The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing offers several recommendations for collaborating with the community to build relationships of trust between law enforcement officers and the community, including:
- allowing sufficient time for patrol officers to participate in problem solving and community engagement activities
- working with neighborhood residents to implement solutions that produce public safety
- interacting with the community members through forums and meetings
The San Antonio Fear Free Environment (SAFFE) Unit acts as an essential resource for the police department to connect with the community and embraces all of the above Task Force recommendations. Duties of SAFFE officers include educational talks at the local schools, attending home owner association meetings, and identifying and addressing crime trends in neighborhoods. The officers create a relationship of trust with their specific community and coordinate community events such as Police Athletic Leagues. SAFFE officers also work closely with community stakeholders, CIT officers, local mental health stakeholders, and external agencies to help prevent crime, increase quality of life, and build positive relationships with the community.
The SAFFE program has been running successfully since 1994. Today there are nearly 100 officers assigned across 6 substations in the city. Unit officers also stay connected to their assigned neighborhoods through community webpages on NextDoor that contain information about crime alerts, crime prevention tips, and information on SAFFE community events and activities. Each substation also has its own page on the department’s website with including names and contact numbers for the substation command staff, service area crime data, calendars of substation activities and events, and a map showing substation location.
Each SAFFE officer knows the particular problems and concerns of their neighborhood. Officers focus on identifying, evaluating, and resolving community crime problems with cooperation and participation of community residents. The residents are part of the crime prevention strategy, which boosts the effectiveness of the strategy and keeps the community informed. The SAFFE Unit is a proactive program that is at the core of SAPD’s department-wide community policing efforts.
This blog post is part of a series highlighting best practices in advancing 21st century policing as part of the IACP Institute for Community-Police Relations. San Antonio is one of fifteen sites selected for participation in the Advancing 21st Century Policing Initiative, a joint project of the COPS Office, CNA, and the IACP to highlight agencies who are actively embracing the principles in the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.