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Community directories.

One challenge that confronts police departments nationwide is how to get valuable information out to the citizens they serve. Police administrators also seek ways to increase the likelihood that these citizens will keep the information throughout the year.

The Penn Township Police Department developed an innovative way to share such information with its residents. In a collaborative effort, local businesses, the Penn Township Board of Commissioners, and the police department now publish the Penn Township Government Services Directory. Because every household in the community receives a copy of the directory through the mail, department administrators use it as a means to inform citizens of relevant departmental programs and policies.

The Directory

The directory, which is updated approximately every 2 years, begins with a brief history of the area. Next, it lists information on various township boards and committees, such as the names of committee members and when meetings are held. The directory also includes other information of interest to residents. For example, citizens can refer to the publication for information on refuse collection, building permits, schools, and taxes, to name a few. In addition, when users unfold the directory, they find a detailed map of the area.

Because citizens generally refer to this type of information throughout the year, the directory has become an invaluable public relations tool to the police department. It is an easy, inexpensive way to familiarize citizens with the department and its programs. (A private consultant solicits advertising for the directory, and the revenue from these advertisements covers the cost of the publication.)

Public Support

Police department officials see the directory as an opportunity to get vital information out to citizens in a publication that they would refer to throughout the year. Every time a citizen refers to the directory, information concerning the police department is reinforced.

In order to maximize the effectiveness of the directory, department officials carefully plan and organize how they present the material. For example, they place most police department information in one area of the directory. The information appears in succinct paragraphs with subheadings that catch the reader's eye.

The department's section in the directory begins with a message from the chief of police, who welcomes new residents to the area and reaffirms the department's commitment to members of the community. The introduction also emphasizes that department personnel are eager to serve the needs of all citizens.

For example, one section on crime prevention urges citizens to have officers perform crime prevention checks on their homes. It also mentions the availability of an engraving instrument that citizens can use to mark their valuables.

Another section in the directory informs users of two instruments that officers use to deter speeders on roadways plagued with speed-related accidents. Yet another section advises that emergency services personnel of the township joined together to form a scuba team that can respond to incidents within a 15-mile radius.

Most of the police photographs appearing in the publication depict programs within the department that stress community involvement. Past issues of the directory included photographs on the child identification program, the ride-along program, and group tours of the police station. The photographs stress the joint efforts of the officers, as opposed to individual efforts of police administrators.

Concluding remarks from the chief appear at the end of the directory. These remarks express appreciation for the reader's attention and emphasize the open-door policy of the department's leadership.

Conclusion

Police leaders often take much care in preparing their department's specific mission. This mission helps to create a sense of purpose within the department.

Once they establish an official mission, police administrators must seek effective ways to share vital information with the citizens they serve. Administrators strengthen their department's position within the community by keeping citizens informed on how they confront specific crime problems and how citizens can join the fight against crime. This type of information sharing also brings a community spirit to the problems that challenge the neighborhoods. By publicizing these programs and efforts in community directories to which citizens can refer throughout the year, department leaders gain maximum exposure with very little effort or expense.

Police administrators cannot afford to overlook opportunities to make valuable information accessible to the public--and to keep it there. Directories of this type may be an effective forum for accomplishing this task.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Federal Bureau of Investigation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Penn Township, Pennsylvania Government Services Directory
Author:Maddox, Joseph H.
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Words:718
Previous Article:Toward a new intolerance of crime and violence.
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