This blog post is part of a series highlighting best practices in community policing by police departments nationwide as part of IACP’s Community Policing: The Next Generation and Task Force on 21st Century Policing projects. The projects showcase innovative and effective solutions to building trust and creating opportunities to collaborate with community stakeholders to increase public safety. These projects are funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. The project is funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Abington Township, Pennsylvania, Police Department is a recipient of the 2016 IACP/Cisco Community Policing Award.
After the Abington Township, Pennsylvania, Police Department (APD) won the IACP/Cisco Community Policing Award for 2013, for the Abington Youth Deterrence and Development Initiative, they did not rest on their laurels. They went on to create the Abington C.A.R.E.S. Program, which helped them win the award again in 2016. This project provides identifies seriously at-risk children and families and provides them with Collaborative Assessment and Response for Expedited Services. By providing specific resources and services before a tragedy occurs, this program has driven down crime, delinquency, and other negative behaviors. Some of the more than 30 partners involved include hospitals, churches, township government, the YMCA, Abington Parks and Recreation, Probation, Parole, and the Office of Children and Youth. All are committed to serving the youth and families of Abington Township from a wide variety of perspectives.
While the APD, the Abington School District, and the Abington Youth Deterrence and Development Initiative were developing proactive youth deterrence programs, many at-risk youth and families were not getting the needed assistance until a crime was already committed or there was other intervention. The communication and collaboration occurred at the organizational level by partner organizations, but this was not being mirrored at the operational and “case” level by those handling the cases and providing the services.
After discussing modifications to existing procedures, consensus was that a new system of interaction and analysis was needed. Bureaucratic obstacles were impeding the already busy social service caseworkers. A core group of agencies began Abington C.A.R.E.S. with the following objectives in mind:
- Maintain a consistent flow of information beneficial to all agencies
- Identify high-risk situations in the community-based on multiple perspectives from the diverse agencies involved
- Quickly respond with the precisely-selected agency or combination of agencies
- Collectively evaluate the impact of the intervention and determine if further assistance was needed
- Monitor the situation from different perspectives
In one year, the Abington Social Service HUB (the organizational representative of the C.A.R.E.S. initiative) considered 100 potential cases and determined that 48 qualified as multi-systemic, high-risk scenarios requiring timely, multi-agency intervention and support. Included were those with mental illness, drug and alcohol issues, and family/children domestic situations. Over half of these cases involved persons under the age of 30.
Some of the lessons learned include:
- Good programs don’t always necessarily deliver good services
- Ownership must occur at every level of the endeavor
- Pay attention to the data
- Remain focused on results, not just the activities
- Police leaders must continue to adapt to the public expectations of the police; and
- Police departments must have partners who can provide the expertise that is beyond that of their officers.
The APD and the Abington C.A.R.E.S. program has reduced crime while improving quality of life through a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach. They have expanded their reach as a police department to ensure that no child, or family at-risk slips through without receiving personalized service. Together with the more than 30 service providers involved, the APD and the Township of Abington will make a difference in their community.