This was initially a post to a discussion board I wrote. It highlights some of the political responsibility that police have when deciding whether or not aggressive patrol should be instituted. I argued for the inclusion of the community in deciding at what point aggressive patrol should be instituted.
When evaluating the usefulness of aggressive patrols we must delve deeply into criminology. Schmalleger (2009) breaks the criminological theory into six different schools of theory: classical theories, biological theories, psychiatric and psychological theories, social structure approaches, social process theories, and social conflict theories. Where aggressive patrol is particularly concerned is within the social process theories, particularly with social disorganization approaches; in short, aggressive patrol is entirely concerned with the criminality of locations (Schmalleger, 2009).
Under compstat, New York city ran aggressive patrols in areas of the Bronx with high rates of success. Initially it appeared that increasing use of aggressive patrol led to increases in complaints against police officers; however, upon further study Davis, Mateu-Gelabert, and Miller (2005) were able to conclude that as some neighborhoods in the Bronx actually had decreasing complaints with increased aggressive patrol that the two were unrelated.
Cordner and Scarborough (2007) also indicate the effectiveness of aggressive patrol as a police tactic. I do not debate the short term effectiveness of aggressive patrol as it is unquestionably effective while it is in place; however, as aggressive patrol is temporal it only addresses the criminality of place in a highly transient fashion. There will not likely be a lasting change in the community as the crime which was dispersed to other areas will eventually return to the neighborhoods from which it was dispersed (Schmalleger, 2009).
I liken it to an individual who is brought to a hospital highly anemic; while the doctor may give a transfusion and the patient will feel much better, the root causation of the anemia has not been addressed. The patient may be suffering leukemia, renal failure, or any number of life threatening conditions.
In much the same way that our doctor has not addressed the causation of the anemia, aggressive patrol has not addressed the causation of crime; therefore, aggressive patrol is incapable of preventing future crime once criminals are aware that patrol in an area has resumed normal operation.
When crime becomes problematic in an area, it is essential that police partner with the community as well as other organizations in order to reduce crime now via criminality of location and prevent future crime by addressing other criminological theory such as anomie that hold far more potential for crime prevention (Schmalleger, 2009). That being said, some places such as Singapore address criminality of places by enforcing maximum ethnic quotas in all housing developments such that Chinese, Malay, Indian, and other ethnicities are always mixed. Such an approach has been highly effective for Singapore; however, is not legally viable in the United States so we must address other causal factors of crime.
The question as to civil liberties further underscores the need for police to work with the community in developing solutions to problems. Worrall (2007) underscores that there exists a dichotomy between the two rights which the founding fathers alluded to: the right to privacy and to be generally free of government intrusion and the right to live free of the fear of harm. As the United States is based on principles of self governance for communities, it is all the more important that citizens be included when deciding how intrusive a measure they are willing to accept in exchange for safety.
Again, I would like to point out that aggressive patrol is a reactive measure to crime and should be viewed as a drastic tool for use when all preventative tactics have failed and that it should be implemented with the consent of the community.
Cordner, G.W., & Scarborough, K.E. (2007). Police administration. Newark, NJ: Lexis Nexis.
Davis, R.C., Mateu-Gelabert, P., & Miller, J. (2005). Can Effective policing also be respectful? two examples in the south bronx. Police Quarterly, 8(2), Retrieved from http://pqx.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/8/2/229 doi: 10.1177/1098611104269531
Schmalleger, F. (2009). Criminology today: an integrative introduction. Columbus, Ohio: Pearson.
Worrall, J.L. (2007). Criminal procedure: from first contact to appeal. Boston, MA: Pearson.