The effects of criminal victimization are often reviewed after crime has occurred, and therefore it becomes increasingly important to consider and develop crime prevention strategies as a viable mechanism for preventing crime and lowering levels of victimization. The use of horse mounted units in police agencies have repeatedly proven their usefulness by the favorable results they produce in the communities they serve.
In the past, some units have been disbanded and later reinstated. In their absence, the notable effects of their achievements became obvious. However, the U. S. Capitol Police Horse-Mounted Unit, in the nation's capitol, was one that was disbanded in September 2005--after only 14 months in existence--by congressional action led by the efforts of Congressman James Moran (D-VA). Unfortunately, the vitally needed unit has not been reinstated.
Former U. S. Capitol Police Chief and now U. S. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms, Terrance W. Gainer, who initiated the unit during his tenure as chief, astutely recognized the importance of the unit. "Mounted units are force multipliers for several reasons. They are great in crowd management situations, and they make an impression. Second, the public loves them which is great for the police image, the officers, and visible and interactive with the public. And, finally, they improve morale; officers like coming to work," says Gainer.
LAPD Horse Mounted Platoon
In California, the Los Angeles Police Department Horse Mounted Platoon (LAPDHMP) has city-wide jurisdiction. It is comprised of 32 horses and 32 officers (with authorization for 35), and the officers work in teams of two. The unit assists geographic divisions with handling crime problems. It is deployed to areas where resources are needed and where its tactics can be best used. It is not uncommon for the unit to assist with high risk warrant service and dignitary protection. The three primary missions of the unit include crime suppression, crowd control and management, and search and rescue.
The unit primarily concentrates on crime suppression. It has contributed to the Safer Citizens Initiative in which resources are deployed to clean up a general sense of lawlessness that prevails in the community. The horse-mounted officers work the Skid Row area and, since participating in this initiative, there has been more than a 30% reduction in crime overall, as well as a large portion of violent crime including robberies, assaults, and homicides. The platoon has flooded areas where homeless people have thrived in the narcotics business, and it has weeded out problems that fueled violent crime and victimization.
The platoon patrols Venice Beach, the second largest tourist attraction in Southern California, and an area where gang members are known to victimize tourists. From their vantage point of height atop a horse, the officers can observe densely crowded areas and can move in and amongst the crowd. "Because I have skilled police officers, they are looking intently for troublemakers who are walking away from us and who are flat out involved in criminal activity," says Lt. John Peters, who leads the platoon. Criminals also have no difficulty in spotting the mounted platoon to know they are being observed. "I can't stress enough that we are looking for voluntary compliance," Lt. Peters adds.
The platoon proved successful in a search and rescue mission. A 17-year-old male had called his father and indicated he was in the mountains and planned to commit suicide by taking a drug overdose. Lt. Peters and his platoon searched the mountains and located the young man, who had already overdosed and was not in good condition. They had him transported to a hospital via helicopter and, as a result of their efforts, saved his life. The platoon has also assisted in homicide investigations caused by arson.