It may seem counter-intuitive to some, but a new scientific research study suggests that crime can be reduced by cutting back on proactive policing. In other words, getting rid of modern-day policing policies and community-based policing may, in fact, reduce crime altogether.
The results of the research study were published in the journal Nature, and is titled, "Evidence that curtailing proactive policing can reduce major crime". The problem being studied was whether or not "high rates of police stops, criminal summonses, and aggressive low-level arrests reduce serious crime."
The researchers acknowledge law enforcement agencies will deploy their human resources (officers) to areas where crime is to be expected which provokes a response by the community to either comply with the law or execute their plans to commit crimes, often as a result of the police presence in the community.
The so-called "stop and frisk" proactive policing policy the New York Police Department (NYPD) employed was harshly criticized by its citizens who were stopped nearly 700,000 times at the height of the program during the year 2011 alone. After years of public outcry and protests, principally by Black and Latino communities who claimed with good reason they were principally targeted by the Stop and Frisk program, Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled in 2013 that the stop and frisk practice (not the law itself) was unconstitutional and ordered police to reform their proactive policing policies.
But following the program's official cessation, years of data was amassed, data the study's researchers used to document the sharp decline in major crimes in the wake of the program's ending. The researchers write:
Analysing several years of unique data obtained from the NYPD, we find that civilian complaints of major crimes (such as burglary, felony assault and grand larceny) decreased during and shortly after sharp reductions in proactive policing.
As TFTP has reported, many interactions with police (called "contact" by cops) end with civilians being arbitrarily charged with "resisting arrest" and "obstruction of justice", two crimes which arguably would never have happened had police simply left people alone. Now their research is backing up the alternative media's claim. If police will leave, crime will go down.
The researchers even acknowledge the illogical conclusions with which their study arrived. They admit it is a smack in the face to common sense.
The results challenge prevailing scholarship as well as conventional wisdom on authority and legal compliance, as they imply that aggressively enforcing minor legal statutes incites more severe criminal acts.
As TFTP has concluded, one-hundred percent compliance should not only NOT BE A DEATH SENTENCE but it should also NOT LEAD TO FELONY CHARGES which would not have been given had police simply left people alone, free to enjoy their civil liberties.
A serious concern is that proactive policing diverts finite resources and attention away from investigative units, including detectives working to track down serial offenders and break up criminal networks. Proactive policing also disrupts communal life, which can drain social control of group-level violence. Citizens are arrested, unauthorized markets are disrupted, and people lose their jobs, all of which create more localized stress on individuals already living on the edge.
Instead of waiting on crimes to occur (known as the Order Maintenance Policing - OMP), proactive policing takes police officers away from investigating crimes and searching for criminals and places them into the community to "patrol communities, maintaining order through systematic and aggressive low-level policing".
The study found, after analyzing NYPD's Stop and Frisk data, and comparing those reported crimes to crimes reported after the program was ceased, crime was significantly decreased.
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The study came to the conclusion that, during the slowdown period, major crimes dropped by 3-6%.
There was some apprehension on the part of the researchers that they would discover what they called "The Ferguson Effect"—that crime would spike after police officers stopped doing their jobs such as what was witnessed in Ferguson, MO following the shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Instead, the opposite was observed in the research.
Not only did crime go down, there was no Ferguson effect. For those who simply do not believe a 3-6 percent drop in crime is significant, the authors of the study are quick to remind readers their population size for the study was in the millions of inhabitants of the metropolitan NYC area.
Findings from our study warrant a reconsideration of the assumptions...related to enforcement and legal compliance.
The researchers claim law enforcement agencies are not without blame:
In their efforts to increase civilian compliance, certain policing tactics may inadvertently contribute to serious criminal activity.
They also acknowledge racism may be at the heart of proactive policing policies which discriminate against communities of color by targeting their areas of habitation specifically.
It is well established that proactive policing is deployed disproportionately across communities, and that areas with high concentrations of poverty and people of colour are more likely to be targeted.
Not only will modern-day policing tactics predictably fail at meeting their stated goals and objectives but they will create a resentment and cynicism towards law enforcement agents. They will also create more crime.
Our results imply not only that these tactics fail at their stated objective of reducing major legal violations, but also that the initial deployment of proactive policing can inspire additional crimes that later provide justification for further increasing police stops, summonses and so on.
If Stop and Frisk, the program which ran for about two decades, had been successful in preventing crime, then when the program was ordered to stop in 2013, crime should have risen. It didn't. And as a result of the decrease in major crimes, the researchers are calling on those in power to reconsider how effective their programs really are.
It may be time to go back to Order Maintenance Policing to return our law enforcement personnel to actual investigative work and true crime-fighting activities. One place officers could start would be in the area of testing rape kits and generating DNA profiles for the many hundreds of thousands of unsolved rapes in the country. The researchers conclude it may be time to make a change.
In the absence of reliable evidence of the effectiveness of proactive policing, it is time to consider how proactive policing reform might reduce crime and increase well-being in the most heavily policed communities.