In the 1990s, police in Stamford, Conn., shifted their focus from responding to crimes to solving neighborhood problems, providing social services and meeting residents at substations. This “community policing” was credited with bringing about a remarkable decline in crimes such as homicide, assaults and auto theft. Now, however, an increasing number of residents and a shrinking number of officers threaten community policing, reports the Stamford Advocate.
As substations sit idle and criticism about police presence lingers after an uptick in youth violence, Chief Brent Larrabee is rethinking the definition of community policing. In recent weeks, he has met with the five district police commanders to consider closing some of the city’s 12 substations, some of which have been defunct for at least four years. Community policing took flight in the late 1980s, based in part on the theory that vandalism, street-corner drug deals and dilapidated buildings showed that police had lost their grasp on crime and signaled more serious trouble. But as crime plummeted, so did federal and state funding. After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, resources were diverted to homeland security. That limited the ability of police departments to implement labor-intensive community efforts.