Community Policing In Extremely Depressed Areas

1466 words - 6 pages

To residents of the suburbs, all economically distressed districts of the city may seem dangerous and threatening, however, to residents of these poor districts, it is just home. The local residents know the truly crime-ridden areas of each district. This essay will refer to these crime-ridden areas within poor communities as "hot spots" or "skid-row". Skid-row is generally an area of the economically distressed community that is plagued with vagrants, criminals, drug abusers and other individuals thought to be of exile from normal society (Bittner, 1967). This is an area where law abiding, poor citizens do not wish to venture (Bittner, 1967). Due to this stigma, skid-row is an ...view middle of the document...

If the officers were to act in more of a law enforcement capacity, their role would not inspire the same amount of discretion. They would not turn a blind eye and in fact would effect more arrest for crimes committed. In areas such as skid-row types environments, with high crime rates it is more practical to employ discretion and keep the peace then to arrest for every minor violation (Bittner, 1967).

According to Bittner (1967), police agencies employ a method of containment to manage skid-row areas. They use their discretion to determine which laws should be rigidly enforced, in turn allowing for a certain amount of criminal activities to continue to occur within that specific community (Bittner, 1967). The officer may turn his back to some instances of prostitution or drug use, however will keep a careful watch on the situation so as not to allow the criminal activities to migrate to other areas of the community (Bittner, 1967). Officers specifically assigned to skid-row areas, will develop relationships with the individuals in their communities. They will begin to know the individuals in the community; their criminal habits; their associates; and their routines (Bittner, 1967). This working relationship, coupled with the officers’ use of discretion in enforcing certain laws, will often lead to a quid pro quo type of relationship (Brown, 1981). The individuals may give the officer information regarding a more serious offense or even agree to restrict their criminal activities to a specific area in return for not being arrested (Brown, 1981).
In contrast to containment, community policing was designed to bring the police and the public into closer contact (Eck and Spellman, 1986). This is a strategy designed to allow communities to communicate effectively with officers to unify their goals. Often the problems focused on by the police are quite different than those that the citizens feel are the primary issues in their societies (Eck and Spellman, 1986). Citizens are frequently more concerned with nuisance crimes, such as rowdy kids, noise complaints, garbage complaints, and neighbor disputes; whereas police are more apt to focus on crimes such as robbery, distribution of drugs, and prostitution (Eck and Spellman, 1986). Community policing utilizes a proactive approach, with problem solving initiatives in contrast to the more traditional reactive approach (Nowicki, 1998). With containment, the police are using discretionary tactics with the offenders to keep them and their criminal activities confined to areas away from the general public, while community policing is focused more on dispelling the fears of the general public by working more closely with these individuals to promote a more peaceful environment (Eck and Spellman, 1986). While containment may seem to ignore crime and issues in an area, community policing initiatives assume active participation from police to eliminate citizen concerns (Eck and Spellman, 1986).

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