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  • Cited by 15
  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: December 2009

7 - Have Changes in Policing Reduced Violent Crime? An Assessment of the Evidence


The police do not prevent crime. This is one of the best kept secrets of modern life. Experts know it, the police know it, but the public does not know it. Yet the police pretend that they are society's best defense against crime and continually argue that if they are given more resources, especially personnel, they will be able to protect communities against crime. This is a myth.

David Bayley, Police for the Future

The connection of policing to risk factors is the most powerful conclusion reached from three decades of research. Hiring more police to provide rapid 911 response, unfocused random patrol, and reactive arrests does not prevent serious crime. Community policing without a clear focus on crime risk factors generally shows no effect on crime. But direct patrols, proactive arrests, and problem-solving at high-crime “hot spots” has shown substantial evidence of crime prevention. Police can prevent robbery, disorder, gun violence, drunk driving and domestic violence, but only by using certain methods under certain conditions.

Lawrence Sherman, “Policing for Crime Prevention”

these statements summarize two popular perspectives held by social scientists on the effect of police on crime. Some believe that the police do not and probably cannot have a significant effect on crime rates (Gottfredson and Hirschi 1990; Klockars 1983; Moran 1995). This viewpoint was forged from a sociological tradition in which theories provide no role for police in their explanations of crime.

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