Guest Blogger Officer Joseph Philippon, Lewiston, Maine, Police Department
A crucial part of community policing is understanding that every community is different and that the best response varies. The Lewiston Police Department embraced that concept by developing Operation Hot Spot.
Operation Hot Spot was created as a crime prevention and community policing response to the string of drug related shootings that took place within a short period of time. We recognized that in order to be effective we needed to connect with the community, and in particular the residents of the hot spot area, to determine what the needs were in the neighborhood. Also, trust was crucial because without public trust and support we would not have received the information we needed to formulate a plan and effectively execute the plan. We recognize that the police department not only plays a role in crime prevention and reduction, but also in fostering pride in our community.
Residents know what is happening in their neighborhood and their buy in is critical to success and to ensure that after our policing details leave the neighborhood it continues to be a safe place to live. Our program started off by simply walking the neighborhoods and speaking with everyone we saw. We checked in with our community members, asked them what was going on in the neighborhood, invited them to community meeting(s), and gave them a flyer explaining what Operation Hot Spot was and asking for their help.
The program was studied and evaluated by the University of Maine’s Muskie School of Public Service and the school also assisted in the preparation, implementation, and analysis of our community survey. We worked with the media to share what was happening in the community and in particular with our Hot Spot project.
Since 2015, we have been invited to present on both information about crime in the city and on the results of Operation Hot Spot to the local Chamber of Commerce, the Lewiston School System, and at local businesses and various community meetings.
In 2015, we conducted a survey of the community and below is quick summary of the responses we received;
– 68% reported Operation Hot Spot in their opinion has been effective/extremely effective
– 59% reported they believed the police department was somewhat/extremely accessible
Through our annual community meetings the public provided the following as feedback: “I can’t sleep at night because it is so quiet” and “It’s been the safest, cleanest, quietest, nicest, and most successful project in 20 years. The tone and atmosphere is different.”
Since the project’s inception, the city has experienced significant decreases in both crime and juvenile arrest rates. Moreover, we recognize the significant impact Operation Hot Spot has also had in improving the overall safety and quality of life for our residents.
The department recognizes the importance of community engagement and has greatly increased its presence in the community over the years. We are committed to working with community and social service providers on an ongoing basis to identity youth, adults, and families who are in need of assistance to reduce the likelihood that become victims or offenders of crime. Operation Hot Spot is just one example.
Lewiston Police Department has also shared a post on their Community Resource Team.
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, particularly those that address recommendations from the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing final report. The Institute is funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and the Motorola Solutions Foundation. Learn more about the ICPR.