Problem Solving

What is POP?

Problem oriented policing is an approach to policing in which elements of policing are subject to examination, whether this be a cluster of similar incidents e.g. anti-social behaviour, that the police are expected to handle. 

POP places a high value on new responses of a preventative nature that are not dependant on the criminal justice system and that engage other partner agencies, the community and the private sector. Their involvement has the potential to significantly contribute to the reduction of the problem.

This style of policing carries a commitment to implementing a new strategy, constantly evaluating its effectiveness and sharing results that will benefit other areas suffering from the same problems.


POP Within Durham Constabulary

Durham Constabulary adopted this style of policing when Chief Constable Michael Barton joined the force as Assistant Chief Constable in 2008.

POP identifies the root causes of a problem and develops tailored solutions to improve the quality of life for our communities. This approach has been successful in addressing a wide range of crime and anti-social behaviour problems that traditional policing methods alone have not been able to.


The Model

Durham Constabulary adopted the “OSARA” model, which is a 5 stage process consisting of:

-          Objective

-          Scanning

-          Analysis

-          Response

-          Assessment


Your objective should be specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and timely (SMART).

Your objective is not to “reduce demand on police resources”, it’s the effect the problem is having on victims, which then places a demand on police resources.

Having defined an objective, you need to identify how you’re going to measure its success.


Scanning is effectively gathering information.

-          Identifying reoccurring problems of concern to the public and the police e.g. a series of burglaries being targeted at elderly householders in a specific location.

-          Identifying the consequences of the problem for the community and the police.

-          Prioritising those problems e.g. the links to local for force priorities.

-          Confirming that the problems exist e.g. statistical data, letters of complaint.

-          Determining how frequently the problem occurs and how long it has been taking place.

-          Selecting problems for closer examination.


The problem analysis triangle should be used as a guide to completing the analysis, it provides a way of thinking about recurring problems of crime and disorder.

Understanding the weakness in the problem analysis triangle in the context of particular problem will point the way to new involvements.

The first layer of the triangle is made up of 3 sides:

-          Victim

-          Offender

-          Location

The second layer of the triangle is made up of:

-          Guardian

-          Handler

-          Manager

These are the people who have influence over those in the first layer of the triangle.

The third layer of the triangle are the supercontrollers, these are the people who can affect change, whether that be to policies and procedures or to encourage buy in from partner agencies.

In the analysis phase we should:

-          Understand the events and conditions that contribute to the problem you’ve highlighted in your scanning.

-          You must begin to identify the relevant data that needs to be collected.

-          You should know what’s already in place to address the problem and the strengths and weaknesses of the current response.

In the final part of your analysis you should begin to develop a working hypothesis about why the problem is happening. You should prove or disprove this theory in your response by testing them.


A response plan should be based on the analysis carried out. The response plan will define what action is going to be taken to solve the problem.

In developing a response plan:

-          You should brainstorm new ideas and different ways to solve your problem.

-          Research what other areas with similar problems have done, someone may already have a solution.

-          The actions should address each side of the problem analysis triangle.

-          Consideration should be given to the 10 principles and 25 techniques of crime prevention.

As part of your delivery plan you must ensure that mechanisms are in place to evaluate the effectiveness against achieving your objectives once the response is carried out.


The aim of the assessment is to answer whether the objective you set at the beginning of the process has been achieved.

-          Did your response go as planned?

-          Did your problem decrease?

-          Did the problem decrease as a result of the response? Or did other factors contribute e.g. someone was locked up.

If your actions haven’t delivered the required outcome then return to the scanning and begin the cycle again. The OSARA process should continue until the objective has been met.

You must document failed responses, this shows lessons have been learnt and allows others to avoid using failed responses in the future.

Crime Prevention

10 Principles of Crime Prevention

1.     Target hardening

2.     Target removal

3.     Removing the means to commit crime

4.     Reducing the payoff

5.     Access control

6.     Surveillance

7.     Environment change

8.     Rule setting

9.     Increasing the chance of being caught

10.  Deflecting offenders




Increase the effort

Increase the risks

Reduce the rewards

Reduce provocations

Remove excuses


1. Target harden

- Steering column locks and  immobilisers

- Anti-robbery screens

- Tamper-roof packaging


6. Extend guardianship

- Take routine precautions: go out in a group at night, leave signs of occupancy, carry phone

- “Cocoon” neighbourhood watch



11. Conceal targets

- Off-street parking

- Gender-neutral phone   directories

- Unmarked bullion trucks



16. Reduce frustrations and stress

- Efficient queues and polite service

- Expanded seating

- Soothing music/muted lights



21. Set rules

- Rental agreements

- Harassment codes

- Hotel registration


2. Control access to facilities

- Entry phones

- Electronic card access

- Baggage screening


7. Assist natural surveillance

- Improved street lighting

- Defensible space design

- Support whistleblowers



12. Remove targets

- Removable car radio

- Women’s refuges

- Pre-paid cards for pay phones


17. Avoid disputes

- Separate enclosures for rival soccer fans

- Reduce crowding in pubs

- Fixed cab fares



22. Post instructions

- “No parking”

- “Private property”

- “Extinguish camp fires”


3. Screen exits

- Ticket needed for exit

- Export documents

- Electronic merchandise tags


8. Reduce anonymity

- Taxi drivers IDs

- “How’s my driving?” decals

- School uniforms


13. Identify property

- Property marking

- Vehicle licensing and parts making

- Cattle branding


18. Reduce emotional arousal

- Control on violent pornography

- Enforce good behaviour on soccer field

- Prohibit racial slurs



23. Alert conscience

- Roadside speed display boards

- Signatures for customs declarations

- “Shoplifting is stealing”


4. Deflect offenders

- Street closures

- Separate bathrooms for     women

- Disperse pubs


9. Utilize place managers

- CCTV for double-deck buses

- Two clerks for convenience stores

- Reward vigilance


14. Disrupt markets

- Monitor pawn shops

- Controls on classified ads

- License street vendors


19. Neutralise peer pressure

- “Idiots drink and drive”

- “It’s OK to say no”

- Disperse troublemakers at school



24. Assist compliance

- Easy library checkout

- Public lavatories

- Litter bins


5. Control tools/weapons

- “Smart” guns

- Disabling stolen cell phones

- Restrict spray paint sales to juveniles


10. Strengthen formal surveillance

- Red light cameras

- Burglar alarms

- Security guards


15. Deny benefits

- Ink merchandise tags

- Graffiti cleaning

- Speed humps


20. Discourage imitation

- Rapid repair of vandalism

- V-chips in TVs

- Censor details of modus operandi



25. Control drugs and alcohol

- Breathalyzers in pubs

- Server intervention

- Alcohol-free events




The POP Conference

For the last nine years, Durham Constabulary have held an “Annual POP Conference”, where Chief Constable Michael Barton invites all employees and partner organisations to attend. Numerous examples of joint agency problem solving initiatives are showcased with an overall winner announced. It’s also an opportunity to thank everyone for the innovative ways in which staff have worked within their communities to make County Durham and Darlington a safe place to live.

2018 saw a project called “Cultivating Change” take the overall title. The team, in Peterlee, introduced the Young Heroes event which honours people under 18 who have done something positive in their community. They created a Peterlee Community Garden and secured £70,000 worth of funding from Peterlee Town Council for sustainable youth provision. The monthly Young Heroes award teases out inspirational stories from the community with nominations coming from schools, parents and police. The winner is presented with a trophy, certificate and gift voucher presented by the Neighbourhood Inspector.

Chief Constable Michael Barton said “we are proud to embed problem solving as the core element of how we think about making a change to the way society works, the way crime operates, how victims can look after themselves and how communities can thrive. From around 50 initiatives, 12 of those projects were selected to be at our conference. The winners, ‘Cultivating Change’ is a far sighted, multi-faceted idea where they are doing so many things, not least challenging people who are on the cusp of criminality to take a second look at their anti-social behaviour. Hearty congratulations to everyone involved. I am proud of the enthusiasm, tenacity and analytical prowess of these people. There’s some fantastic thinking ongoing in the organisation which improves the lives of the people living in County Durham and Darlington.”


If you are concerned about a problem in your area, you can discuss it at your local PACT meeting or alternatively, you can contact your local neighbourhood team.