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Proactive Versus Responsive Policing: Does Decreasing Proactive Policing Decrease Crime Rates

*This is part 2 of the 3 part blog series*


A report was released in 2017 that discussed a time span of a 7 weeks in early 2014 to 2015 in which the NYPD decreased their practice of proactive policing. The study found that less policing, specifically proactive policing leads to less crime. Proactive policing is defined as involving “systematic and aggressive policing of low level crimes.” This type of policing occurs in areas where crime is anticipated as happening at high rates. The researchers hypothesized that overly policing low level violations is related to reports of high level or major crime.

The study found that there were less reports of high level crimes when the NYPD scaled their proactive policing back. The NYPD placed limits on what officers immediate duties were, during the weeks in 2014-2015, their duties consisted of; being limited to foot patrols, criminal summons, and low level arrests.

A major contributing factor to the shift was the murder of Eric Garner in 2014.

2 weeks after there was no indictment in the Eric Garner case, anti police extremists shot and killed two NYPD officers, Wenjian Liv and Rafael Ramos. As a result of this, officers wanted to go on strike but were prohibited by union rules.

This is a problem. I am not an eye for an eye person. How does going out and making it one’s mission to harm or kill a police officer help or get justice for the original life lost? Those two officers had nothing to do with the murder of Eric Garner. We don’t want anymore African American people killed at the hands of the police, but there are people who purposely go out and harm police officers. The same question stands for both instances; what is the purpose?

For anyone who tries to come up for a defense for one side or the other, there is no difference both acts are rooted deeply in hate.

Instead, they organized a “work-to-rule” strike, which meant that they would respond to calls in pairs, leave their cars only if they felt compelled, and they only performed duties that were deemed necessary. NYPD officers were no longer arresting people for small crimes and going to issue summons.

Compstat was created as a reform to combat police hotspots, or in other words areas where police targeted where high rates of crime occurred.

In 2014, 92% of arrests were for misdemeanors.

There is a culture and belief in NYPD and other police departments as well that proactive policing decreases the occurrence of high profile crimes and doesn’t allow neighborhoods to become “breeding” grounds for crime.

Proactive policing could be a positive method if it wasn’t disproportionately directed at minorities. Proactive policing gives a reason for police to go into neighborhoods and do as they please because they are anticipated crimes before they happen. If an officer is anticipating a crime occurring, to me that means they deem certain people to be suspicious and up to no good. When this culture is factored into the belief that African Americans are inherently criminal because of the color of their skin then you have a problem.

I’m not saying proactive policing is completely bad, I’m saying it is bad when it facilitates abuse of power and police brutality.

The study found that criminal summons and stop, question, and frisks decreased. Criminal summons being penal law violations, like being drunk in public. Stop, question, and frisks occur when an individual is temporarily stopped on the street and searched for contraband. There was also a decrease in narcotic arrests.

The decrease in policing had the largest effect on low level policing.

This is not surprising, because if police scale back on proactive policing and disproportionately policing specific areas and individuals of course “less crime will occur.” The majority of people who are arrested and imprisoned are there for minor crimes thus when you stop policing that target group as much you will essentially see less crime because the police aren’t arresting them as much.

Thus to answer the question of the article, yes decreasing proactive policing does decrease crime rates. This is true because if police aren’t arresting people for minor crimes then in a sense “they aren't occurring.” What I mean by this is of course they are still occurring but rather they are going unrecorded.

In my opinion, the study highlighted the real issues within the NYPD; overly policing minority neighborhoods with the mindset that crime was automatically going to occur in those areas. In this case, it would appear that police officers went out on missions to catch people doing things they shouldn’t being doing regardless of how small the act was. Going back to the statistics presented in the study, 92% of arrests in 2014 by the NYPD were for misdemeanors. This is a major problem, given the definition of a misdemeanor and knowing the effect of having a police record can have on one’s quality of life.

Proactive policing has detrimental effects when the power of the officers is abused as it is done disproportionately across neighborhoods. Those impacted by proactive policing are subjected to economic and political inequality among other institutionalized inequalities.

Again, proactive policing wouldn’t be completely negative if it was done with out disparities and equally across all neighborhoods/areas. However, it is important to note that in some situations proactive policing could be very useful and much needed. In my opinion, the solution or better approach is a mix or proactive policing and responsive policing. Responsive policing being responded to calls for help and when crimes are committed instead of being on the prowl a crime will occur.

A mix of the two policing methods should help to make things less unequal, and slow remove the target placed on certain areas but the bottom line we still need accountability for the bad police officers who abuse their power and the criminal justice system that refuses to prosecute them. Implementing new policing methods is a step in the right way and recognizing how existing tactics facilitate inequality.


If you would like to read in depth about the study I will leave the link to it below.


https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-017-0211-5

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