Crime Prevention: Police Role

Based on the various hypothesis, theories, and strategies supplied by the likes of Shaw & McKay (1931), Sampson & Groves (1989), C. Ray Jeffrey (1971), Jane Jacobs(1961), Oscar Newman (1972), Cohen and Felson (1979) , and Paul and Patricia Brantingham (1981), it seems that environmental criminology focuses not only on the criminal event itself, but how the place (city, town, neighborhood, etc) influenced the crime. This is best described by the works of Paul & Patricia Brantingham and Sampson & Groves, environmental criminology is, Brantinghams (1981), “a criminal event is the convergence in time and space of a law, an offender, and a target” and according to Shaw & McKay’s hypothesis, environmental criminology involves “at least five indicators of social disorganization:

  1. lower economic status of residents;
  2. Diverse ethnic backgrounds of residents;
  3. Frequent residential turnover;
  4. High level of dysfunction in families;
  5. Urbanization (Bohm, pp. 72–75)” (Maguire & Hassell, n.d.).

Considering environmental prevention involves the community, one element that assist police is community policing. Community policing involves “community partnerships, problem-solving, and a variety of organizational changes” (Maguire & Hassell, n.d.). These elements allow departments to be flexible and responsive when addressing situations. Along with community policing, there are community crime prevention programs such as a neighborhood watch. A program such as the neighborhood watch “encourage residents to work together in making neighborhoods safer, watching each others’ property, and creating a stronger sense of community (Maguire & Hassell, n.d.). This helps cutdown on cost, while also freeing up officers and patrol cars to focus on more dangerous areas.

The flaws associated with the three core operational strategies for preventing and controlling crime are fairly easy to recognize. From my perspective, the use of random patrol will not prevent a crime from happening. Any sensible criminal will simply wait for the patrol to past before committing the crime. This is backed up by the George Mason University, Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, in the department of Criminology, Law, and Society. The Center cites the same Kansas City experiment (1974), mentioned in our reading source. Which found that there was no “significant impact on reported crime, reported victimization, or levels of citizen satisfaction with varied amount of preventive patrols” (Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, n.d.). Second, rapid response calls have been shown to also have no effect on crime. This time the flaw is more human than operational strategy, according to the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, “citizens frequently wait too long after an incident occurs for rapid response to be of much assistance” (Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, n.d.).

I believe the police continue to use the traditional strategies of random patrols, rapid response to calls, and retrospective investigations for two simple reasons. First, they are used to this way of doing things, because it is tradition and it has been hammered into the curriculum for training other officers. Second, no permanent replacement has been found. As mentioned, these strategies have been hammered into them through training and replacing them would require more experienced relearn a different way of doing things.

The use of the community would be a great asset to law enforcement at any level. If criminals know they are being watched at all times, and not just by the police, then their criminal activities are likely to decrease for fear of being identified by a community member. Not only that, there is also the added benefit of freeing up police resources to address more dangerous areas of the community, which was mentioned earlier.

Sources:

  1. Maguire, E.R. & Hassell, K. (n.d.). Prevention: Police Role – Environmental Criminology, Community Crime Prevention, Conclusion, Bibliography. Retrieved from http://law.jrank.org/pages/1759/Prevention-Police-Role.html
  2. Maguire, E. R., & Hassell, K. (n.d.). Prevention: Police Role – Environmental Criminology. Retrieved from http://law.jrank.org/pages/1755/Prevention-Police-Role-Environmental-criminology.html
  3. ‘Standard Model’ Policing Tactics. (2018). Retrieved from https://cebcp.org/evidence-based-policing/what-works-in-policing/research-evidence-review/standard-model-policing-tactics/