Proactive beats reactive

Published 11:12am Monday, July 2, 2012

By CHRISTOPHER GEORGE / Guest Columnist

There are many things that we, as a society, do by habit or even by law to prevent disease, damage to property, theft or personal injury.

We are required to give our children immunizations before attending school, building codes mandate that a certain amount of sprinklers be in commercial buildings and laws restrict the consumption of alcohol while driving.

These proactive mandates must be followed or the violator will face either punitive damages or could even have their freedom restricted by facing jail time. That is certainly what is and should be done, but this action is more reactionary than proactive. The objective should be to prevent homes from being broken into, cars being stolen, personal injury from occurring, etc.

This is accomplished by proactive patrols through neighborhoods, being available when called upon for assistance, being visible and informing the public of the dangers that do exist.

Criminals who want to break into your house will likely stake out the neighborhood days before to see who is home and how often the police drive through. If they see that there is no proactive patrol, they see this neighborhood as a potential target for theft.

Similarly, officers in schools are there more to be a presence and to educate of the dangers that exist than to enforce law.

There are hundreds of laws on the books in the State of Alabama and city officers have additional city ordinances to follow, but being proactive is much more successful. When someone is arrested, they become a statistic that may ultimately add to the nearly 200 percent capacity in our prison system.

Why not deter that behavior before it happens? Why not show the residents of our county that they are protected and show the criminal element that we have adequate law enforcement to keep them at bay? We must maintain an adequate level of officers per citizen in our county in order to provide the level of service that we expect in a county with the lowest unemployment rate and the highest median income rate in the state.

The officer per citizen rate ensures that each citizen receives an adequate amount of coverage and makes certain that enough officers are there when called upon. We don’t have to look far outside our county to see the impact of a reduction in the police force or more importantly, the quality of service. When it comes to a proactive vs. reactive police force, the choice is simple.

Capt. Chris George is a commander with the Criminal Investigations Division of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

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