An Alternative Approach to Reduce Crime

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Rochester uses a police technique called Proactive Policing. This technique is what is being used in the recently announced, “Cool Down Detail.” This practice is where the police actively engage citizens before a crime is committed or a complaint is filed. The major elements of this are stop and question, stop and search, and move on notices. In effect they identify people whom the police identify as likely wrong doers and engage them in questioning, trying to find a reason to search the person or order them to move along.

This approach has the side effect of increased fear and mistrust between the community and the police. It also lowers the clearance rate (the percentage of crimes which the police can close the case due to an arrest or other solution) on crimes. This lowered clearance rate can be clearly seen in Rochester, where the rate of solving homicides has fallen from 80% to 26% in 25 years.

There are factors at work here like the closing of neighborhood police stations and RPD’s zero tolerance policy, but proactive policing also works to create a greater divide between the police and the policed. Thanks to these practices, there is now a culture where people in many neighborhoods and people of color are afraid to talk to the police. There are alternatives to these approaches.

The Department of Justice recommends a different approach for crime reduction and that is community policing. This approach actively engages the public but does so with the purpose of creating partnerships between the public and the police. It stresses community connections and a problem-solving approach to reduce crime using those relationships. The kind of relationships referred to here are essential in revamping RPD into a restorative police force, which is key to reducing violence in our city.

A restorative police force finds ways to repair the harm caused by crime rather than to be a retributive force. This does not mean the police are soft on crime. They must still investigate and apprehend criminals in many cases, but by using the positive relationships formed with community members, officers can prevent problems from becoming serious. It encourages community members to call the police before a law is broken to get help with a dispute. This approach is also very effective with the community problems associated with poverty and homelessness.

In an 18-month study of police forces where this technique is being used (Santa Barbara, California and Leicestershire, England were two participants) it was found that there was a reduction in recidivism of 15% for juveniles and 22.6% in adults. Further, these studies found that restorative community policing created huge savings to the community. This seems remarkable, but it is the experience of all places using community restorative policing. There is a reduction in costs for public safety, a reduction in repeat offenders, and a reduction in crime. The Mayor’s and Police Chief’s idea to stop people on bikes and otherwise harass members of the community who are already plagued with harassment from crime in the name of safety has already shown not to work and doing more of this will not stop violence, so perhaps it is time for Rochester to stop being the least safe city in NY and try a new approach, which at least offers some hope.


Anonymous said...

Poverty inequality and racism have to be addressed. While your arguement for community policing seeem like a very good idea no law enforcement based solution will address the sources of the problem

Unknown said...

Inequality and poverty render all surface fixes obsolete. We must get to the core of the matter in order to compliment these changes in police actions. A "Basic Income Guaranteed" must be addressed, this is the solution to bring people out of survival mode and allow some breathing space while other changes to the system can follow suit. This is a BIG topic, but vital to support any solutions regarding "What's Best For All" and redefining basic human rights for all equally.

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