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Proactive policing in the United States: a national survey

Christopher S. Koper (Criminology, Law and Society, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA)
Cynthia Lum (Criminology, Law and Society, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA)
Xiaoyun Wu (Criminology, Law and Society, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA)
Noah Fritz (Justice Research Associates, Denver, Colorado, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 14 September 2020

Issue publication date: 10 October 2020




To measure the practice and management of proactive policing in local American police agencies and assess them in comparison to recommendations of the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) Committee on Proactive Policing.


A survey was conducted with a national sample of American police agencies having 100 or more sworn officers to obtain detailed information about the types of proactive work that officers engage in, to quantify their proactive work and to understand how the agencies measure and manage those activities. Responding agencies (n = 180) were geographically diverse and served populations of approximately half a million persons on average.


Proactivity as practiced is much more limited in scope than what the NAS envisions. Most agencies track only a few forms of proactivity and cannot readily estimate how much uncommitted time officers have available for proactive work. Measured proactivity is mostly limited to traffic stops, business and property checks and some form of directed or general preventive patrol. Many agencies have no formal policy in place to define or guide proactive activities, nor do they evaluate officer performance on proactivity with a detailed and deliberate rubric.


This is the first national survey that attempts to quantify proactive policing as practiced broadly in the United States. It provides context to the NAS recommendations and provides knowledge about the gap between practice and those recommendations.



The authors greatly appreciate the partnership of the International Association of Crime Analysts in implementing the survey. We also thank Megan Stoltz and William Johnson for their research assistance.Funding: This work was supported by funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.


Koper, C.S., Lum, C., Wu, X. and Fritz, N. (2020), "Proactive policing in the United States: a national survey", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 43 No. 5, pp. 861-876.



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