12 Answers to Questions about Criminal Justice

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  1. Explain why hiring more police officers might not reduce crime.

Hiring more police officers may serve as a detente and ultimately bring crime down. However, there are no guarantees that more police officers will automatically reduce crime or completely eliminate it. The truth of the matter is that crime is brought about by factors that have nothing to do with the police.

For example, in many cities, it is found that crime is positively correlated with poverty, social inequality, unemployment, and poor parenting, among others. The police can do nothing to resolve any of these problems and so it is clear that nothing will be solved by simply hiring more police officers.

It is important to stress that police presence does help to control crime rates and give civil society a sense of peace, order, and safety. This being said, it is important to have an effective police force with adequate numbers. However, in order to truly reduce crime institutions, there is a need to focus on more than law enforcement.

Other programs that focus on educating communities and promoting solidarity, civility and moral values are decisive in the overall process of reducing crime. As well as, the most depressed segments of society need opportunities for vertical ascension; desperation is in many cases a catalyst for crime.

  1. List the four findings that research has suggested regarding one-officer versus two-officer patrol units.

Upon reviewing the research that has been conducted on whether it is better to have one-officer patrol units or two-officer patrol units, the four main findings (suggested by the research) are as follows:

  • the average travel time spent on Type 1 calls is less for one-officer patrol units than it is for two-officer patrol units (in at least 30%). Furthermore, as the unavailability rate increases so do the difference between the average travel times for both types of patrol units.
  • the average travel time for a one-officer patrol unit tending to a Type 2 call (and who happens to be the first arriving unit on the scene) has been found to be at least 40% less than the average travel time for the first respondent two-officer patrol unit. In other words, one-officer patrol units arriving first on the scene take, on average, 40% less time than two-officer patrol units.
  • when unavailability rates are low, it is preferred to have a two-officer patrol unit reach the scene first (as opposed to having a one-officer patrol unit arriving first). Conversely, when unavailability rates are high, it is preferred to have two one-officer patrol units responding to the scene first (as opposed to having one two-officer patrol unit). This owes to the fact that average travel times are affected by unavailability rates.
  • when AVM dispatching is available and there are no beats, average travel times are almost always less for the second one-officer patrol unit arriving on the scene (relative to the average travel time it takes the first two-officer patrol unit to arrive). Here again, it is important to point out that for both kinds of patrol units average travel times increase with unavailability rates.
  1. Describe what took place in the Kansas City Gun Experiment in the early 1990s.

Basically, the Kansas City Gun Experiment that was carried out in the early 1990s consisted of experimental research that intended to study the effect of concentrating police patrol units on crimes (and violence) in which guns were involved. Ultimately, the experiment aimed to establish if it was possible for police enforcement to identify specific areas in which crime rates were fundamentally higher than in others (which ultimately led to the development of the "hot spot" concept).

Moreover, this experiment directed police patrol units to the aforementioned "hot spots" , and this proved successful, since it resulted in increased gun seizures (of illegally carried firearms) and in an overall decrease of crimes, in which guns were involved.

  1. Explain what is meant by the term proactive arrests.

Proactive arrests are arrests that concentrate the police's resources on a reduced set of high-risk targets. Ultimately, what law enforcement seeks through proactive arrest is to direct its efforts by concentrating manpower in areas, where crime rates are higher ("hot spots") in order to be more effective in combating crime.

In other words, instead of working with a larger grid, one that offers a wider set of targets, the police decide to work with a smaller grid that offers narrower (but more likely) targets. According to this, it is said that arrests are proactive because instead of having the police wait on reports (or on actually observing them), patrol units are constantly patrolling "hot spots" seeking to prevent crime wherever a credible threat has been identified.

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  1. Describe how the Broken Windows Theory explains the onset of criminal activity.

Chapter 4 discussed directed patrol as an important aspect of policing. For this exercise, you are to hypothetically place yourself in the role of the chief of police where you live. Then you are to provide a list of locations that you believe to be "hot spots" for local criminal activity.

The Broken Windows Theory is a sociological construct that simply contends that in a community (be it a neighborhood or an entire city) crime will continue to proliferate (as will chaos and violence) unless the community actively works to fix its "broken windows" and graffiti. In other words, this is a theory that states that if society fails to monitor and maintain its urban environments crime then it will multiply and extend throughout all of the community's levels.

Now, if I were the chief of police in my city, I would have to work out a grid that is summarily stratified. My city is stratified; there are many wealthy, more educated people while the impoverished, less educated people concentrate in the southern parts of the city.

Therefore, the first thing that I would do in attempting to monitor, control, and subsequently reduce crime would be to concentrate the bulk of the police force on the Southern parts of the city (as in the North, crime rates are extremely low). Also, in being consistent with the Broken Window Theory, I would have the patrol units to monitor public parks, public buildings, and hospitals; I would also have them monitor cemeteries.

The idea is to find an area in which delinquents damage the environment (be it using graffiti, excessive littering, vandalism, etc.). Recuperating the quality of the environment is quintessential in fighting crime effectively.

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  1. Do you believe increased patrol in these areas would be successful in controlling crime? Why or Why not?

I do believe that increased patrol in these areas would be a successful (and effective) way of controlling crime. First of all, this would be effective, because it would serve as an intimidating force on criminals. Criminals would think twice before committing a crime if they knew that the police were in the area and that there would be an elevated risk of them being caught. Also, the increased patrol would be consistent with the Broken Window Theory insomuch as it would effectively contribute to keeping the city clean and tidy.

Vandalism cannot go unpunished or uncontrolled, because it will gradually desensitize (and possibly dehumanize) society in general. Those who are poor and suffering from inequality can see the environment's decadent state as the incentive to engage in criminal activity (as a desperate attempt of vertically ascending and finding themselves in a better environment).

  1. Detail the differences between problem-oriented policing and community policing.

In contrast between problem-oriented policing and community policing, let us go ahead and consider each type of policing separately. Furthermore, problem-oriented policing (POP) is an approach that focuses on subjecting discrete parts/pieces of police business to microscopic examination.

In other words, this is an approach to policing that focuses on detail as a means of garnering newer, more innovative (and more effective) strategies to deal with given situations/problems. Secondly, POP is a form of policing that is reactive in nature; police patrol units only respond to crimes after it has been committed (and reported). Finally, it is worth noting that POP is interested in identifying the root causes of criminal activity in order to eliminate them (thus eliminating recurring crime and disorder as well).

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Moving on to community policing, first of all, it is important that it is an approach that focuses on achieving four things: effective and efficient crime control; reducing the fear of crime within a given society/community; improving the overall quality of life for all people; improved police service and legitimacy.

Like POP, community policing strives to reduce crime, but unlike POP it focuses more on reducing the fear of crime than on identifying its root causes. The idea is to empower the community and involve it with law enforcement so that both parties can work together in reducing crime. Based on this, it becomes clear that while POP is reactive in nature, community policing is proactive in nature.

Furthermore, community policing welcomes community involvement and feedback in the development of effective problem-solving strategies (that relate to crime). POP also concerns itself with strategies that allow for an effective and efficient reduction of crime, but these strategies do not integrate the community; they rely on detailed research and analysis instead.

  1. List some of the approaches that community policing might utilize in improving police-citizen cooperation.

First, it would be recommended to follow a problem-solving approach to crime. Community policing is about solving the community's problems (with the community's help). It is therefore important for the community to come to this realization; this will constitute a strong incentive for welcoming the program and cooperating with it. Another approach is to articulate a set of policing values that consider the community and contribute effectively to improving their condition.

In other words, values that prize community safety and quality of neighborhood life are important. Third, in order for the community to actually believe in community policing, there must be some kind of accountability system that makes sure to keep all participating parties focused on what must be accomplished.

Power-sharing and decentralization are also important ways in which citizen cooperation can be enhanced. Just as long as citizens feel that they have some level of power and authority, they will be more committed to the program as they will that they are a very important part of it.

  1. Discuss three main elements involved in community prosecution.

Community prosecution's three main elements are problem-solving, community involvement, and partnerships. First of all, when prosecutors are problem solvers, they manage to do more than simply prosecute cases; therefore, they also manage to identify the root causes for the crimes that they are prosecuting. For example, problem-solving allows for identifying patterns in criminal activity, "hot spots", and overall neighborhood context.

As well as, problem-solving makes it possible for prosecutors to identify relationships that might exist between cases that might initially appear to have no relation whatsoever. Secondly, community involvement is also very important, because prosecutors, regardless of how good they are at solving problems, are neither omnipresent nor omniscient. There is a lot of information that eludes prosecutors; this information is in the hands of the community itself.

It is thus fundamental to involve the community in the prosecution process as well as they can effectively contribute in identifying the problems that degenerate into crime (also provide the much-needed insight, information, and evidence to make sure that criminals are tried and sentenced in accordance with the principles and laws of justice).

Finally, partnerships are also very important (and they relate to what was mentioned earlier about community involvement). It is significant for prosecutors to establish partnerships with community members so that they can work together (prosecutors and the community) in fighting crime, reducing it, and hopefully one day eliminating it.

  1. Explain what is meant by the term the harder side of prosecution and cite examples of its use.

The harder side of prosecution constitutes a get-tough approach that prosecutors need to engage in when attempting to prove the case that they are trying to make (beyond any level of reasonable doubt). The burden of proof always falls on the prosecutor and this is precisely why discussion regarding the harder side of prosecution has developed over the years.

For example, when a prosecutor needs to prove that a man actually fired a weapon to kill a man, the harder side of prosecution comes up, because going beyond any ballistics test needs motivation and this is what the prosecutor needs to find (through cross-examination). Another example of the harder side of prosecution involves preparing witnesses before they take the stand (and being able to call up a rebuttal witness if necessary, or simply request a redirect right on the spot).

  1. Describe how a civil asset forfeiture law is used to address a crime problem.

Civil asset forfeiture involves seizing and forfeiting a person's property on the basis that the property itself committed a crime (or was obtained through the commission of a crime, or is liable to be used as compensation/reparation for any crime committed). Basically, when a crime is committed the government can move to seize and forfeit the criminal's property as a form of punishment for the crime committed.

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For instance, if a doctor makes a mistake while tending to a patient and is found guilty of malpractice, his assets (car; home; etc.) could be liable under forfeiture law as either a form of punishment or as a means of repairing the damage done to another party. Here again, civil asset forfeiture is a harsh punishment for crime, one that also works as a detente against it.

  1. Provide a supporting argument for the use of plea bargaining.

Simply stated, plea bargains should continue to be used, because they are an effective way of clearing up the courts while at the same time allowing for criminals to be punished for their crimes. In other words, plea bargains allow for a more expedited, efficient, and effective administration of the law.

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