Maximum deterrence’ effect

Also despite the claimed 'maximum deterrence' effect of the NYPD's 'zero tolerance' version of broken windows, the result had little effect on crime rates as they were already falling (McLaughlin 2003). This does highlight a dichotomy within the thesis. For example using a deterrent would indicate crime as choice, however criminal 'types' are also highlighted and this indicates a biological predeterminent. In other words what would be the point of trying to deter criminals if criminal behaviour is the result of predetermined behaviour and not choice.

There would be no point to foot patrols because a police presence would not deter disorderly or criminal behaviour. Interestingly Wilson and Kelling acknowledge themselves the failure to reduce crime rates. However they do point out that foot patrols have positive effects, such as making the community feel safer. This factor however is often overlooked because of issues of police accountability. Reducing crime figures is viewed as more important as they are a tangible representation and they are a political tool.

At the most recent election in May 2005 reducing crime figures was mentioned by both major political parties. Goldblatt & Lewis (1998) claim that the 'constables on the beat is little more than an expensive public relations exercise'. Wilson and Kelling argue that foot patrols as opposed to car patrols allows for a community and police relationship in which information regarding community activity would otherwise be unavailable.

Sherman (1983) agrees with this position by stating that police officers in cars see familiar buildings and unfamiliar people, while the public sees familiar cars and unfamiliar police officers. There is little chance for the public to talk to officers in cars whereas foot patrol allows police to know who is possibly dealing drugs, or which children are causing a nuisance. Wilson and Kelling also suggest that foot patrol gives community members the opportunity to talk to police without being viewed as a snitch.

This makes for good relations between community and police, many also point to how much safer they feel with a police presence. However is it difficult to gauge how much relevant information police may attain from foot patrols and the accuracy of this information, I am sure not everyone tells the police the truth or they may be mistaken. For example as mentioned earlier when residents were asked about the criminal areas they pinpointed where young ones tended to congregate even though this was not an area of crime.

Waddington (1991, 1999a) suggests that the police are need to maintain a democratic social order. However there are alternatives to community policing for example police forces have worked in conjunction with neighbourhoods producing 'neighbourhood watch', this is the idea of the public keeping an eye on community activity and reporting anything out of the ordinary to the police. Going further than this are the American groups of 'Guardian Angels, rather than observe they are actively involved in maintaining order in the streets and they do this without weapons.

This group even started a chapter in London 10 years ago to protect the vulnerable in the underground and tube stations. It seems therefore that other groups are able to provide the order maintenance role of the police. However the extent to which these groups can provide order maintenance has not been established due to lack of research into the effects of these groups. To summarise, the broken windows thesis sees crime and its causes as the result of disorderly street conduct, thus failing to acknowledge crime in other forms.

It also points out that those labelled as 'criminal' are not necessarily criminals. They are more likely to be those who appear different and those highlighted by the media. There also appears to be a never ending cycle of those labelled as criminals and there is a failure to take note of any social influences. In addition the prejudice that results from labelling can have devastating consequences. All of these reasons coupled with the point that the police are unlikely to catch a person in the act means that a police presence in the form of foot patrol is unlikely to have an effect on street crime rates.

However it does seem to have a positive effect on those in the community fearful of crime. Although due to police accountability and political pressures this is not seen as important or cost effective. In conclusion, I don't think that the core function of the police should be to maintain order as it has little effect on crime rates and they tend to target those who 'looks' like criminals, also by using foot patrols and concentrating on street crime means other areas of crime would to be overlooked.

However I do think that the police role in maintaining community relationships does have merit, as they could be used in an advisory capacity and this way police could continue monitoring crime and fear levels within the community. Word Count 2002


Becker H. (1963) 'Outsiders' , in McLaughlin E. , Muncie J. , and Hughes G. (2002, 2nd edn) Criminological Perspectives: Essential Readings, London, Sage Publications in association with Open University Press. Black Radical Congress (2000) Accessed at http://www. blackradicalcongress. org/comm. /press/release022800. html

Accessed on (09/06/05) Clarke R. & Hough M. (1984) in McLaughlin E. (2002) 'Key Issues in Policework', Controlling Crime, London, Sage Publications. Davis, A. Y. (1998) 'Race and criminalization: Black Americans and the punishment Industry, in McLaughlin E. , Muncie J. , and Hughes G. (2002, 2nd edn) Criminological Perspectives: Essential Readings, London, Sage Publications in association with Open University Press. Duncan B. L. (1976) in Wetherell M. (2002) 'Group conflict and the social psychology of racism', Identities, Groups and Social Issues, London, Sage Publications.