Eight operational principles
    for reducing crime and incarceration

This isn’t rocket science.

1. Concentrate enforcement resources: by area, by offense type, and by offender. Don’t try to do everything: do something. Get some part of the crime problem under control, to the point where reduced offending levels free up resources to be used on some other part of the problem.

2. Remember that arrests, convictions, and years in prison are costs, not benefits.

3. In controlling minor offenses and probation and parole violations, work toward swift and certain punishment, not severity.

4. Directly communicate deterrent threats to identified offenders. As the Lord said to Moses, don’t just strike the rock; talk to the rock.

5. Pay attention to group dynamics. If shootings are part of gang activity, threaten the gang (with concentrated enforcement), not just the shooter.

6. Mobilize the neighborhood.

7. Offer services as well as threats.

8. Call in David Kennedy.

This stuff isn’t rocket science. But it’s hard to do, and even harder to maintain, for reasons that have more to do with the difficulty of public management than with the supposed intractability of criminal behavior.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

6 thoughts on “Eight operational principles
    for reducing crime and incarceration”

  1. When I read that article I wondered why the list of cities which had tried 4) was short. I take it the reason is practical politics?

  2. Meanwhile, in other news, attendance at the Seattle Hempfest topped 150,000 recently- a figure reported by the local papers, not by activists rebutting the lowball estimates offered by the papers and police in former years. In fact, one local daily wistfully wondered if the festival would continue after the inevitable legalization of hemp.
    The citizenry having passed an initiative that police make enforcement of prohibition their lowest priority (something they do after writing traffic tickets), officers patrolled in an atmosphere agreed by all to be permeated by marijuana smoke. Whether they cheered when former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper called for legalization of all drugs, and plugged his book with the same theme, is not recorded.
    Just as Bush's history degree would mke any sane person lean towards Ford's view that "history is bunk", drug prohibition continues to suggest that "law enforcement" (and the FDA) is essentially the application of a crude stick upon minorities that provides an equally crude carrot to the majorities and politicians who oppress them.
    Rocket science it ain't. In rocket science you get it right, or fail. In drug prohibition, and to some extent law enforcement, there is no penalty for failure- at least, not a penalty suffered by legislators or police officers.

  3. Very interesting stuff–especially #4.
    It seems to me that a lot of the biggest troublemakers also (in many cases) possess the most capital in their undercapitalized neighborhoods. A 'go, and sin no more' sort of approach that also includes encouragement (of some kind) to invest in their neighborhoods could pay off in a multitude of ways (the crime rate being, in many cases, either reason or excuse for the lack of capital in the first place). Or maybe not; I don't know. Just speculating here.

  4. I live in an area which is affected by concentration of enforcement resources (vide #1).
    Burglars and rapists very quickly figured out that our neighborhood had virtually no patrol, no enforcement.
    Result? Burglary and assault crimes skyrocketed. So then law enforcement decided on "rolling" enforcement. With a predictable pattern and duration. Result? Criminals can, after all, count days and predict future pattern from previous ones, just as we can.
    What to do…What to do…

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