Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Detroit Police Department Attempting Proactive Approach Through Community Policing

     Within the field of Criminal Justice many individuals think of one thing when they hear Detroit, and it is not the city's well known boast of being the automotive capital of the world. What first comes to mind for many of us is the fact that Detroit is a city with one of the highest crime rates in the country. In terms of homicides alone the city has seen a steady increase in numbers over the last couple of years going from 308 in 2010 to 344 in 2011. The city is set for an even larger increase this year if they remain on their current path with 36 homicides already committed this year through February 5, roughly about six times as many as the same time last year. Statistics among violent offenses as a whole seem to demonstrate some form of promise at first glance as total numbers of murder, rape, robbery, assault, and other offenses decreased by 7,300 reports in the last year. While this information appears to be positive at first I still find it alarming that even though numbers for rape, robbery, and assault are decreasing homicide rates are increasing. To some degree this demonstrates an issue of more individuals simply resorting to homicide as a first choice. It should also be noted that some of the decrease in the number of reports can be attributed to the fact that the city's population has been decreasing year by year with about a quarter of a million people leaving the city over the last ten years.

Detroit Violent Crime Rates per 100,000 compared to National average

     In a city plagued by such alarming numbers of violent offenses it is understandable how the Detroit Police Department has shifted their focus over the years to concentrating all available resources on responding almost solely to violent offenses while spending less effort community policing approaches. As Police Chief Ralph Godbee put it, "Every one of my available resources, all we do is put them in a scout car, have them listen to a radio and then, when they get a call, they go. That's not policing... They're not engaged in the community and problem-solving in changing some of the street-level dynamics that contribute to an environment and a belief that everything goes in Detroit". Chief Godbee stated it perfectly in saying that the strictly reactive approach they are currently implementing is not policing, or at least I don't believe its what policing is supposed to be. Simply having officers it in a squad car and wait for a radio call effectively segregates them from the members of the community they are supposed to be serving. There is not relationship with individuals living within Detroit that can be established, in a way the officers themselves are actually dehumanized in a way as they appear to simply be another squad car going by. 
     In an attempt to implement a more community based style of policing and decrease rates of violent crime Detroit has implemented the "Broken Windows" methodology for an eighteen month trial run in two parts of the city. In these two areas within the city officers will begin to focus more on minor violations such as broken taillights, cracked windshields, and loitering in hopes that attention to such offenses at the base level will lead to larger busts. Chief Godbee holds the belief that the community complaints the department frequently receive but are not necessarily responded to include loud noise complaints, street level prostitution, and drug dealing in plain sight are the contributing factors to the anything goes mentality within many neighborhoods. I can easily understand his logic in such a statement because if individuals living within a certain community become unconcerned with the fact that they are openly selling illegal narcotics on the street due to the lacking police presence, why would they be concerned about what they perceive as unlikely consequences for violent offenses. In the two trial zones of Detroit the individuals implementing the new program are hoping that increased proactive police involvement will lead to the apprehension of firearms through traffic stops as well as the capture of individuals wanted on felony warrants. 

     Proponents of the implementation of the "Broken Windows" methodology have good reason to believe the program will be successful in Detroit as prior use has shown successful results in Los Angeles and New York. Six years after such tactics were put into effect in L.A. violent crimes had dropped thirty-three percent with individual homicides decreasing more than forty percent. In New York such practices were used to decrease crime rates in the city's subway systems by cracking down on vagrancy and turnstile jumping in the early 90's. 

     While prior implementation does show success with such tactics there also exists a negative aspect to the issue. Opponents of police enforcing more proactive tactics take the stance that it gives the impression of zero tolerance across the board. They also state that such actions give the impression to the general public that police believe every one to be a criminal. While i can understand some parts of their arguments I think that the severity of violent crime in Detroit as well as the "anything goes" culture that is already rooted needs to be kept in mind. Cracking down on such minor offenses in an area with low crime rates would appear to be overkill, but in terms of Detroit I think a major shift in policy is desperately needed. I think that the "Broken Windows" methodology, if implemented steadily for a few years, can successfully decrease violent crime rates within Detroit and help to remove the attitude of many that they can do whatever they want without consequence. Some may see this as using Utilitarian logic to justify a behavior, that the overall potential improvement of the community outweighs the rights of the few who are stopped and have not committed any serious offense, and in some ways it is. However, I feel as if Detroit is in a situation where such behavior is necessary. 

No comments:

Post a Comment