Learning To Navigate Your Patrol Area

February 02, 2018

Learning To Navigate Your Patrol Area

by Ian D Scofield

When you are just starting out as a police officer or moving to a new area you have a district that is something completely new.  Something that you have to learn.  You are expected to get from point A to point B in the minimal amount of time.

Today we are going to discuss some tips for how you can learn a new patrol area and get to your calls as quickly as possible.

Never Drive The Same Patrol Route Twice

As you are learning an area it may be tempted to drive the same route twice because it is the path that you know.  This doesn’t help you grow.  When I drove for a private security company and had city sites to go to, I challenged myself to take new routes and that was how I grew.  I learned to be able to find my way to new locations without a GPS.

Drive To Random Addresses

Pick a random address and drive to it when you aren’t on calls.  Finding a traditional phone book works great for that purpose.  You open to a random page and draw your finger around it.  The address your finger lands on is the one you go to.

With the aid of the phone book you can get experience going to a wide variety of addresses.  Make sure that you go to both residential and business addresses.

Discover The Street Pattern

Most cities have some logic behind the patterns of the streets, even if it doesn’t seem like there is.  The most common system is the grid pattern.  Learn what types of streets move in each direction and most importantly, try to learn the exceptions.  There will always be exceptions such as streets that run diagonal or curve.

If you can’t figure it out by looking at local maps, you can go to the city planners office and inquire.  A city utility worker might also be able to answer the question.

Ask Your FTO What Area You Will Patrol Next

At the end of your day, ask your FTO what area you will be patrolling the next day.  That will give you time to go home and study the area on a map.  You can study with either a map or your smartphone.  Maps tend to be better as they allow you to look at more of the city at one time while being able to read it.

Just asking and showing that you have the initiative to try and learn will reflect good on you during your field training.

Drive Patrol District

Another option is to drive your patrol district on your off time.  You will be able to get an idea of the area without being distracted by having to work.  You can focus completely on the streets, addresses, and businesses.

Listen To Your Radio Off Duty And Map Calls

If your department allows you to bring your radio home, take it with you and listen to calls as they go out.  Take your city map and trace the route from the officer’s location to the call.  Don’t just trace over the route though, consider what traffic would be like and what roads have street lights.

Those who can’t take their radio home can buy a scanner.  Use the scanner for the same purpose.

Getting to know your patrol area can be a daunting task, especially if you are in a bigger city.  The more you practice and the more that you research your city, the quicker your response time will be.  While it is understandable that a new person might take some time to learn their district, any time that you can shave off your response time can save a life.

About The Author:

Ian is a staff writer at APTI and hospital security officer at a major medical center who has a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice.  He has held multiple positions in the security industry from patrol supervisor to auxiliary public safety officer.  At APTI he brings his writing skills to help further the careers of others and provide quality content.  Feel free to visit his freelancing site or his creative writing site.

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