It may be surprising for some of us to learn that the duties of the police do not just involve fighting crime, apprehending criminals, chasing thieves and other 'crime-busting' duties, but Include traffic control, dealing. With community and social nuisance problems, attending sports/social events. crime prevention adVice and many other less pressing tasks, in other Words, 'order maintenance‘. The police force as We know it today has changed radically from the first policemen that patrolled the streets in the 19th century and criminologists have recently played a large part in influencing police strategies. Recently, a return back to the early days of maintaining order has seemed to have emerged with the appearance of the ‘broken windows theory, an approach to policing that emphasizes creating and maintaining orderly public spaces. Suggesting that continuing urban decay of a community Will lead to higher levels of crime and disorder.
In order to determine whether the core function of the police should be to maintain order, it is useful to understand Why the police force was created in the first place, to look at the theory in practice, and to evaluate its success on crime rates. Typically, the task faced by the police in the early l9th century was that of maintaining order. The role of the police at his time, before a professional 'police force‘ was established. Was to maintain a Visible presence and police were literally 'watchmen', observing and dissuading unruly public disorder by their presence.
The 19th century was a time of great unrest, stemming from homelessness and social deprivation. as towns grew in size and the Industrial Revolution Whilst creating great wealth, conversely created poverty on a massive scale. Mob power grew out of the Working classes' struggle against destitution and hunger. While homeless children and drunks roamed the streets. London itself had doubled in srze and the problems it faced. With a lack of adequate housing and the struggle for basic needs, spread outwards to neighboring counties from its metropolitan core. As riots, strikes and public disorder increased, the beadles and watchmen employed to maintain order were seemingly ineffective and a need for a professional police force intensified.
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Robert Peel as Home Secretary in 1322, played a malor role in establishing the Metropolitan Police. Whose duties included urban discipline and prevention of crime with police enjoying extended powers of arrest, Despite much opposition in England. With major concerns as to who governed the new police and who paid for them, parliament agreed. With Peel and the Metropolitan Police Force Was created. In 1829, the first policemen were employed and told to be "Vigilant and active" whilst patrolling the streets, their object now being to 'prevent crime'. Criminals were stereotyped as belonging to the lower classes and included drunks, the II'lSh, prostitutes and the homeless. As the century Wore on, more and more counties began to follow the Metropolitan lead and various Acts of Parliament ensured that by the end of the 18505, a peak number of new police forces had been achieved.
The police force we know today has changed from the role of watchmen and developed into the more active role of law enforcement, it has been shaped, reformed and revised since those early fledgling Peelers tackling mob rule. But is its core function still to maintain order? Currently, members of our society have an expectation to be able to go about their daily business, within an orderly community, without encountering problematic situations that undermine their feelings of safety. Neighborhoods may differ in. What they perceive to be orderly behaviour but the disorder can typically be defined as "Behavior that violates widely accepted standards and norms of behaviour, and about which a broad consensus exists, in spite of racial, ethnic and class differences." (Kelling, 1996) The police play an important role in maintaining order, acting as Visible figures of authority, called upon to assert their authority When the standards the community has placed Within its locality break down.
A strong community Will, in effect, police itself but the presence of uniformed patrolling officers adds to their feelings of security and seemingly helps to keep a status quo of normal, acceptable behavior research has shown. However, employing more officers on the beat, making more arrests, and maintaining a visible presence does not actually reduce crime, even though people may have feelings of increased safety and consequently assume a reduction in the levels of crime. Therefore, Would a more rigorous method of order maintenance be effective in reducing crime, and should this be central to police duties? The "broken Windows" theory attempts to offer a solution to reduce more serious crime.
Based on a stringent method of order maintenance by predicting the early. Warning signs of potential criminal activity. In essence, the "broken Windows“ theory (James G Wilson & George L Kelling, 1982) predicts that if the physical signs of urban decay, such as a broken window, vandalism, graffiti or minor incivilities such as drunk and disorderly behavior and harassment from beggars or teenagers remain untended and unchecked. then this will lead to more serious crimes being committed. This theory attempts to illustrate hoW the gradual degradation of a place leads to higher levels of crime and disorder. "If the first broken Window in a building is not repaired, the people who like breaking windows will assume that no one cares about the building and more Windows will be broken.
Soon the building will have no windows." The highly visible sign of a broken Window (or graffiti. litter etc) signifies to a potential criminal a lack of control where disorderly conduct has been allowed to flourish and suggests to them a community vulnerable and open to criminal activity. Consequently, it undermines the Willingness and ability of local residents to enforce social order and control. Moreover, residents Withdraw from enforcing neighborhood social controls, allowing further incivilities to take place. The criminal, on observing the signs of urban decay may conclude that this lack of order maintenance is his ‘green light to carry out criminal activities. The so-called ‘broken Window‘ in effect acts as his 'open door' to crime. Maintaining order may seem trivial and not as important as tackling some of the more serious crimes that beleaguer our streets. At first glance, violent crimes may appear to produce a more plausible sense of fear in the community.
There is, however, a real sense of vulnerability felt by citizens having to deal With disorderly conduct on a daily basis, in fact, confrontations of this kind can seem as frightening as dealing with an intruder. It is this vulnerability that criminals prey on, as a strong community With a zero tolerance of disorder Would prove to be a greater deterrent to a potential criminal. The best example of implementing the broken Windows theory I came across was in New York under the mayorship of Rudolph Guiliani. In the early 19905 of New York City, Rudolph Guiliani Came to power, and William Bratton was inaugurated as the new Police Commissioner of the NYPD, This partnership, using the 'broken Windows‘ theory declared war on the drunks and homeless truant children, the prostitutes, and unsolicited Window screen Washers that had plagued New York City, With Bratton announcing: "We Were going to fix the broken Windows and prevent anyone from breaking them again."
New laws were introduced givmg police extended powers of arrest and patrolling officers were encouraged to show ‘zero tolerance‘ to citizens committing minor facilities. Drunks on the street were incarcerated, as were street hookers; litter droppers and graffiti artists were fined and cautioned and rowdy teenagers were told to ‘keep quiet. By concentrating police resources on maintaining order real results were being produced as the theory seemed to be Working. Felony crimes fell by 27% in the first two years of implementation, murders decreased by 72% between 1990 and 1998 and violent crime overall fell by 51%, (see WWW.sheldensays.com). The streets were reclaimed and the public rejoiced, Researchers such as Wesley Skogan were heralding the success and reporting that there was indeed a causal link between urban decay and serious crimes.
Many other criminologists, however, examined the findings and found them to be inconclusive. Bernard Harcourt, (2001) in his book 'Illusion of Order, the false promise of broken Windows policing', suggests that no studies establish a link between neighborhood disorder and serious crime. He argues that research showed Cities that adopted order-maintenance policing saw no greater drop in crime than Cities that did not and When certain factors such as poverty, race, and neighborhood stability were removed, the links between serious crime and urban decay disappeared. He did report, however, that order—maintenance policing gave police officers greater surveillance powers. Officers now had legitimate reasons to search and run checks on persons committing minor offenses.
Harcourt stressed that people typically being stopped Who were once seen as society's most vulnerable members, Were now being classed as minor criminals. Police policy in the UK is heading the same way as the USA by making order maintenance a real priority. With an emphasis on community projects. NeW strategies include more Visible and accessible policing . With regular contact with the same local officers, using more effective ways of identifying and responding to what local people see as priorities and enhanced police powers of arrest. The problem With the broken windows theory is that it is not actually a theory based on any empirical data. The theory was in fact a short article based on observations by Wilson and Kelling, subsequently published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1982.
At this time, it is prudent to remember that Wilson and Kelling are right realist criminologists and as such do not pay much heed to the social conditions that may contribute to crime. The broken windows theory instead appears to focus on a 'clean-up' campaign designed to rid our streets of miscreants, whilst doing little to address the reasons why the more vulnerable groups in our society are on the streets in the first place. Why are Windows broken, why do disaffected youths gather in shop doorways? why do we have beggars in the streets and why are some Women 'choosing' prostitution as a career? Moreover, why are these minor misdemeanors now classed as disorders Worthy of special attention from the police?
Who has decided that such a radical response is needed to combat street problems and Why are the root causes not being addressed? The 'out of sight, out of mind' attitude, however, is a very strong people persuader in allowing the police greater powers of arrest and surveillance. Some of the more radical thinkers among us believe that by creating a society living in fear, the resulting increased powers extended to the police is exactly the result desired in the first place. Mike Davis fears that the increased emphasis on more surveillance and arrest, typically focusing on the American classes, are effectively designed to keep middle-class American prisoners, living in a state of fear and willing to give up basic liberties, Davis argues that the broken windows policies of the Los Angeles police actually do little to reduce serious crime but do much to reduce fear when in fact no real crime has been committed by the people that have been targeted.
The threat of a total police state, masquerading as ‘order maintenance' however, may culminate in the loss of civil liberties to all citizens. not just the ‘undesirables'. David lcke writes extensively on the problem reaction solution mentality that governments employ in order to create a society living in fear, thus allowing the police greater powers which in turn leads to a serious reduction in civil freedom. "Whenever someone is in fear, they give their power away to anyone they believe is going to protect them" It seems that we have come full circle, from the early days of the Metropolitan police force. created to control the lower classed mob rule, which itself was formed out of desperate social circumstances of poverty and unrest, to the present day, where 'order maintenance‘ continues to target the less advantaged lower classes within our society.
The broken Windows theory overall is seriously class-biased, targeting the lower classes with no attention paid to white-collar or corporate crimes, (there may be no broken windows in Wall Street but this does not imply that no crimes are being committed, merely crimes of a different nature). Perhaps the answer is not to sweep these people under the carpet Within the guise of ‘order maintenance', but to understand the conditions which lead to their circumstances and try and eliminate those. As Klockars (1988) suggests, the fact IS that the police Will never Win the ‘war on crime' as it is not. Within their power to change such things as unemployment, lack of opportunities, poor housing and social inequalities. The core function of the police has to be at all times to protect the innocent, not target the vulnerable. The real fear is just how much civil freedom we allow ourselves to give up, in the pursuit of a quiet life.
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