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1 Introduction

1.1 Who is this guide for?

This guide has been produced to assist practitioners in understanding the philosophy
of Problem Orientated Policing (POP) and applying it to identified problems. It is
aimed at readers with little or basic knowledge of problem solving.

1.2 The case for problem solving

Traditionally the police and other agencies involved in crime reduction have handled
incidents as separate and unique occurrences. Crimes have been regarded as episodes
to be detected and if they result in a conviction the case is thought to be solved, even
though the offender remains in their location and continues committing crime.

A smarter approach addresses the underlying causes of the problem through analysis
and joint agency approaches, to deliver sustainable solutions long after the
intervention is made. The emphasis on problem solving as an effective crime and
disorder reduction strategy stems from pioneering work on problem orientated
policing done by Herman Goldstein, Professor of law at University of Wisconsin.
Police practitioners working in partnership with researchers and community members
demonstrated that crime and disorder problems could be significantly reduced by
implementing tailored responses directly linked to the findings of comprehensive
problem analysis. The problem solving approach has been used in the UK since the
late 1990’s to address an endless variety of problems. Research has shown that a
relatively small number of locations and offenders are involved in a relatively large
amount of crime. Similarly, a small number of victims account for a relatively large
amount of victimisation.

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There are a number of reasons why we should adopt the problem solving philosophy:

¾ It is a style of policing that many communities in the UK want, in that it places

great emphasis upon resolving community problems, which engages the public
and partners alike.

¾ It is consistent with Government policy (Local Strategic Partnerships) and

legislation (Crime & Disorder Act) that required the police, local government and
other partners to improve community safety together. The Government insisted
that 2002 Crime & Disorder strategies were based upon a professional scanning
and analysis (the audit), together with evidence led responses and assessment
criteria. Problem solving philosophy also supports government policy in relation
to social cohesion and civil renewal.

¾ If effectively implemented it offers a viable method of reducing crime and

disorder and demand for service

¾ It provides a consistent framework for more effective policing, in that policing

issues can be properly identified, analysed, responded to and evaluated

¾ It provides more cost effective policing in that resources can be properly targeted
and good practice utilised.

2 The SARA process – A problem solving model

Although there are a number of problem solving models (i.e. Proctor & the 5 I’s), the
SARA model is perhaps the most widely used, and the model on which this paper
concentrates. There are four stages to the model: -

• S - scanning

• A - analysis

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• R - response

• A - assessment

Although the SARA process is not the only approach to problem solving it is widely
recognised as a systematic and simplistic process, which captures every eventuality.
This guide provides an explanation of the four components of SARA and how it can
be used:

2.1 Scanning – What is the problem?

A problem can be anything, including a cluster of similar or recurring incidents, a

community concern, a place, person or special event or time. It could also be a
combination of these. The first step of the SARA process is to identify the problem in
a specific manner. This can be done in many ways, for example: -

¾ Analysis of calls for service

¾ Crime & incident data analysis – looking specifically for repeat offences

¾ Information & data received via partner agencies

¾ Community forums

¾ Analysis of media coverage

¾ Reviewing public complaints and letters

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Similarly the National Intelligence Model (NIM) identifies other means to identify the
problem: -

¾ Analysis of PNC / NCIS / NAFIS and scenes of crimes records

The primary skill of problem solving is to look at or scan all of these sources in order
to identify and prioritise the most serious problems. The NIM provides us with a
control strategy. Clearly priorities involve the presence of any life threatening
conditions or possibility of injury. Other factors to take into consideration are the
impact of the problem on the community and the impact of not addressing it, the
significance of the problem from a crime and disorder perspective and any potential
human rights implications. Once problems have been identified, the next stage is

2.2 Analysis – What causes the problem?

The police have historically been used to thinking about problems in terms of the
offenders involved, almost to the exclusion of other factors. Problem orientated
policing requires that a broader range of solutions be explored, which requires
analysis of the victims and locations of offences as well as the offender.
Comprehensive analysis of problems is critical around all three issues.

The first step in analysis is to determine what information is needed. This should be
an open, persistent and unbiased process. When analysing problems, certain simple
questions should be asked: -

¾ Can we explain the emerging themes?

¾ Do we know how or why a problem has occurred?

¾ Do we know of any past attempts to solve it?

¾ Did those attempts succeed and if not, why not?

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In analysing the victim / offender / location principle the problem analysis triangle
(PAT) can be used to make the link between the three elements. The triangle focuses
on the features or characteristics of the victim, offender or location and the level each
plays in creating or sustaining the problem. The concept argues that if any of the three
issues is effectively taken away, the problem is reduced. Similarly a combination of
offenders, victims and locations are all contributory factors to crimes occurring,




Figure 1 : the Problem Analysis Triangle

Victim: As mentioned earlier, recent research has shown that a small number of
victims account for a large amount of crime incidents. The 1992 British Crime Survey
found that 4% of the population, suffered 44% of all crime. In addition, research in
England has shown that victims of burglary, domestic violence and other crimes are
likely to be re-victimised, often within a month or two. Effective interventions
targeted at repeat victims can have a significant impact on reducing crime.

For example, a residential study in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire indicated that

victims of domestic burglary were four times more likely to be targeted again than
non-victims and that most repeat burglaries occurred within six weeks. Consequently
the local police developed a three tiered response to repeat burglary victims, based on
the number of times their homes had been burgled. Residential burglary was reduced
by 20 percent as a result.

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Offender: In the past much emphasis has been placed on identifying and
apprehending offenders. Whilst this can sometimes reduce a specific crime problem,
the reduction is often temporary as new offenders replace the original offenders. What
is required is a fresh approach to the offender side of the triangle? Why are offenders
attracted to certain victims and places, what do they gain by offending and what could
be done to prevent or reduce their rates of offending?

For example, The Tower Project in Blackpool, Lancashire. The project was
introduced when research showed the rate of criminality of drug dependant offenders
had increased, supported by evidence of a surge in the use of crack cocaine and heroin
in the area. The project aims were to reduce the offending behaviour of a targeted
group of persistent drug related offenders by imposing an assertive and intensive
supervision model that combines drug treatment and lifestyle support with police
disruption and targeting tactics.

Location: Like victims, certain locations account for a significant amount of all
criminal activity. Analysis of these locations may indicate why they are so conducive
to particular incidents or crime and point to ways in which they can be altered. By
improving security and design measures, long term, sustainable solutions can be

For example, a town in Merseyside was encountering a problem with youths causing
annoyance in a park after dark. The traditional approach of police attendance to move
the youths on was not addressing the issue and was a drain on police resources. By
involving other agencies, youth facilities were improved which diverted them from
this area.

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2.3 Responses - What needs to be done?

The third stage of the SARA model focuses on developing and implementing
effective responses to the problem – the ultimate challenge. Solutions must be tailored
to specific causes. In developing tailored responses, problem solvers should review
their findings around the problem analysis triangle.

Some, if not most, of the effective responses to problems arise when working in
partnership with other agencies. By thinking beyond our normal boundaries and
capitalising on what others have to offer we can significantly impact on identified
issues and problems. There is a requirement for innovative thought and a steer away
from the comfort zone of traditional approaches.

There are three common key features to all effective responses:

¾ A response focused on the point at which intervention might be expected to

have the longest term and widest impact

¾ A response which involves some degree of partnership working

¾ A response which is sustainable, if not necessarily permanent

2.3 Situational Crime Prevention

This approach was developed by Ron Clarke in the early 1980’s and is based on
convincing offenders that committing a particular crime in a particular place is not
worthwhile. The table over page highlights 5 opportunity-reducing techniques that
have been subdivided into alternative tactics to show the flexibility of this approach.

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Technique Examples

1. Increase the effort of


Harden targets - Screens for bus drivers and other staff dealing
with money

- Strengthen targets e.g. ticket machines or

phone booths

- Introduction of steering wheel locks

Control access to targets - Entry phones on apartments

- Alley gates

- Electronic tags on goods

- Ticket barriers at train stations

Deflect offenders from targets - Keeping football fans segregated

- Reducing congestion

- Street design

Control crime facilitators - Toughened glass

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- Photos on credit cards

2. Increase the perceived risks

of crime

Screen entrances and exits - Electronic ticket barriers

Formal surveillance - CCTV

- Security guards

- Alarms

Surveillance by employees - Training employees

- Rewarding vigilance

Natural surveillance - Street lighting

- Defensible space architecture

3. Reduce anticipated

Remove targets - Cash free travel

- Phone cards

- Woman’s refuges

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- Removable car phones

Identify property - Property marking

Reduce temptation - Rapid repair of vandalism

Deny benefits - Cleaning graffiti

- Ink tags

Disrupt markets - Controls on advertisements

- Checks on car boot sales/pawn shops

4. Remove excuses
for crime

Set rules - Codes of conduct

- Rental agreements

Alert conscience - Signs e.g. consequences of staff assault

Assist compliance - Litter bins

- Public lavatories

- Make it easy to pay for goods

Control drugs and alcohol - Banning drinking in public places

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- Promotion of sensible drinking practices

5. Reduce provocation

Reduce frustration - Queuing systems

- Good customer service

Avoid disputes - Separation of football fans

Reduce temptation - Fixed taxi fares

- Controls on violent pornography

- Banning paedophiles working with children

Neutralise peer pressure - Disperse trouble making children in schools

Discourage imitation - Rapid repair of vandalism

Table 1: Adapted from Clarke, 1997 and Clarke and Eck, 2003

2.4 Partners

Section 17 Crime & Disorder Act 1998 “It shall be the duty of each authority to
exercise its various functions with due regard to the likely effect of the exercise of
those functions on, and the need to do all that it reasonable can to prevent crime
and disorder in its area.”

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Partnership working is critical to problem solving. As a minimum requirement,
authorities are obliged to consider crime and disorder implications whenever policies
are approved. The police alone cannot substantially reduce crime and disorder levels
and other stakeholders need to be identified and held accountable. Each stakeholder
will bring with them, different knowledge and a different option to impact on the
problem. They can be from public or private organisations and from within the
community. Some suggested partners may include:

¾ Local Authority & Social Services

¾ Health Authority

¾ Victim Support Organisations

¾ Hard to reach groups / organisations

¾ Home Watch Groups

¾ Education

¾ Housing Associations & Registered social landlords

¾ Probation

¾ Fire & Ambulance Service

¾ Business Watch Groups

¾ National organisations

¾ Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnerships

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¾ Community Leaders / Groups

Working in partnership with others may be difficult and frustrating to all involved.
Stakeholders need to be involved and valued otherwise commitment will diminish.
Whilst the police and local authority will always hold primary roles they do not
necessarily always need to take the lead role.

2.5 Assessment – What has been the impact of the response?

A thorough assessment of the interventions employed is necessary to evaluate

effectiveness. A reduction in calls for service or reported crimes will not always
indicate success. For example, if the public confidence in the police rises as a result of
a problem solving initiative, they may feel more comfortable making complaints,
hence a successful outcome might actually be a rise in reported crime. If this was an
outcome, both the police and partners must look carefully at the results and assess if
these were intended outcomes of the initiative.

Assessing the impact of a problem solving effort requires a framework, such as that
developed by Eke and Spelman, which identifies five different levels or types of
positive impact on problems. They are:

1. Total elimination of the problem

2. Fewer incidents

3. Less serious or harmful incidents

4. Better handling of the incidents/an improved response to the problem

5. Identifying the agency most able to address the problem

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Other variables, which will measure impact, are:

¾ Reduced instances of repeat victimisation

¾ Decreases in related crime or incidents

¾ Increased usage of an area / increased property values

¾ Fewer abandoned cars

¾ Less truancy

¾ Less loitering

¾ Reduction in fear of crime & increased public satisfaction

After both the analysis and assessment stages of the model, there is an option to
change or revise measures selected. The SARA process cannot be viewed as a linear
process but as a cycle. The ability to assess, review and change is essential.

3 Successful implementation

A synopsis of implementation failure - Kirby (2002) summarised a number of issues

that have had a significant impact on the success of problem solving efforts.
Implementation failure (Crawford 1998) is a well-documented concept within the
field of community safety. A focus on ‘what works’ has provided a plethora of
evidence to show that good ideas need to be supplemented by sound practice if crime
reduction programmes are to succeed. For instance, the programme may fail due to
the theory being impracticable in a particular environment or because resources may

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not be in place to implement the initiative as envisaged. The point is that
implementation or programme failure often materialises through a deficiency in
preparing the infrastructure that supports the approach.

A considerable number of reviews have consistently shown that the following criteria
produce the best chance of success in terms of a sustainable solution. They should not
be underestimated and are:

¾ The initiative is community focused

¾ The initiative has clear objectives from the outset, based upon the SMART

¾ The initiative sets evaluation criteria before it commences

¾ There is an forward strategy

¾ Initiatives are appropriately resourced

¾ The initiative is innovative & tailored to the setting

Likewise the presence of effective tasking and co-ordination processes and structures
are also felt to be crucial to the operation of problem solving. The NIM outlines in
great detail a model for tasking and co-ordination at all levels in the organisation. If
managed properly it becomes a means of driving and managing problem solving
across partnerships.

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4 The NIM

The NIM aims to bring ‘integrated intelligence’ within reach, a process driven model
it specifies the links between reactive, proactive and patrol work and the links
between local, regional, and national priorities. Kirby & McPherson (2004) and the
NIM practitioners guidance provide further information as to the read across between
the two models, however in essence, the model has three levels of impact, each
primarily separate, but overlapping.

Level 1 – Local Issues -crime, criminals, disorder, nuisance, anti-social behaviour and
other problems affecting a Basic Command Unit (BCU)

Level 2 – Cross Border Issues- crime, criminals, disorder or other problems which
impact across BCU and Force boundaries, including criminal networks involved in
serious or organised crime at a Force or Regional level.

Level 3 – National & International serious and organised crime – requiring response
by dedicated units and prevention at a national level.

There is a danger that problem solving will be seen as a different process to the NIM.
This is not the case. In fact the processes overlap and should be viewed as
complementary. The problem solving approach supports the NIM, which through
Tasking & Co-ordinating drives the activities of the Force.

The NIM builds on existing processes to capture good practice and ensure a corporate
approach to intelligence processes and products. The SARA model, which is an
integral part of problem solving, sits easily alongside the intelligence cycle, because
in principle it is the same thing. The scanning, analysis, response and assessment
stages of POP sit easily alongside the collection, evaluation, collation, analysis,
recommendations and review of the NIM process.

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Scanning Control Strategy

Analysis Analytical Products

Response Intelligence/Enforcement/Prevention

Assessment Results Analysis/ Operational Assessment

4.1 The NIM and Anti-social behaviour

There has been concern voiced about the capacity of the NIM to accommodate low-
level antisocial behaviour. Anti-social behaviour is a priority in each community
safety strategy and it is the intention of the NIM that the model can encapsulate all
levels of policing activity. This means even if anti-social behaviour is not set within
the level 2 control strategy, this or similar issues can be set within the level 1 (BCU)
control strategy. As such there is nothing to prevent these issues being addressed
within strategic or tactical assessments and problem or target profiles being
commissioned to outline activity in this area.

5 Other models for problem solving – (5I’s)

Paul Eckblom (Home Office) has recently proposed the 5I’s, a development of
SARA, which aims to capture, organise and transfer knowledge of good practice:

Intelligence – gathering and analysing information on crime problems and their

consequences, and diagnosing their causes.

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Intervention – considering the full range of possible interventions that could be
applied to block, disrupt or weaken those causes and manipulate the risk and
protective factors.

Implementation – converting potential interventions into practical methods, putting

them into effect in ways that are appropriate for the local context, and monitoring the
actions undertaken.

Involvement – mobilising other agencies, companies and individuals to play their

part in implementing the intervention.

Impact and process evaluation – assessment, feedback and adjustment.

6 Acknowledgements

In producing this guide assistance has been provided by several organisations and
thanks are owed to:

National Crime & Operations faculty at Centrex

Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science

ACPO Working group source material for the main body of the text includes the
NCOF problem-solving guide, Becoming a Problem Solving Crime Analyst from the
Jill Dando Institute, Problem Orientated Policing from Lancashire Police and the
Merseyside Problem Solving Document.

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