Neighbourhood watch is one of the traditional and best known crime prevention concepts in North America. It was popularly known as the neighbourhood watch organization in Pasadena Hills, under the direction of St. Louis Country Police Officer, Kyle Jundt, resident Geno Salvati and resident Ed Tyler. The International Code of Enforcement Ethics reveals the primary reason for establishing formal police system in any society thus: as a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind and property; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception; the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence and disorder; and to respect constitutional rights of all the men to liberty, equity and justice (Qadri, 2005). Admittedly, the main role of the police is to enforce law and order, safeguard lives and property, and render other essential services in the society. Put in a different way, fighting crimes and criminals is so difficult that the police and other law enforcement agencies alone cannot perform this task and achieve maximum positive results. Since the most visible part of criminal activities take place at the neighbourhood level, policing agencies need public support and co-operation. Intensive partnership and collaborative efforts of both the formal and informal agents of social control remain preconditions for a possible near ‘crime-free’ society (a complete crime free society is utopia); in other words, the idea will lead to a great success in crime prevention and control in the community.
Community policing is in hand with systematic relationship between the police and the entire people in the community. Police roles and functions are not simply law enforcement but also include tackling a huge range of community problems. The movement from traditional policing to community policing is a universal phenomenon and the Nigeria police cannot be an exception to this. Indeed, community policing as a philosophy and practice is a veritable vehicle for police reforms (Okiro, 2007). The Nigeria police in 2004, adopted community policing as a practical approach to police reforms. The stage was indeed set for a clear departure from traditional policing, that was reactive and incident based, to a problem solving oriented policing that is proactive with the community as the important part of policing objectives (Abdulrahaman, 2007).
Community policing is a paradigm shift that seeks to focus on constructive engagement with people who are the end users of the police service and renegotiate the agreement between the people and the police therefore making the community co-producers of justice and a quality police force. The most recent attempt made by the Nigeria police force to improve its performance was the introduction of community policing programme in 2004. This was part of the Nigerian Police force’s effort to change policing to a new and professional policing capable of ensuring and maintaining proper security of lives and property in Nigeria. Community oriented policing is a proactive measure that promotes curbing criminal act.
Conclusively, the police involvement in community affairs is another strong strategy that allows the police to display themselves as both private citizens and State agents of social control. Community policing under this programme or strategy presents the police as servants of the society who, should in a reasonable manner, enforce law and order and ensure public compliance with policies. Extant studies also attest that the involvement of police in community affairs has actually yielded fruitful results. For instance, Quinney (1974) affirmed that when the community collaborates with police personnel in maintaining social order, it helps the legal system also to be increasingly used in criminal justice administration. The police are viable instrument for building an inclusive and organised community policing in Nigeria. Police involvement in community affairs facilitates rapid and timely control of persistence rebellion, whether in outright political processes or behaviour that otherwise, violates the rules of the society. Community policing also helps the State policing actors to exercise its repressive force on the people in order to achieve compliance with the law (see also Kelly & Clark, 2003). This technique can be employed only in a physically and socially disorganised community. In more disorganised areas, some experts pointed out, police use aggressive tactics to reduce crime and ‘take back the streets’ before building relations with community leaders (Siegel, 2008 citing Nolan, Conti & McDevitt, 2004).