What exactly is Community Policing? Community Policing is a philosophy and an organizational strategy that promotes a partnership between the community and law enforcement designed to reduce crime and improve the quality of life. It’s concept allows the police, the communities they serve, and other agencies to work together to address the causes of crime, fear of crime, and other community issues. It is becoming the operating philosophy in a growing number of law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. It is a way of providing decentralized, personalized law enforcement services to the community. Community Policing emphasizes the creation of an effective working relationship between the community and the Sheriff’s Office through a collaborative problem solving partnership. The goal of Community Policing is to empower communities, so that they can help make their neighborhoods better, safer, and healthier places in which to live, work, and raise the children of our future. The success of such partnerships depends upon the active involvement of community residents in both planning and implementation of strategies designed at resolving problems. Motivating residents to become active within their neighborhoods requires that they be encouraged to get involved with even the very early stages of problem solving including identifying potential situations.
The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office became involved in Community Policing in 1998 with the help of a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. Substations have been utilized in Bluewater Bay, Sylvania Heights, Hetherington, South Destin, Laurel Hill, and Cinco Bayou. They work with the Department of Juvenile Justice by doing curfew checks on delinquent youths, and they also work with the state and county probation offices to keep an eye on individuals who are currently on probation.
The residents of Community Policing areas say that it is working and neighborhoods are becoming much safer places to live. Trouble areas have been cleaned up thanks to the efforts of the Community Policing Unit when each month, members of the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Community Policing Unit, along with volunteers and other members of the Sheriff’s Office, participate in a clean up day in one of Okaloosa’s local communities. During this community effort, the Sheriff’s Office and volunteers spend their day picking up trash and cleaning up blighted areas.