Professor Herman Goldstein
Professor Herman Goldstein

The international jury for the Stockholm Prize in Criminology recognizes University of Wisconsin Law School Professor Herman Goldstein as the world’s most influential scholar on modern police strategy. His work has prompted police to focus more on improving the overall outcomes of police work and less on traditional tasks that may have little public benefit. The essence of his critique was that policing was not sufficiently focused on accomplishing specific goals connected to specific problems.

Since the publication of his strategy in 1979, police have increasingly moved towards identifying patterns of repeated events with similar features. This strategic focus enables police to take aim at measureable “problems,” rather than just dealing with each incident or case in isolation. His work has also had profound effects on police research, encouraging police and researchers to collaborate in evaluating the effects of new responses to these problems.

In its 2004 comprehensive report on police research, the US National Academy of Sciences hailed Goldstein’s Problem-Oriented Policing (POP) strategy as a “paradigm shift.” They lauded its move away from generic, reactive responses to events towards customized, proactive, and multi-faceted responses to problems. The Academy’s report documented the many strands of police innovation that had developed from Goldstein’s work, with many promising lines of inquiry and improvement for such patterned problems as drunk drivers, sex offenders, domestic abuse, hot spots of crime, burglary and gang violence.

The Jury recognizes not only Professor Goldstein’s strategy of “problem-oriented policing,” but also a lifetime of pioneering work on the broader issues of police functions in society, police discretion, political accountability, police corruption, and relationships of police to the criminal-justice system. His writings have employed a holistic blend of empiricism, organizational theory, human rights, and legal philosophy to the unique role of police in free societies.


The announcement of the winner of the Stockholm Prize in Criminology 2018.

Controlling and Preventing Violence

Among the most promising applications of the problem-oriented approach are those addressing chronic and serious violence. In the late 1990s, for example, Boston police and Harvard researchers applied a POP approach to controlling gang violence known alternately as “pulling levers” or “focused deterrence.” On the basis of a detailed analysis of gang members and their violence networks in Boston, this new approach combined the support and control over the known violent offenders by courts, families, community and church leaders, and social service providers. The tactics of these partners tried to persuade violent offenders to either desist from violence or expect a wide range of negative consequences.

This approach was followed by substantial homicide reductions in Boston, far beyond expectations. Since then the approach has been applied in dozens of other jurisdictions in the US and abroad. More recently, focused deterrence has been applied with success to other violence problems such as domestic violence, and to the places that are integral to much violent offending.

Testing Goldstein’s Theory: A Systematic Review

A clear measure of the influence of Goldstein’s strategy is the number of initiatives that have applied it in police agencies around the world. A 2008 systematic review of these studies published by the Norwegian government-supported Campbell Collaboration, The Effects of Problem-Oriented Policing on Crime and Disorder, found over 5500 reports on uses of POP in police agencies. Applying very high standards of research methods, the study found that the studies that met those standards reported an overall pattern of success. Applying a somewhat less-stringent methodological standard to review hundreds of other studies, the study found “an overwhelmingly positive impact of POP.” Many new evaluations of the POP strategy since then confirmed that potential.

Award winner 2018

Herman Goldstein is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin Law School, where he has worked since 1964. From 1960 to 1964 he served as Executive Assistant to the head of the Chicago Police Department, O.W. Wilson, who was recruited to reform the Chicago police after a major scandal. His intensive experience at the top of the second-largest police agency in the US followed two years of his extensive observations of policing on the streets of major cities included in the American Bar Foundation survey of American criminal justice. He is a graduate of the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania, and also served as assistant to the City Manager of Portland, Maine.

Watch previous announcements of the recipients of the Stockholm Prize in Criminology.