Focused Deterence: A Local Future

The common thought by criminal justice academics, as well as rank and file police officers and community members, was the longer the sentence the more of a deterrent sentencing was to the criminal. In other words, lengthy sentences deter crime.

That thought process may be false. What matters according to some recent research is that effective crime control is when punishment is “swift, certain and fair.” Even when given in smaller doses.  Knowing where the tolerance limits of society are and recognizing that if I am outside of those boundaries punishment will be certain discomfort and it will be swiftly administered is essential to behavioral control.

The same research shows that random enforcement is “toxic.” When enforcement is inconsistent or not communicated to the targets of the action, it becomes frustrating as people are uncertain what to expect and how to behave.  When there is an expectation of where the tolerance levels are and what control is wanted, group dynamics can control the behavior of the errant ones. Energetic concentration of enforcement can work but it has to be done correctly. It must be consistent and follow through must be certain. In other words don’t threaten what you won’t follow through on.

Listen to the first 15 minutes of this talk by Mark Kleiman, Professor of Public Policy at New York University.

Application for EPD:

  • EPD has clearly told the homeless population what is tolerable and what will bring a swift, and certain police response. Violence and theft must stop.
  • Group behavior can be controlled through group influence. Exercise control.
  • The homeless can help by taking immediate steps to improve their situation. The Eureka community stands ready to help.
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