provide several fundamental functions, including criminal investigation, crime prevention, and various services (Marion & Oliver, 2012). Such policing functions are delivered by law enforcement agencies at local, state, and federal levels.

Effective Approach to Policing

The essential role of the national, state, and local governments is to ensure security. It follows that executives and leaders held accountable for public safety should have a good understanding of how the relevant policing agencies can effectively prevent and control public safety problems. Having discussed the advantages and disadvantages of community-based, problem-oriented, and zero-tolerance policing, it is arguable that community-based policing can be determined as one of the most practical approaches to local security issues. Community-oriented policing remains the most efficient model of choice for the county and municipal executives who comprehend that policing is a shared responsibility (Plant & Scott, 2009) and who intend to build respect, strengthen partnership, and implement effective crime control and prevention interventions. However, none of the approaches is comprehensive, leading to the reasoning that a hybrid or blend of the three models would be effective in the contemporary world where security problems are increasing, and demands are evolving (Plant & Scott, 2009). For instance, public educational institutions in the United States continue undergoing significant ideological and physical changes concerning security and discipline (Bracy, 2011). One of the visible changes is the introduction of police officers as permanent crime prevention and control fixtures in public educational institutions across the country. As cited by Bracy (2011), by 2005, the number of police officers in New York School grew by 50%. In large cities, such as Baltimore, Washington DC, and New York where crime is a serious issue, there is a need for changes in the existing traditional approach to security. The same should also occur in rural areas because security threat vectors and demands have also changed with time. Further, law enforcement agencies also need long-term qualitative research to ascertain the human experience and perception of the existing or customized policing model from various perspectives. Repeated independent researches will manage to fill the gap created by misleading crime statistics.


From the discussion and illustrations above, it is apparent that none of the three standard models or approaches to policing is completely effective used separately. For this reason, customizing the three approaches to the needs of a jurisdiction can result in the development of a strong community-police partnership that can solve numerous problems, eventually leading to crime prevention and reduction. Community-oriented policing entails direct engagement with community members. Problem-oriented policing involves the establishment of partnerships with other agencies to formulate and implement strategies that reduce crime. Zero-tolerance policing employs the attack framework to reduce crime and disorder rates in potential crime hotspots through coercive approaches. The problem-oriented policing approach is consistent with the community-policing model but not essential to it. Community-oriented policing and problem-solving policing models are almost similar in terms of involvement in the sense that they advocate community-police relationship and partnerships respectively. In contrast, zero-tolerance policing model entails low involvement of other entities or security agencies. Regarding the implementation of coercive strategies, zero-tolerance uses aggressive approaches towards enforcing the law. On the other hand, community-oriented policing and problem-oriented policing models use consensus policing and moderate coercive policing strategies respectively. Ground the discussion on the notion that security needs and scenarios keep on evolving , policing agencies should develop flexible strategies to adapt to the changes in the security world. In other words, a blend of models should be adopted to prevent and control various security problems, thereby leading to crime reduction.

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