In non-military law enforcement, patrol officers are uniformed police officers assigned to monitor specified geographic areas—that is, to move through their areas at regular intervals looking out for any signs of problems of any kind. They are the officers most commonly encountered by the public, as their duties include responding to calls for service, making arrests, resolving disputes, taking crime reports, and conducting traffic enforcement, and other crime prevention measures. A patrol officer is often the first to arrive on the scene of any incident; what such an officer does or fails to do at the scene can greatly influence the outcome of any subsequent investigation. The patrol officer, as the person who is in the field daily, is often closest to potential crime and may have developed contacts who can provide information.
The Philadelphia Foot Patrol Experiment, a randomized control trial conducted by Temple University, has shown that foot patrols reduce crime. With the resources to patrol 60 locations, researchers identified the highest violent crime corners in the city, using data from 2006 to 2008. Police commanders designed 120 foot patrol areas around these corners, and stratified randomization was used to assign pairs of foot patrols with similar crime rates as either a comparison or a target area. Officers generally patrolled in pairs with two pairs assigned to each foot patrol. After three months, relative to the comparison areas, violent crime decreased 23%.
Official records of police activities during the intervention period reveal the following in the target areas:
- Drug‐related incident detections increased 15%
- Pedestrian stops increased 64%
- Vehicle stops increased 7%
- Arrests increased 13%
An emerging trend within patrol is the supplement of basic police patrol with that of private security agencies. The privatization of police is explored in James Pastor's book The Privatization of Police in America: An Analysis and Case Study.
Read more about this topic: Patrol
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