We’ve been hearing more and more about community policing ever since it was first introduced in 2019. From a pilot project which started in Mellieħa, community policing is now fully operational in 21 localities. As announced in Budget 2022, it will be extended to more localities including all of Gozo. This means that by next year, community policing will be present in 42 localities and across the sister island.
So, what makes community policing different than traditional policing?
Community policing is an organisational strategy that allows the police and residents to work closely to solve the problem of crime in their community. The Police Force uses community policing in order to become better involved and known in the community. This tactic also gets residents more involved in the community in which they live.
What are the benefits?
Community policing brings the community together as it builds a strong bond and trust between the members of the community and the police force. It is also a model for proactive problem solving. Officers are expected to be proactive and creative not only in addressing, but in preventing, problems. By forging relationships with neighbours and business owners, officers apply problem-solving methods to reduce crime and disorder while improving the overall quality of life in their beats.
Increased safety for the community and officers
These officers do more than meet and greet people; they take the time to share information and learn what is of interest in different sub communities within their area—geographic, business, ethnic, age related, and otherwise. Building relationships like these helps us all in the long-run. Young people develop a positive image of police and officers are safer when they are known and respected. Officers also enjoy the feelings of goodwill, personal connection, and individual accomplishment. This leads to more job satisfaction. When residents trust the police, they are also more willing to report crime or suspicious behaviour.
Combining preventive and investigative methods
Another distinguishing feature of community policing is that it emphasises proactivity rather than just beinng reactive. The focus is on preventing crime and solving problems by getting to the underlying cause.
Technology and data–sharing plays a large role in this, as does collaboration—both within the Police Force and outside—with social service providers, educators, health and other professionals and local councils. These partnerships increase the officers’ resources and their ability to solve problems.
The use of social media
Public communications are equally important. Community police officers are taught how to communicate and monitor information effectively through social media training. In fact, the use of social media also helped police better connect with people as every locality has its Facebook group where residents can give their feedback and interact directly with their officers.
Which localities are next?
Budget 2022 announced that community policing will be introduced in:
Paola, Santa Luċija, Żabbar, St. Paul’s Bay, Qawra, Attard, Iklin, Balzan, Lija, Xgħajra, Marsaskala, San Ġwann, Żebbuġ, Gżira, Imsida, Pietà, Mosta, Imġarr, Żurrieq, Safi, Kirkop and all of Gozo.
The aim is to extend community policing to all localities across Malta by 2023.