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Proactive policing is the theory and practice of engaging criminals before they commit a crime, thereby preventing crime from taking place in the first place. Police action after receiving a complaint or call for help from the public does not constitute proactive policing. Police action where there is no suggestion of a crime having taken place, but rather because a crime could take place, is proactive policing.


Elements of proactive policing


Stop and search

Stop and search is a form of proactive policing where suspects undergo a full body search in order to prevent a crime from occurring. The EHRC has described the practice as a "humiliating experience." In the UK black people are at least six times more likely to be stopped and searched than whites.[1]

Stop and question

Stop and question is a form of proactive policing which does not involve searching the suspect. By way of example officers on bikes observed a man dressed in a monkey suit engaging in street theatre. The officers interrupted his show in front of about 40 onlookers and asked for his name, he responded by shaking his head and making strange sounds. The second time police asked for his name, the street performer replied: "Monkey". The officers responded by pushing him against a shop window and handcuffing him in front of the stunned audience.[2]

Move on notices

Move on notices target young people congregating in areas where an offence has been committed. There is no suggestion the young people themselves have committed any offence, only that they could commit an offence. Western Australia's former Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Mrs M.H. Roberts, explains: "The Western Australia Police Service is focusing on hot spots such as car parks used by groups of youths with vehicles; areas at which there is reasonable suspicion an offence has been committed or the peace disturbed; shopping centres at which groups of youths are hanging around in a way that hinders the lawful activities of the general public; places where people are drinking in public; and other areas at which violence may occur. Move-on notices enable police to move people from trouble spots for up to 24 hours. Any breach can result in an arrest." [3]

Outcomes of proactive policing


In a 2009 poll in Mexico 21% of respondents said that getting tough on drug gangs had made the country safer, whereas half thought it had heightened the danger.[4]

Social dislocation

"While [proactive policing] offers an inclusionary vision of crime control, its practice may be something rather different. More specifically, and in common with the trajectory of much advanced liberal social policy, in practice community safety may have an exclusionary effect. Thus, while community safety may represent the convergence of social and criminal justice policies, it does so on neoliberal rather than welfare liberal terms. It also means that community safety has a closer connection to policies of punitive sovereignty – particularly sentencing policies of mass incarceration – than might often be assumed." [5]

Proactive policing across jurisdictions



United Kingdom

United States

Debate on proactive policing in the US is characterized by a tension between a fear of police incroachment or abuse and the desire that the police help bring order to local neighbourhoods.[6]

New Orleans

"A WEEK after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, on September 4th 2005, the police shot six civilians as they were crossing the Danziger bridge across the Industrial Canal. Two were killed; the others were seriously wounded, one losing an arm. ... Police officers at first portrayed the shoot-out as a heroic victory by lawmen over the lawless. The official version was that some of the civilians involved had been shooting at the police, but the police rallied and justice prevailed." [7]


Two questions have been asked in one form or another, in all four of the City Council district town meetings held in April and May. [2009] 1) “Why am I seeing so many officers on the streets and in my neighborhood?” 2) “Why am I reading and hearing about more crime in our city this year than I’ve ever heard or seen in the past?” [8]

Criticisms of proactive policing


Studies of proactive policing do not address the views of persons stopped by police in crime hot spots or "community disorder symptoms" such as fear, intimidation, graffiti and vandalism.[9][10] There is little public discussion of the underlying causes of crime.[11]


The criterion by which to measure the effectiveness of a given policing approach should be the absence of crime and disorder, not merely the visible evidence of police action dealing with crime.[12]


See also


  1. ^ "BBC News - Police stop and search powers 'target minorities'". 2010-03-15. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  2. ^ BY of Perth. "Perth monkey arrest becomes a YouTube hit". Perth Now. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  3. ^ "Parliamentary Questions - Assembly, MOVE-ON NOTICES". 2005-06-21. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  4. ^ "Mexico, the United States and drug gangs: Turning to the gringos for help". The Economist. 2010-03-25. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "The New Orleans police: A bad shoot". The Economist. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "HeinOnline". HeinOnline. Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  10. ^ "Service Standards in the Colorado Springs Police Department". Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  11. ^ "Community Policing". Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  12. ^

External links


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