Zero Tolerance Is a Good Way to Reduce Crime

Is zero tolerance policing (strict and set responses to all crimes by police) a good way of reducing crime?

Zero Tolerance Is a Good Way to Reduce Crime
Yes because...

Zero Tolerance policing provides a powerful deterrent to criminals. i) It creates a far greater awar...

Zero Tolerance policing provides a powerful deterrent to criminals. i) It creates a far greater awareness of police presence because there are more officers on the ground. Research shows a direct link between this perceived chance of detection and crime rates. ii) Strict punishments provide another firm deterrent because they make it clear that the consequences of detection will not be a minor irritant. iii) Convicts are less likely to re-offend because zero tolerance catches them early on in the escalating cycle of crimes and provides the ‘short, sharp shock.’ There is a clear message that crime will not be tolerated. If a law is to exist at all then it ought to be enforced. Otherwise they will be held in contempt.
No because...
Minor offenders, gang members, and the poor are extremely unlikely to be aware of the punishments for the crimes which they commit so deterrence doesn’t have much effect there. Many crimes are a product of necessity (through poverty and drugs) and therefore can be reduced only by structural changes to the society, not by threatening punishment. The idea of a ‘short sharp shock’ is unconvincing. Labelling people as criminals at an early age actually causes them to perceive themselves as such and gives them fewer other options by placing them outside mainstream society. This leads to ‘deviance amplification’ where convicts increasingly commit more serious crimes as a result of their contact with law enforcement.

Zero Tolerance Is a Good Way to Reduce Crime
Yes because...

Zero tolerance policing is extremely effective at reducing small-scale drug use and dealing by patro...

Zero tolerance policing is extremely effective at reducing small-scale drug use and dealing by patrolling and arresting. By cutting off the dealer on the ground we can best target the businesses of big suppliers. Big busts have a minimal effect. Drug use is a huge cause of further crime. Pushing creates no go areas where criminal acts flourish. Addiction creates a need for money that can usually only be solved by theft.
No because...
Arresting small-scale pushers (many of them addicts) and users is targeting the victims to stop the crime. As well as being unfair it is ineffective. As long as there is a demand there will be drug dealing and demand can only be stopped by rehabilitation. This does not occur in prison. It is in big drug syndicates (which we won’t have the resources to combat if everyone is patrolling) that drug dealing is associated with violence.

Zero Tolerance Is a Good Way to Reduce Crime
Yes because...

Zero tolerance also allows for a sound rehabilitative role. A custodial sentence, particularly for j...

Zero tolerance also allows for a sound rehabilitative role. A custodial sentence, particularly for juveniles, takes them out of the atmosphere (often surrounded by drug use and living in poverty and or abusive homes) that encourage criminality. Rehabilitation through the prison system is not just a possibility but a central tenet of all penal codes. Education and discipline are both vital to our prisons. The large number of police on the ground also allows for a supervisory role in the community after the prisoner is released to reduce reoffending.
No because...
Prison sentences contribute to a far higher tendency to re-offend. It would be nice if they had a rehabilitative role but we have to look at the reality. Juveniles sent to prison are less employable afterwards so more likely to resort to crime. They meet established criminals in prison who both encourage the lifestyle and teach necessary skills for criminal behaviour. Prison often fosters resentment of the police and the courts and anyway the harassment of juveniles associated with zero tolerance already creates an extremely antagonistic relationship with the police.

Zero Tolerance Is a Good Way to Reduce Crime
Yes because...

Zero Tolerance improves the standard of policing. It reduces corruption and racist treatment because...

Zero Tolerance improves the standard of policing. It reduces corruption and racist treatment because the individual officers are not given the scope to decide their actions on a case by case basis. Their response is set and therefore cannot be changed by a personal whim. It also reduces the kind of gung-ho policing that is increasingly common. It takes officers out of their cars and places them back into the community where they have contact with individuals. Chases and shootouts actually become less common under zero tolerance.
No because...
In reality Zero Tolerance gives the police almost limitless power in poor communities. They are able to stop and search, and harass individuals constantly. Everyone who carries marijuana cannot be arrested so in reality certain vulnerable groups, usually ethnic minorities, are targeted and labelled as criminals. New York saw a vast growth in complaints over police racism and harassment after zero tolerance and Liverpool’s system was closed down because of corruption and unacceptable aggression by police officers.

Zero Tolerance Is a Good Way to Reduce Crime
Yes because...

Zero Tolerance is vital to regenerate urban environments. There is no point building in inner cities...

Zero Tolerance is vital to regenerate urban environments. There is no point building in inner cities if we don’t protect these resources from graffiti and vandalism. Zero tolerance reduces the amount of dead ground used for drug dealing and so returns parks and open spaces to the community. Unless businesses are protected from vandalism and petty crime it is usually uneconomic for them to return to the worst areas and they are vital to raising the standard of living. Zero tolerance policing is often seen to lead to the return of public transport to deprived areas because it can be protected.
No because...
Urban regeneration is one of the most powerful ways of targeting crime and it occurs entirely independently of zero tolerance. For every city where the two have both been associated with a falling crime rate (New York) there is an area where regeneration has worked on its own to solve a crime problem (Hong Kong, Brixton in London). The most important element of urban regeneration is the way individuals come to take pride in their area. This is far more likely when it is not associated with police persecution, antagonism with the government and constant fear of arrest. No police presence is sufficient to properly defend a business which has not fostered good relations with the local community.

Zero Tolerance Is a Good Way to Reduce Crime
Yes because...

We can afford zero tolerance. Protecting businesses and creating a reputation for low crime and soun...

We can afford zero tolerance. Protecting businesses and creating a reputation for low crime and sound policing attracts inward investment and immigration both to a country as a whole and to individual areas. The cost to a country of theft and vandalism per year is a significant chunk of GDP. Deterrence reduces the number of crimes that police are forced to investigate and although prisons are expensive the reduction in recidivism should start to empty them in time. The most important question is whether we believe it is worth spending a percentage of our tax dollars to guarantee our safety. Most electors in most countries say this is not just worthwhile but their spending priority.
No because...
The enormous expense of zero tolerance in money and manpower and prisons actually makes policing worse. Either we have to throw limitless money at doubling the number of officers (it is almost impossible to recruit and train so many even if we could afford it). Or we have to divert officers away from investigations and serious crime prevention in order to put them back on the pavement. This reduces detection of important crimes in return for catching graffiti artists. Even when reported crime rates drop this does not prove that zero tolerance achieves anything because it is corporate crime, large scale drug dealing that is ignored and these are rarely reported. A patrolling officer might pass a burglary every 18 years and probably wouldn't notice it.


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