News: Take a Hike

Foot Patrols Make Police Part of the Community

Aug 30, 2001 at 2:06 pm

City leaders, community activists and many citizens seem to want more community-oriented policing in Cincinnati, and foot patrols are increasingly recommended.

According to District One of the Cincinnati Police Division, two officers work a foot patrol in Over-the-Rhine and three officers are on foot downtown. Some other Cincinnati neighborhoods also have foot patrols. City Councilman Chris Monzel believes the ideal arrangement would be two officers walking beats in every Cincinnati neighborhood.

His office is looking into ways to get more officers walking beats and to open more neighborhood substations to help connect the police and the community. Monzel says he hopes to put a proposal before council after it goes back into session in September, but he's concerned about costs.

"We pay a million dollars in overtime a year to the police and we've already burned through that because of the riots," Monzel says.

Studies show walking beats work

According to the Community Policing Consortium in Washington, D.C., studies in three cities have shown that "police could develop positive attitudes with citizens if they spent more time on foot patrol."

The studies indicated that people feared crime, disorder and deterioration in their community.

"Foot patrol provided a double benefit because citizens perceived they were safer, and officers were able to obtain needed information from citizens regarding criminal activity," according to the consortium.

Foot patrol models led to the idea of community-oriented policing, introduced in Cincinnati in 1990.

"The emphasis was on combating drugs and violence within the city neighborhoods," says Cincinnati Police Sgt. David Fink. "It's designed to develop a cooperative relationship between the law enforcement community and the people that we serve. Many of the officers were already doing these things. We just weren't calling it community-oriented policing."

Fink says activities that bring police and residents together, such as National Night Out, are good for everyone.

"Many times these people don't feel they have access to us," he says.

The Night Out program lets citizens meet police in an informal setting.

"They see us more as humans as well," Fink says.

Every neighborhood in Cincinnati has a neighborhood officer assigned to it, but more would help, according to Monzel.

"I think it's very important, not only in Over-the-Rhine, but a lot of communities have been requesting more neighborhood police," he says.

Since April, many citizens have said they would like to know the officers patrolling their neighborhoods and feel a connection with them. That's where neighborhood officers come into play.

"They are a liaison between the police division, the beat officers and the community," says Fink, who supervises the eight neighborhood officers in District Five.

Neighborhood officers interact with residents to find out what their needs are. Fink says sometimes people tell officers the long-term issues they would like to see addressed, such as drug activity. Other times, it's a more basic matter.

"It may be something as simple as getting an absent landlord to take care of their property," Fink says.

Neighborhood officers have more time to interact with the community. Some are trained to use mountain bikes.

"They're also encouraged to park the car and do foot patrol," Fink says. "I believe it has a positive impact in our efforts to reduce crime, because we can't do this alone. It's helped us to get to know the people in the community better." ©