Crime Prevention: Government Involvement & Local Efforts

Preventing crime is key to keeping communities safe. In safe communities, people are able to do business, live, shop, attend school, and work without fear of bodily harm, theft, vandalism, or loss of services. Also, breaking the cycle of crime and imprisonment by deterring criminals slows the growth of crime by keeping future generations out of the school to prison pipeline.

Many state and local law enforcement officers ask for the public’s help in reporting suspected crimes.

Government Involvement

Neighborhood Watch was one of the early, government-funded efforts to deter crime, by organizing neighbors to be alert to strangers and call if anyone or anything suspicious going on. This effort began in the 1960s but its popularity has risen and fallen over time according to fluctuations in local crime.

In the early 1980s, the National Crime Prevention Council was formed, using a cartoon dog, McGruff, as its mascot. The organization has since created a certification process for communities as well as a vocation, crime prevention specialist.

The U.S. government has taken significant steps toward reducing crime, mostly through harsh penalties and incarceration. In fact, 40 years ago the prison population was about 300,000, but “three strikes” laws, the implementation of for-profit prisons, and tough penalties for even nonviolent crime have caused the population to shoot up to more than 1.5 million by 2010. One milestone that stands out was President Bill Clinton’s 1996 Crime Bill that imposed longer mandatory sentences, set a higher bar for crack cocaine than powdered cocaine, and added 100,000 police officer positions. It is credited with institutionalizing the epidemic of Black male imprisonment by increasing the number of Black males in prison to 50 percent.

While the U.S. and state governments spend $31,000 to $60,000 per person per year to keep a person in prison, prison reform measures have met with mixed results. The current wave of the state-by-state legalization of marijuana is expected to have some impact on the prison population as many inmates are serving time for drug infractions.

Local Efforts

Most police departments in even the smallest towns across the country have an officer dedicated to crime prevention, which can include coordinating Neighborhood Watch efforts and other citizen’s meetings.

In Wilmington, North Carolina, police have resorted to social media, cell phone apps, and an anonymous tip line to track down crooks and bad guys.

“Crime prevention is the anticipation, recognition, and appraisal of a crime risk and, as a result of these evaluations. the initiation of an action to remove or reduce it. Crime prevention is a simple and direct approach that protects the potential victim from the criminal attack by anticipating the possibility of attack and eliminating or reducing the opportunity for it to occur, as well as reducing the potential for personal harm or property loss should it occur.

Crime can be prevented in our communities by citizens becoming proactive, building a rapport with law enforcement and reporting anything that seems out of the ordinary.

While I am unable to share a specific story, I am able to share that we have multiple resources which include:  social media outlets, cell phone applications and our very own anonymous Text-A-Tip line, that provides us with information which could possibly lead to an arrest.”

The Texas Department of Public Safety asks residents to report any of the following:

  • comments made – written or verbal – regarding killing or harming someone;
  • strangers asking questions about building security features and procedures;
  • Briefcase, suitcase, backpack or package is left behind;
  • Cars or trucks are left in no-parking zones at important buildings;
  • Chemical smells or fumes that are unusual for the location;
  • People requesting sensitive information, such as blueprints, security plans or VIP travel schedules, without a need to know;
  • Purchasing supplies that could be used to make bombs or weapons;
  • Purchasing uniforms without having the proper credentials, or
  • Taking photographs or videos of security features, such as security cameras or checkpoints.

Officer Rad Rotello of the Frisco, Frisco Police Department says,

“Crime requires three things: opportunity, ability, and desire. With all three in place, the door is open for crime. Assuming you live in an area where crime does not happen is not a smart way to keep you and your family safe. By removing one of these ‘crime elements,’ you eliminate the potential for crime. We see this most often by folks forgetting to lock their doors on both their cars and homes. This opens up an opportunity to a criminal that already has the ability and desire.

I am often asked by residents what can be done to prevent themselves from becoming a victim. My answer almost every time is locked your doors. Criminals will go car to car on a street and in an alleyway checking door handles. The unlocked cars are easy prey for the criminal and any valuables you may have in that car will be gone. Open garage doors not only open your garage full of equipment, tools, and other valuables to theft, but it also tells the criminal that no one is home by the lack of vehicles. This can be very dangerous if the criminal believes the entire house is vacant and easily burglarized.

Reporting suspicious activity is another excellent way to prevent crime … Never assume someone else is already doing something about it. Be the person who calls to stop crime in your neighborhood. We would much rather receive several calls for the same criminal activity than receive none and all. Start a neighborhood watch, keep your eyes open, and let the world know, this neighborhood refuses to be victimized.”

Likewise in Mukilteo, Washington, the police have made great efforts to make crime prevention a key tenet of community life.

A close community will operate as if a crime against any member of the community is a crime against the entire community. When police officers respond to ‘suspicious’ subjects it sends a message that someone is watching and possible criminals may be deterred from committing crimes in that area. A continuous crime prevention effort should always be in place,

says Officer Myron Travis of the Crime Prevention Division.