The research question answered in this paper seeks to identify the role played by police in crime prevention. There are several parties involved in crime prevention. However, each one of them has unique roles that dictate overall success crime prevention. This research question is important since crime prevention is not the sole responsibility of the police. The latter largely plays the role of maintaining law, order and tranquility. Hence, even as we investigate the role of police in preventing crime, it is also worthy to note that each party in crime prevention cycle should execute his/her part well if efforts by police is to bear any fruits. Moreover, it will also be possible to clearly identify what has already been achieved by police in their quest to combat crime. Therefore, crime prevention by police may not be discussed in isolation or as a separate entity without integrating other stakeholders in crime prevention such as the immediate community. In a nutshell, while the police roles in crime prevention may be passive, the net outcome or overall expectation of the society is a peace and tranquility.
Crime prevention is a broader than lean concept as may have been perceived for long by the general populace. In simple terms, it entails either open or latent initiative used to eliminate, reduce or avoid crime within a given rural or urban setting. In crime prevention, there may be need to initiate and implement myriad effective policies. This can be undertaken by government of the day, individuals or other security-based agencies.
On the other hand, crime prevention is a broad issue that has many interested parties who are usually involved. Examples of such parties include correction centers, courts, individuals, government, police and other related agencies. These parties are supposed to work together with each of them performing their unique roles for purpose of attaining the same goal (crime prevention).
According to Ling et al. (2006), police, in any given community, may not be able to combat and prevent crime without the much needed help from immediate community. This calls for volunteers to offer assistance to police officers while they prevent planning and execution of crime. Indeed, it is the role of the police to create a closer and more cordial working relationship with members of the public through what is commonly known as community policing.
The role of police can also be defined within community level crime prevention program whereby police officers work as partners with a community. At the national level, police can devise crime prevention strategies and mechanisms that target major crime factors. This will undoubtedly reduce crime rate. On the other hand, obtaining volunteers who are always ready and able to work with the police depends on perceptions of citizens towards police officers and how they discharge their duties on a daily basis. As such, it is upon the top police executives to develop a capacity building and training program that will enable police officer right from the constable level to top management to deal with the ever rising crime rate. In any case, the primary mandate of any police organization has been to prevent and combat both current and emerging crime. they have done all that is possible over the years to make sure that there is crime reduction both in community levels and in the national levels.
The role of police officers in crime prevention in the twentieth century was carried out by the use of three strategies that helped them to control and prevent crimes. The operational strategies that were being used by police defined their roles in crime prevention and control. Random preventive patrol is one of the roles of police agencies used in crime prevention. In this role, police are supposed to be on patrol for the purpose of preventing criminal activities in a given area. The presence of police in patrol creates confidence in people and instills fear to criminals.
Another strategy that need to be implemented by police as one of their roles on crime reduction includes quick response to security alarms from the public quick response enhances trust and cooperation of members of the public on matters related to security. On the same note, police have the mandate of carrying out investigations on all crimes committed alongside apprehending culprits for the sake of guarding the rule of law. They can also be of great help in crime reduction by partnering with other security agencies and adopting their policy approach on crime reduction (Ling et al, 2006).
The use of partnerships that are involved in alternative policing strategies is yet another inescapable role of police. By partnering with other organizations, the police is capable of exercising accountability in service delivery. This may be achieved by strategically allocating specific roles to the police especially in crime prone areas so that it may easy to manage outburst in insecurity. Some of the duties which can be assigned to them include rapid response to optimize efficiency as well as a swift investigation of criminal activities to expedite the process of justice system.
The role played by police in beat teams is evident when they hold meetings with local communities as the local people assist them in identifying residents and in the meetings they analyze and identify crime challenges faced by community in a local level. Meetings between the police and community help in addressing factors that give way to crime at community level. Besides, both the police and local community can initiate awareness programs that tend to sensitize locals on how to keep safe and also identify as well as report crimes. The role of police in alternative policing strategy has resulted into improved public confidence towards these security officers and consequently reduction in crime.
According to Strossner (2003), crime preventing police officers are well trained and have a noble duty to educate community and engage them in crime prevention. Most of crime prevention officers get experience for several years in dealing with different kind of crimes which include robberies, burglaries, theft and fraud. For crime prevention police officers to be able to effectively deal with their work they attend trainings and classes which help in sharpening their knowledge and they gain more crime prevention techniques. Crime prevention police officers assist business people in the community to identify business risks that are associated with crime. The crime prevention officers lay down basic guidelines that are used by business men for the purpose of improving security and preventing crimes (Strossner, 2003). The role of police agencies is to provide free assistance to community policing which is a forward step towards crime prevention. Police officers provide information and services that are important for business security because they usually have crime data and they know which crimes are likely to occur in particular areas.
As Gary (2005) stated, police in their role of crime prevention have adopted new ways of detecting crimes from terrorist. The police departments develop intelligence on interpretation of foreign languages that help them translate terror plots. They translate documents and news from far countries and use the data to prevent crime attacks. The police commissioners identify police officers who are able to make good translations and have good experience and they use them to know what people around the world plan to do (Gary, 2005). By having the knowledge they are able to counter attack crimes before they are committed thus preventing crimes.
BBC (2011) illustrates that among the roles of a police officer in prevention of crime is to monitor video surveillance cameras that are used to help in controlling and prevention of crimes. They are supposed to make sure that all surveillance cameras available are able to perform their functions. Video camera systems under the control of crime prevention police officers ensure that operators of video cameras are well trained and equipped for their preparation in crime control. Using surveillance cameras promote prevention of crime because crimes that are yet to be committed and are in the process can easily be prevented and the people committing crime are easily traced.
There has been several complain from the public that most of the surveillance cameras are not effective and that crime prevention through their use has not been successful (BBC, 2011). Experiments of crime prevention using camera surveillance are underway which will see to it that crimes are monitored. The experiment takes a step forward in the role of police in crime prevention by being equipped with loudspeakers that will to stop and delay criminals until the arrival of police officers. The surveillance cameras equipped with loudspeakers will keep down criminal rate and eventually a certain percentage of crime will have been prevented. Video recording acts as evidence in court and it helps detectives in having clues and details of crimes committed.
The role of police in crime prevention as suggested by Ganapathy (2000), includes coming up with new crime prevention initiatives that act as machinery in crime prevention. One of the common crime prevention that has been used by the police is the use of community policing where the involved community play their role and police play their role. This acts as a tertiary role of the police officers in crime prevention where they are engaged in social crime prevention. The police also use realism and paradigms in crime prevention which acts as administrative criminology approach. This role is described as situational process of crime prevention and the police have used it to successfully protect crime in given situations. Crime initiatives that police officers come up with include conducting analyses that help in containing crimes. They look for any means that is available to conduct dispute resolutions which may be through arbitration or mediation depending on the parties involved and on their assessment. They also use court proceedings where majority of criminal cases are dealt with (Ganapathy, 2000). The use of high tech crime prevention is among police initiatives and they make use of high technology programs. In doing this, the police need to work with citizens who will have responsibilities of controlling the process.
Based on the above roles of the police, it is evident that reduction of crime does not singly rely on the number of police officers deployed. It has been concluded that crime prevention may not be brought down by increasing the number of serving uniformed officers. Nonetheless, increasing awareness to the public will help in crime prevention. Police officers are supposed to partner with citizens for better outcome in crime prevention.
BBC (2011). Russian paper argues video surveillance no help in crime prevention in Moscow: BBC Monitoring former Soviet Union, London: BBC World wide limited.
Ganapathy, N. (2000). Conceptualizing Community Policing, Crime Prevention and Criminology: A Singapore Perspective. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 33(3): 266-286.
Gary, F. (2005). New York’s Finest Linguists; Police Department Translation Team Takes Offensive in Terror War, Wall street journal, 2: 4.
Ling, R. et al. (2006). Participation community crime prevention: who volunteers for police work? Policing, 29(3), 464-481.
Strossner, J. (2003). Crime prevention: Law enforcement’s role in security: the Journal of Industrial Health, Occupational Medicine and the Surgery of Trauma, Occupational safety, 72(7): 52-56.