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Can "focused-deterrence" prevent crime in Columbia?

The police department in Columbia is working on implementing a type of program that focuses police resources on individuals who are involved in criminal activities, such as gangs or other types of violence.

The program is sometimes referred to as predictive or proactive policing. In Kansas City, a program has focused on gangs in an effort to reduce the number of homicides. The police meet with many of these individuals on a monthly basis, reminding them that they are being watched and offering social services that may help them escape the cycle of violence and crime.

The Kansas City program is still a work in progress, but it may be responsible for preventing the gang homicide rate from increasing. In Columbia, police officials suggest it would have another focus, as last year Columbia only experienced a single homicide.

Issues like domestic violence, aggravated assaults or shots-fired incidents are mentioned as a potential focus.

For programs like this to be successful, however, they must target the root causes of crime and work very hard to develop trust in the community they are policing. As the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union notes, they have to demonstrate to the community that they are truly there "to serve and protect" and not simply function as an occupying army.

These issues are very complex, and the traditional police response to difficult social matters, such as domestic violence, suggests that new methods are needed. The important thing is that they are really new and not simply a different name on the same old "round up all the usual suspects."

Source: columbiatribune.com, "Department considering proactive policing program," ALAN BURDZIAK, January 8, 2016

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