Crime Prevention for the 21st Century
Community Policing


Arthur A. Jones, J.D., Dr.jur.
International Human Rights Law and Policy
c/o Los Angeles Community Policing
email to:

EDITOR'S NOTE: --- Arthur A. Jones and Robin Wiseman are international human rights lawyers with legal educations in the United States and Europe. They are consultants and authors on international policing, social policy and human rights, and regular contributors to the forum here at LA Community Policing.

The following article originally appeared in the
Fulbright Commission's "Funnel Magazine" as an article in the Winter 2006 edition: (page 35 - 37)

For more of their work, please see the
Think Tank.
For additional information feel free to contact Dr. Arthur Jones: e-mail:

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Crime Prevention for the 21st Century
Community Policing

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by Arthur A. Jones
email to:

December 24 , 2006

Albert Einstein supposedly said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” A prime example is the growing 21st century urban problem of street gangs, youth crime, drugs, alcohol, mental illness, and loss of social cohesion. Police agencies in many countries around the world have learned, in the two decades or more since the advent of community policing, that dependence on traditional law enforcement measures alone will never enable societies to reduce the impact of today’s complex, cross-border crime problems. In fact, modern crime prevention and public safety efforts comprise a broad spectrum of new and innovative solutions, all aimed at today’s and tomorrow’s problems.

Palermo, Italy (pop. 650,000) located on the island of Sicily, had a murder rate of about 200 persons per year during the late 1990s, mostly resulting from Mafia gang killings. After activating a program of arresting Mafiosi on a massive scale, with limited suppressive effect, the City of Palermo introduced a new approach. Police officers known as polizia di prossimità, or community police officers, began circulating through the most gang-ridden neighborhoods. They became a familiar sight, walking the beats and engaging the residents in dialogue. Then, they encouraged and helped organize citizen action groups to resist extortion attempts, petition shop owners to stand up to mobsters, and to report— anonymously—shakedowns and mob violence. The mayor and city council joined in, helping the police organize neighborhood watch groups and sponsoring weekly marches and street demonstrations. The police and social services coupled those efforts with a drive for more and better jobs for youth. Businesses and universities contributed resources to enable young people to obtain improved education. The end result of these police-community partnerships was a reduction, by the year 1999, of homicides from 200 (1997) to eleven (1999). The rate has hovered under ten homicides per year since then. The Mafia has not been eliminated yet, but the City of Palermo has become one of the safest in Europe.

In the City of Oxnard, California, my partner, Robin Wiseman, and I helped establish a similar “basket” of programs to solve some of the same problems faced by Palermo: street gangs, homicides, and related violence. Oxnard (pop. 200,000) is home to gangs such as La Colonia, which has its roots in the pre-World War Two era. Many of its current members are sons and grandsons of previous members. The Oxnard police embarked upon a strategy of delicate balance between crime suppression, i.e. aggressive arrests, and crime prevention, namely community outreach and education.

By training community leaders, activists, and volunteers in specific areas of starting and maintaining partnerships, the City of Oxnard has reduced its homicides by fifteen to twenty per cent per year between 2001 and the present. Gang-related violence fluctuates somewhat, but has reduced by an average of ten per cent per year during the same period. One indicator of the scope of police-community partnership efforts in Oxnard is the number of community residents that were trained by police in gang suppression techniques: nearly 1,000 teachers have learned gang identification signs; over 1,100 have completed gang awareness training; nearly 100 adult role models/mentors are currently active. An effective job-finding and job-training program strengthens the opportunities and the resolve of young people who are helped back onto the right track.

The author (center) conferring with Director of Training Richard M. Weintraub (right)
and Lieutenant Ron Kegel of Los Angeles County Sheriff ’s Department.

In Sophia, Bulgaria, I recently completed a two-year consultancy, together with a team from the Open Societies Institute, drafting training manuals and proposing new police-community partnerships. My recommendations were based on the “best practices” that I gathered from visiting and working with police and crime prevention organizations in Europe and North America. The Bulgarian police are presently undergoing a transition in common with other police forces worldwide that are adapting to 21st century problems and their solutions, and to community policing as a definable, applied philosophy for crime prevention. Those efforts form a part of Bulgaria’s preparations for entry into the European Union.

This change of approach and of structure has evolved from the realization that the older, paramilitary model of policing has proven ineffective and counterproductive in dealing with the public safety problems of modern cities, especially in minority and immigrant enclaves suffering from low average income and inadequate education. Paris, France is a case in point.

About three years ago, France swiftly and intentionally dismantled its world-renowned police de proximité and replaced it, especially in immigrant-dominated public housing projects, with hordes of anonymous uniformed assault teams that remain in their barracks until dispatched to quell violence in predominantly Muslim communities. Gone are the courteous, helpful local beat cops who played soccer with the teenagers, knew most of them by name, and encouraged them to do better in school, avoid gangs, look out for their families, and to become upstanding European citizens. Now the banlieu is, in effect, sentenced to social isolation. After disconnecting community policing and community partnerships, French officials should not have been surprised that the alienated young people rioted for ten straight nights in November 2005. It is arguable that they were negotiating for a more equitable and meaningful approach to social integration.

One of the axioms of progressive policing is that “one size does not fit all.” Although the proven best practices of many countries and cities certainly address similar problem areas—disaffected youth, economic and educational stagnation, loss or absence of a community ethos, social estrangement from the outside world— the forces at work in each community are unique in their formula. The questions we must ask are rarely about “getting tough on crime,” draconian punishments, or longer prison terms. These are suppressive measures. Instead, the clear need is to focus on preventive aspects, both situational and social, and to work to ensure that all available resources are put to effective use. Our most urgent task is to analyze and evaluate social and civic policies. Crime prevention must be seen as benefiting society as a whole.

We will never achieve a reduction in crime by applying stricter law enforcement alone. The U.S. currently maintains the world’s highest rates of incarceration: 800 prisoners for each 100,000 residents. U.S. rates of recidivism—repeat criminality—are also the highest in the world. By comparison, Western European rates for persons serving prison sentences range from 65 per 100,000 in population in Switzerland, to 85 per 100,000 in population in Austria, France, Germany, and Italy. British incarceration rates are somewhat higher, but not even distantly approaching those of the U.S.

Those egregious disparities in rates of violent crime between America and Europe first interested me in 1967 when I was a young American lawyer studying international criminal law and procedure on a Fulbright scholarship at Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich. Why, for example, do U.S. residents commit homicides at a rate of seven or eight persons per year per 100,000 in population when their European cousins average just over one person per 100,000 per year? Indeed, by 1990, U.S. deaths through assault had risen to 12 victims per 100,000 in population. Spurred on by these dramatic statistics, the U.S. Congress enacted the Crime Reduction Act in 1994, which not only placed more officers on the streets of America, but also initiated the U.S. surge toward adoption of community policing strategies. By December 2000, murder rates in the U.S. had dropped fifty-seven per cent.

But successful police-community partnerships also demand permanent commitment. Removal of that sustained commitment, as happened in France, has more recently begun taking its toll in the U.S. In 2005, homicide rates in the U.S. rose again by 4.8 per cent, and gained another 5.2 per cent during the first six months of 2006. Other violent crimes, particularly among teenagers, are also on the increase. Why? The answer is complex, but certainly reflects the decision of the Bush administration in 2001 to cut funding for community policing and its specialized crime prevention partnership programs from over $2.5 billion down to a few million dollars. Drastic personnel cuts among police departments nationwide have been the result. There is, however, growing bipartisan consensus that federal crime prevention and community policing support must be reinstated, and that community policing should be expanded to include prevention of terrorism as well, taking a tip from their European colleagues.

One thing I have learned from my years of comparing and analyzing social dysfunction, crime, and crime prevention in over twenty countries is that the data orchard grows both apples and oranges in great abundance. Each city, region, or country features causal connections that derive from that area’s own matrix of culture, history, economics, and social expectations. For example, the Swedish Brottsförebyggande Råd, or Crime Prevention Council, combines civic, social, educational, business, and other resources and their representatives in over 240 different communities throughout Sweden. They meet regularly, decide on an agenda, pool their efforts in specific short, medium, and long-term goals, and benefit from the support of a national umbrella organization that is a constant and reliable source of practical advice and a clearing house of accrued expertise. Yet their American counterparts often suffer from inability to sustain the community cohesion and effective lines of communication that the Swedes have achieved. Moreover, American crime prevention efforts have become somewhat politicized in recent years, and more nationwide uniformity and discipline are clearly needed. Despite those headaches, community policing and crime prevention partnerships have proven their value many times and in many countries in recent years.

Arthur A. Jones is an international law consultant, instructor, and author with over 40 years experience in 26 countries. Together with his partner, Robin Wiseman, he has assisted in the development of dynamic community partnerships in crime prevention in many countries, and has published research papers and articles in six languages. He recently completed a two-year consultancy in Police Management Structure together with OSI in Sophia, Bulgaria, and is now making preparations for a similar project in Romania.
For more information on cross-national studies on community policing and individual country reports, see the following websites:

U.S. Dept. of Justice Office of Justice Programs
Bureau of Justice Statistics

German Forum for Crime Prevention
(in German, English, and other languages)

Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention

ISPAC (Italian and International Crime Prevention)

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
(reports of national institutes)

Several articles by the author can be found
on the Jurawelt website

Respectfully submitted,

Arthur A. Jones, J.D., Dr.jur. Robin Wiseman, J.D., Dr.h.c.

Los Angeles, California / Genoa, Italy - December 24, 2006


--- Arthur A. Jones and Robin Wiseman are international human rights lawyers with legal educations in the United States and Europe. They are consultants and authors on international policing, social policy and human rights, and regular contributors to the forum here at LA Community Policing.

For more of their work, please see the
Think Tank.

For additional information or a complete list of references, contact:

Dr. Arthur Jones