What purpose and interests are being served by having patrol officers in one area of town instead of another?

Assignment 2: LASA 1: Patrol Allocation Decisions

A major challenge for any police administrator is to determine how to allocate the limited resources of the police department to meet the law enforcement needs of the community being served. There is no facet of policing that better demonstrates this challenge than the patrol function. An administrator must not only assess the purpose and capability of the patrol function within the department, but also determine what the patrol will look like in the community, and when and where it will do so. Everyone would like to see a cop drive down their street from time to time. But does everyone need a cop in their neighborhood? What purpose and interests are being served by having patrol officers in one area of town instead of another? Does it make sense to saturate some areas with coverage, even if other areas will go unpatrolled? These are the real choices confronting police chiefs and sheriffs today.


In this assignment, assume the role of an assistant chief in the Centervale Police Department (CPD). The police chief has asked you to develop a position paper to reflect a patrol strategy for the department which will best serve the needs of Centervale. The chief wants you to consider everything you know about the effectiveness of preventive patrol, directed patrol, broken windows theory, notions of fairness and equity, and other considerations you deem important.

Here are some basic facts about Centervale that will help guide your patrol strategy:

  • Centervale is a fairly large, suburban, working class community near a major American city. Your police department includes 100 patrol officers.
  • 50% of the population lives north of the railroad tracks; 50% lives south of the railroad tracks.
  • 80% of the crime occurs north of the railroad tracks; 20% occurs south of the tracks.
  • 20% of the tax base can be found north of the railroad tracks; 80% is south of the tracks (that is, most of the money paying for town services is generated in the south).
  • Crime rates in town go up significantly at night; however, the population of the town goes up significantly during the day (due to an influx of reverse commuters and vibrant retail activity).
  • On average, it takes ten minutes for an officer to arrive to a call when dispatched from the south side of town to the north, or vice versa; however, on average it takes only five minutes to arrive to a call when the officer is already on the correct side of the tracks for the call.

What You Need to Do . . .

Write a 3-4 page position paper for the chief’s consideration which outlines your belief as to how patrol resources should be allocated in Centervale. In other words, where and when would you place your patrol officers in the community?

Further, justify your approach based on current research and existing literature about preventive and directed patrol, notions of fairness and equity, the importance of response times, and any other considerations you deem important.

In any case, cite at least two additional sources of information beyond the assigned readings. Feel free to make additional assumptions about conditions within Centervale that are not presented in the assignment (for example, the type of crime that is prevalent in the city). However, if you do so, make sure you state those assumptions up front in your assignment as a note to the instructor.

Assignment Criteria:

In your paper, be sure to demonstrate:

  • An understanding of current research regarding police patrol functions
  • The meaning of preventive patrol, directed patrol, broken windows, and/or other patrol models
  • An understanding of competing legitimate interests within the community and a rational approach toward reconciling these interests despite limited resources
  • Clear, concise writing which reflects critical thinking skills

Submission Details:

  • Save the assignment as M3_A2_Lastname_Firstname.doc.
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