Providence, R.I., police say major crime is the lowest it has been in 30 years partly because the big ideas that have captivated much of local law enforcement are being enthusiastically implemented, reports the Providence Journal. Sending officers out to pound a beat, that early 20th-century artifact abandoned in favor of sleek cruisers, is one of the prime tactics of community policing embraced by Police Chief Dean Esserman. Providence has 34 officers assigned to walk in pairs or to ride a bicycle. Widespread use of the tactic is practical only if the police department can maintain its complement of 495 officers.
A potent combination of community policing, full financing of the department, and a reinvigorated work force have cut crime by 30 percent over four years, Esserman says. About half the police and sheriffs' departments in the U.S. are now dedicated practitioners of some aspects of community policing, criminologist George Kelling told a crime conference in Providence. Kelling cites five big ideas current in local law enforcement. Besides problem-oriented policing and the broken-windows theory, they are the Anglo-Saxon concept that citizens police themselves rather than looking to a central government, the use of data, and “pulling levers” of power by enlisting the help of others, as well as using leverage on criminals. “People have a lot of handles on them,” Kelling said, “and all you have to do is find the handles.” If a criminal has a felony record or is caught with a gun with an obliterated serial number, those handles make a case eligible for federal prosecution.