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Crime Prevention

Crime Prevention

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Published by: Dexter B. Donaire II on Aug 03, 2010
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Chapter Two
From the perspective of society as a whole, the best and most usefulactivity that law enforcement agencies can carry out is crime pre-vention. If crimes are successfully (and justly) prevented before they occur, the societal costs and suffering associated with the effects of crime are completely avoided. Police carry part—but by no meansall—of the responsibility for crime prevention:
Most crime prevention results from informal and formal practicesand programs located in seven institutional settings. These institu-tions appear to be “interdependent” at the local level, in that eventsin one of these institutions can affect events in others that in turncan affect the local crime rate. These are . . . communities, families,schools, labor markets, places, police, and criminal justice(Sherman et al., 1997, p. v).
Crime prevention activities are also one of the more controversialparts of police work. Because of their potential impact on a broadcitizenry, such activities often raise civil liberty questions. In addi-tion, the interdependence of all the institutions and activities that gointo crime prevention make it difficult to unambiguously assess theeffectiveness of any individual component. In spite of the difficulty inrigorously determining what prevents crime, several police activitiesare at least partially justified by the assumption that they contributeto crime prevention. Here, we discuss three such functions: surveil-lance, crime analysis, and offender tracking.
14Challenges and Choices for Crime-Fighting Technolog
Primary findings and observations included in the chapter include:
 With respect to video and night vision surveillance technologies,the major barrier to acquisition identified by state and local po-lice departments is cost. This likely reflects both the absolutecosts of these technologies and the trade-offs that must be madebetween the benefits of these versus other investments. A muchsmaller number of departments cited training, technology ques-tions, and public opinion as barriers to adoption.
Crime mapping and geocoding of law enforcement data areperformed by one quarter to just more than a third of local de-partments. The fraction of departments using these techniquesincreases with the size of the populations they serve.
Police surveillance is one activity justified by its potential effect oncrime prevention. Proponents of surveillance claim that it preventscrime by deterrence, especially when overt surveillance activitiesremind potential criminals of police presence and observation.Critics contend that surveillance may simply displace crime to unob-served locations, rather than prevent it. Regardless, it is the case thatif an area under surveillance becomes a crime scene, the surveillancecan both alert police to the need for an operational response and/orprovide evidence for subsequent criminal investigation and prose-cution.Because of the many factors involved in contact between police andprivate citizens, surveillance technology that transmits informationto police may have significant advantages over eyewitness surveil-lance. Technology that records video or audio information may alsobe especially valuable for supporting investigation and enabling prosecution.In this section we consider fixed-site and mobile video surveillanceand night vision/electro-optical surveillance, as well as the specialinterest topic of technology for school safety. We discuss anothersurveillance technology, video cameras in patrol cars, in the sectionof Chapter 6 on police accountability.
Crime Prevention15
Fixed-Site and Mobile Video Surveillance
The RAND Law Enforcement Technology Survey (LETS) found that59 percent of local departments and 33 percent of state police de-partments make no use of fixed-site video surveillance cameras.
Only 3 percent of local departments and 7 percent of state police re-ported making widespread use of this technology. None of the ruraldepartments reported making widespread use of it (LETS, 36c).Similarly, the RAND survey found 69 percent of local departmentsand 27 percent of state police departments make no use of mobilevideo surveillance cameras.
Only 1 percent of local departments andno state police departments reported making widespread use of mo-bile video surveillance. None of the rural or urban departmentsserving populations less than 25,000 reported making widespreaduse of this technology.In contrast to these data on the United States, police in the UnitedKingdom make much greater use of fixed-site closed circuit televi-sion (CCTV) surveillance. Throughout the United Kingdom there aremore than 250,000 cameras transmitting images to police. A few U.S.cities have relatively comprehensive fixed-site surveillance coverageof selected areas. For example, Baltimore uses fixed video cameras toscan all 106 downtown intersections, while New York City has a pro-gram for 24-hour remote surveillance in Central Park, subway sta-tions, and other public places (Brin, 1998). When asked to identify whether these technologies were unneces-sary 
or if other factors inhibited their acquisition, most police or-______________
For the LETS survey to local police, percentages have been statistically adjusted torepresent the entire population. See Appendix A for a description of the adjustmentmethodology. For the LETS survey to state police and the FTS survey to crime labs,results are reported as unadjusted percentages.
“Mobile video surveillance cameras” are those that might be used in a stakeout orhostage negotiation situation. This category does not include video cameras in patrolcars, which are discussed in Chapter 6.
By selecting “Not Needed” on the survey. It should be noted that there is likely a“high barrier” to an individual indicating that a technology is not needed on a survey of this kind. Given that the introductory material indicated that the survey was in-tended to inform federal policymakers on the needs of local police organizations,there is both an individual and organizational disincentive to indicate that

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