Implementing a Problem-Oriented Policing Crime Reduction Program in the City of Nashville, Tennessee
Statement of the Problem
Law enforcement agencies have made substantial progress in reducing violent crime and property crime rates in many municipalities across the country, and the United States can be regarded as being significantly safer for its citizenry today compared to the alarmingly high crime rates in the 1990s (Gramlich, 2020). Nevertheless, pockets of high crime rates remain firmly in place in some American cities despite ongoing efforts by law enforcement agencies to address these trends. As the research that follows will show, combating property and violent crime is a challenging enterprise at any time, but the devastating effects of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have adversely affected employment levels in many cities and a growing number of Americans are facing eviction and hunger. It is not surprising, then, that crime rates remain intractable in cities where unemployment rates were already a problem, and this has been the case with Nashville, Tennessee where unemployment skyrocketed from just under 5% to 15% during the height of the pandemic (Unemployment rate in Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro, 2021). The overarching purpose of the study proposed herein is to identify optimal strategies for implementing a problem-oriented policing intervention to help reduce the crime rates in Nashville today and in the future based on the rationale that is presented below.
Today, the City of Nashville, Tennessee is more dangerous to live in than 97% of all American cities of comparable size (Nashville crime rates, 2021) and recent violent and property crime rates indicate that the problem is worsening, especially with respect to property crimes. Certainly, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has adversely affected virtually every American community, including increased unemployment levels and mental health issues that likely account for some of these crimes, but it is also clear that Nashville city leaders have yet another serious problem on their hands. One evidence-based law enforcement strategy that can help Nashville reduce its crime rates is problem-oriented policing. The purpose of this study is to propose a field test of a problem-oriented policing crime reduction program for Nashville which can be used to evaluate its appropriateness for city-wide implementation. To this end, a systematic review of the relevant literature is followed by the study’s guiding research questions and the targeted subjects for study in the sections below.
Background and overview
With a population of about 700,000 people, Nashville is Tennessee’s state capital and the home of the world-famous entertainment venue the Grand Ole Opry. At present, though, Nashville, is also a relatively dangerous place to live compared to national averages (Crime in Nashville, 2020). As shown in Figure 1 below and like much of the rest of the country, property crime remains much more common in Nashville compared to violent crime (Gramlich, 2020), but one in 90 residents are still likely to become to victim of violent crime each year and another one in 24 are probable victims of property crimes (Nashville crime rates, 2021).
Figure 1. Daily crime in Nashville (per 100,000 people)
While the costs of property crimes are quantifiable, the costs that are associated with violent crimes transcend the individual economic calculus and extend to include harm to entire neighborhoods and communities. In this regard, the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (2020) emphasizes that, “Exposure to violence in a community can be experienced at various levels, including victimization, directly witnessing acts of violence, or hearing about events from other community members” (Crime and violence, 2020, para. 3).
Description…law enforcement scenario differs, problem-oriented policing strategies and tactics generally revolve around the use of the scan, analysis, response and assessment (SARA) model (Hinkle et al., 2020). The application of the SARA approach to problem-oriented policing in real-world settings has consistently demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing crimes in general and violent crimes in particular (Hinkle et al., 2020). Moreover, the differences in the outcomes achieved using problem-oriented policing strategics and tactics have been attributed to differences in the implementation of these initiatives and the specific types of violent crimes that are involved rather than the fundamental tenets of the approach itself (Hinkle et al., 2020).
Evaluation of the appropriateness of problem-oriented policing for Nashville
During a period in American history where misguided calls for defunding the police have become commonplace, determining which criminal justice research and evaluation methods are most effective represents a timely and valuable enterprise, especially because taxpayer resources are by definition scarce (Jacobs & Kim, 2020). Therefore, any perception on the part of the general public that their monies are being squandered on ineffective or obsolete law enforcement methods is a significant and justifiable source of concern for police leaders (Boyce, 2019). In addition to conventional law enforcement practices, the problem-oriented policing model also provides useful evaluations methods that can help identify opportunities for community-based interventions that are specifically focused on violent crime (Schnobrich-Davis & Block, 2020). Furthermore, in a larger sense, problem-oriented policing evaluation methods are also highly congruent with other recent trends in criminology (Wooditch, 2021).
Yet another issue that must be considered is that by augmenting rather than completely replacing conventional law enforcement evaluation methods, problem-oriented policing evaluation methods also provide criminal justice researchers with “more bang for the buck” in terms of the robustness of their findings, an outcome that is…
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