Deterrence Effects of Policing Programs

January 2024 No Comments

Author: Dr. Kathleen Kiernan (NEC National Security Systems (NSS))

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While there are parallels, the environment in which deterrence occurs for the U.S. Military is vastly different in context than for domestic or international law enforcement.

Police can reduce opportunities for crime by intervening before they arise, and deterrence is an even more efficient means of policing. Deterrence essentially convinces potential offenders that their risk of apprehension and punishment is too high to make committing a crime worth the risk. Visible police presence (actual or apparent), publicized arrests, police successes, and community engagement all affect this perception. Operational, financial, and technical limits on police agencies, however, can make deterrence programs challenging to implement. Technology can be a ‘deterrence multiplier.’ Appropriately regulated and responsibly employed surveillance technologies and sophisticated data analytics can increase criminals’ risk of detection and arrest, amplifying deterrent effects. Program outcomes vary and include crime displacement, deteriorating police-community relations, and public perception of threats to rights. Implementing new methods and technologies, however, requires consideration of privacy and potential biases.

Challenges in implementing deterrence programs include the existence of strategies that may not transfer between locations, the allocation of limited resources, and the lack of accurate, reliable crime data. Implementation and maintenance costs for high-tech, or large-scale, efforts can also be prohibitive. Finally, funding sources may believe funds would be better spent on alternative, or existing, efforts.

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