Police officers are in a unique position to positively impact their communities for the better. Daily rounds and time spent patrolling the streets means that law enforcement officers can monitor neighborhoods and areas where other adults are not. An officer must identify children and young adults who are at high risk for gang activity.
According to Brian Wilson McFarland, a police officer, and gang expert, law enforcement must go beyond finding and booking gang criminals to serve and further protect community members. By controlling gang membership and new initiations, police officers can break the cycle and prevent people from getting involved in violent criminal activity. Brian Wilson McFarland notes that those on the front lines should play an active, visible role in gang-prevention, ultimately building trust and respect with community members.
Two popular problem-solving models are used to address gang activity in communities. They are the S.A.R.A. and the Public Health Prevention Models, which complement one another in many aspects. Brian Wilson McFarland explains that gang prevention relates to criminal justice and public health equally since violence often results in death, physical injuries, and mental trauma. Both methods share similar steps that promote collaboration between law enforcement and public health departments.
The Public Health Prevention Model focuses on four main steps: surveillance, identifying risk, creating prevention strategies, and implementing methods. According to Brian Wilson McFarland, law enforcement agencies primarily use S.A.R.A., which stands for Scanning, Analysis, Response, and Assessment. Statistics show that almost 1 in every 12 children are involved in gang activity at some point in their life. The problem is widespread, which is why Brian Wilson McFarland believes it must be addressed adequately in all communities across the nation.
Police officers must take the initiative in gang assessment and identification. By having a clear definition of what is considered to be gang activity, Brian Wilson McFarland explains that officers can accurately identify the level of activity or potential activity. This step is crucial because overestimating the amount of gang activity can scare a community and lead to panic or wrongful incrimination. However, Brian Wilson McFarland notes that underestimating gang activity or not taking it seriously can lead to dangerous and violent situations.
When interacting with at-risk youth in communities, Brian Wilson McFarland notes that officers should never scare or threaten young people. They should not be searched randomly or harassed. Building trust takes communication and training. According to Corporal Brian Wilson McFarland, police officers can gather vital information from community members on gang activity and at-risk individuals who will help them analyze the situation and create response strategies.