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Third-Party Policing: A Theoretical Analysis of an Emerging Trend

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 15 Issue: 2 Dated: June 1998 Pages: 301-327
Date Published
27 pages

Third-party policing describes police efforts to persuade or coerce nonoffending persons to take actions that are outside the scope of their routine activities and that are designed to indirectly minimize disorder caused by other persons or to reduce the possibility crime may occur.


The practice of third-party policing applies formal, noncriminal controls found in civil law as coercive tools against an intermediate class of nonoffending persons who are thought to have some power over primary environments of offenders. Police officers use coercion to create place guardianship that was previously absent, in order to decrease opportunities for crime and disorder. The authors link theoretical bases of crime prevention to the theory of third party policing and examine gaps in traditional policing that have led to a formalization of policing through third-parties. They also examine third-party policing in two location-specific programs: (1) the drug abatement Beat Health Program in Oakland, California; and (2) the problem-solving RECAP (Repeat Call Address Policing) Unit in Minneapolis. The discussion of potential ramifications of third- party policing trends raises questions about its efficacy, the potential for crime displacement, and the impact of third-party policing on civil rights. The authors conclude that third-party policing represents a developing area of law and that it remains vulnerable to court challenges unless it becomes an articulated and developed doctrine. 65 references and 10 footnotes

Date Published: January 1, 1998