The Center for Crime Prevention and Control supports jurisdictions implementing strategic interventions to reduce violence and community disorder. These strategies combine the best of law enforcement and community-driven approaches to improve public safety, minimize arrests and incarceration, enhance police legitimacy, and rebuild relationships between law enforcement and distressed communities.
The Center’s strategies operate along these guiding principles:
- First do no harm
- Strengthen communities’ capacity to prevent violence
- Enhance legitimacy
- Offer help to those who want it
- Get deterrence right
- Use enforcement strategically
First do no harm
Criminal justice is strong medicine: it can help, but applied too heavily or in the wrong way, it can hurt. It’s now clear that too much incarceration, aggressive, disrespectful policing, and other missteps can damage individuals, families, and communities and undermine relationships between neighborhoods and law enforcement. Law enforcement should do its work in ways that do not cause that harm.
Strengthen communities’ capacity to prevent violence
Community norms and actions – not law enforcement – do most of the work of crime control. Community members can establish expectations for nonviolence and intervene directly with the few people at the highest risk for violent victimization or offending. Direct communication through “call-ins,” “custom notifications,” and other practical steps can focus and amplify community crime control. Using this approach strengthens neighborhoods and keeps people out of jail.
Most people obey the law because it’s the right thing to do, not because they’re afraid of being arrested. Even criminals follow the law most of the time. Communities need to see law enforcement, especially the police, as fair, respectful, and on their side. Police should conduct themselves in ways that model their caring and respect for the communities they serve. Where legitimacy goes up, crime goes down
Offer help to those who want it
Many of the people at highest risk for violent victimization or offending do not like how they are living and want a way out. Communities should meet them where they are and do everything possible to support them.
Get deterrence right
When law enforcement needs to act, it’s usually best to let offenders know that enforcement is coming, so they can stop their offending, rather than to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate them. The creative use of existing law, combined with direct communication with high-risk people, can make deterrence work and head off both violence and actual enforcement.
Use enforcement strategically
When arrest, prosecution, and incarceration are necessary, law enforcement should use them as sparingly and tactically as possible. Profligate enforcement can have terrible collateral consequences, alienate communities, and undermine legitimacy. Law enforcement should apply the minimum that is compatible with ensuring public safety.