Arthur A. Jones, J.D., Dr.jur.
International Human Rights Law and Policy
c/o Los Angeles Community Policing
email to: Arthur@lacp.org
EDITOR'S NOTE: --- Arthur A. Jones and Robin Wiseman are international human rights lawyers with legal educations in the United States and Europe. They are consultants and authors on international policing, social policy and human rights, and regular contributors to the forum here at LA Community Policing.
The following article originally appeared in the
Fulbright Commission's "Funnel Magazine" as an article in the Winter 2006 edition: http://www.fulbright.de/funnel/index.shtml (page 35 - 37)
For more of their work, please see the Think Tank. For additional information feel free to contact Dr.
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Crime Prevention for the 21st Century
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by Arthur A. Jones
email to: Arthur@lacp.org
Albert Einstein supposedly said, “We can’t solve problems
by using the same kind of thinking we used when we
created them.” A prime example is the growing 21st century
urban problem of street gangs, youth crime, drugs, alcohol,
mental illness, and loss of social cohesion. Police agencies in many
countries around the world have learned, in the two decades or
more since the advent of community policing, that dependence
on traditional law enforcement measures alone will never enable
societies to reduce the impact of today’s complex, cross-border
crime problems. In fact, modern crime prevention and public
safety efforts comprise a broad spectrum of new and innovative
solutions, all aimed at today’s and tomorrow’s problems.
Palermo, Italy (pop. 650,000) located on the island of Sicily,
had a murder rate of about 200 persons per year during the late
1990s, mostly resulting from Mafia gang killings. After activating
a program of arresting Mafiosi on a massive scale, with limited
suppressive effect, the City of Palermo introduced a new approach.
Police officers known as polizia di prossimità, or community police
officers, began circulating through the most gang-ridden neighborhoods.
They became a familiar sight, walking the beats and
engaging the residents in dialogue. Then, they encouraged and
helped organize citizen action groups to resist extortion attempts,
petition shop owners to stand up to mobsters, and to report—
anonymously—shakedowns and mob violence. The mayor and
city council joined in, helping the police organize neighborhood
watch groups and sponsoring weekly marches and street demonstrations.
The police and social services coupled those efforts
with a drive for more and better jobs for youth. Businesses and
universities contributed resources to enable young people to obtain
improved education. The end result of these police-community
partnerships was a reduction, by the year 1999, of homicides from
200 (1997) to eleven (1999). The rate has hovered under ten homicides
per year since then. The Mafia has not been eliminated yet,
but the City of Palermo has become one of the safest in Europe.
In the City of Oxnard, California, my partner, Robin Wiseman,
and I helped establish a similar “basket” of programs to
solve some of the same problems faced by Palermo: street gangs,
homicides, and related violence. Oxnard (pop. 200,000) is home
to gangs such as La Colonia, which has its roots in the pre-World
War Two era. Many of its current members are sons and grandsons
of previous members. The Oxnard police embarked upon a strategy
of delicate balance between crime suppression, i.e. aggressive
arrests, and crime prevention, namely community outreach and
By training community leaders, activists, and volunteers in
specific areas of starting and maintaining partnerships, the City
of Oxnard has reduced its homicides by fifteen to twenty per cent
per year between 2001 and the present. Gang-related violence
fluctuates somewhat, but has reduced by an average of ten per cent
per year during the same period. One indicator of the scope of
police-community partnership efforts in Oxnard is the number of
community residents that were trained by police in gang suppression
techniques: nearly 1,000 teachers have learned gang identification
signs; over 1,100 have completed gang awareness training;
nearly 100 adult role models/mentors are currently active. An
effective job-finding and job-training program strengthens the
opportunities and the resolve of young people who are helped
back onto the right track.
The author (center) conferring with Director of Training Richard M. Weintraub (right)
and Lieutenant Ron Kegel of Los Angeles County Sheriff ’s Department.
In Sophia, Bulgaria, I recently completed a two-year consultancy,
together with a team from the Open Societies Institute,
drafting training manuals and proposing new police-community
partnerships. My recommendations were based on the “best practices”
that I gathered from visiting and working with police and
crime prevention organizations in Europe and North America.
The Bulgarian police are presently undergoing a transition in
common with other police forces worldwide that are adapting
to 21st century problems and their solutions, and to community
policing as a definable, applied philosophy for crime prevention.
Those efforts form a part of Bulgaria’s preparations for entry into
the European Union.
This change of approach and of structure has evolved from
the realization that the older, paramilitary model of policing has
proven ineffective and counterproductive in dealing with the
public safety problems of modern cities, especially in minority
and immigrant enclaves suffering from low average income and
inadequate education. Paris, France is a case in point.
About three years ago, France swiftly and intentionally dismantled
its world-renowned police de proximité and replaced it, especially in immigrant-dominated public housing projects, with
hordes of anonymous uniformed assault teams that remain in their
barracks until dispatched to quell violence in predominantly Muslim
communities. Gone are the courteous, helpful local beat cops
who played soccer with the teenagers, knew most of them by name,
and encouraged them to do better in school, avoid gangs, look out
for their families, and to become upstanding European citizens.
Now the banlieu is, in effect, sentenced to social isolation. After
disconnecting community policing and community partnerships,
French officials should not have been surprised that the alienated
young people rioted for ten straight nights in November 2005.
It is arguable that they were negotiating for a more equitable and
meaningful approach to social integration.
One of the axioms of progressive policing is that “one size does
not fit all.” Although the proven best practices of many countries
and cities certainly address similar problem areas—disaffected
youth, economic and educational stagnation, loss or absence of a
community ethos, social estrangement from the outside world—
the forces at work in each community are unique in their formula.
The questions we must ask are rarely about “getting tough on
crime,” draconian punishments, or longer prison terms. These are
suppressive measures. Instead, the clear need is to focus on preventive
aspects, both situational and social, and to work to ensure that all available resources are put to effective use. Our most urgent task
is to analyze and evaluate social and civic policies. Crime prevention
must be seen as benefiting society as a whole.
We will never achieve a reduction in crime by applying stricter
law enforcement alone. The U.S. currently maintains the world’s
highest rates of incarceration: 800 prisoners for each 100,000
residents. U.S. rates of recidivism—repeat criminality—are also
the highest in the world. By comparison, Western European rates
for persons serving prison sentences range from 65 per 100,000
in population in Switzerland, to 85 per 100,000 in population
in Austria, France, Germany, and Italy. British incarceration rates
are somewhat higher, but not even distantly approaching those
of the U.S.
Those egregious disparities in rates of violent crime between
America and Europe first interested me in 1967 when I was a
young American lawyer studying international criminal law and
procedure on a Fulbright scholarship at Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich. Why, for example, do U.S. residents commit
homicides at a rate of seven or eight persons per year per
100,000 in population when their European cousins average just
over one person per 100,000 per year? Indeed, by 1990, U.S.
deaths through assault had risen to 12 victims per 100,000 in
population. Spurred on by these dramatic statistics, the U.S. Congress enacted the Crime Reduction Act in 1994, which not only
placed more officers on the streets of America, but also initiated
the U.S. surge toward adoption of community policing strategies.
By December 2000, murder rates in the U.S. had dropped
fifty-seven per cent.
But successful police-community partnerships also demand
permanent commitment. Removal of that sustained commitment,
as happened in France, has more recently begun taking its toll in
the U.S. In 2005, homicide rates in the U.S. rose again by 4.8 per
cent, and gained another 5.2 per cent during the first six months of
2006. Other violent crimes, particularly among teenagers, are also
on the increase. Why? The answer is complex, but certainly reflects
the decision of the Bush administration in 2001 to cut funding
for community policing and its specialized crime prevention partnership
programs from over $2.5 billion down to a few million
dollars. Drastic personnel cuts among police departments nationwide
have been the result. There is, however, growing bipartisan
consensus that federal crime prevention and community policing
support must be reinstated, and that community policing should
be expanded to include prevention of terrorism as well, taking a
tip from their European colleagues.
One thing I have learned from my years of comparing and
analyzing social dysfunction, crime, and crime prevention in over
twenty countries is that the data orchard grows both apples and
oranges in great abundance. Each city, region, or country features
causal connections that derive from that area’s own matrix of culture,
history, economics, and social expectations. For example, the
Swedish Brottsförebyggande Råd, or Crime Prevention Council,
combines civic, social, educational, business, and other resources
and their representatives in over 240 different communities
throughout Sweden. They meet regularly, decide on an agenda,
pool their efforts in specific short, medium, and long-term goals,
and benefit from the support of a national umbrella organization
that is a constant and reliable source of practical advice and a clearing
house of accrued expertise. Yet their American counterparts
often suffer from inability to sustain the community cohesion and
effective lines of communication that the Swedes have achieved.
Moreover, American crime prevention efforts have become somewhat
politicized in recent years, and more nationwide uniformity and discipline are clearly needed. Despite those headaches, community
policing and crime prevention partnerships have proven
their value many times and in many countries in recent years.
|Arthur A. Jones is an international law consultant, instructor,
and author with over 40 years experience in 26 countries. Together
with his partner, Robin Wiseman, he has assisted in the development
of dynamic community partnerships in crime prevention
in many countries, and has published research papers and articles
in six languages. He recently completed a two-year consultancy
in Police Management Structure together with OSI in Sophia,
Bulgaria, and is now making preparations for a similar project
|For more information on cross-national studies
on community policing and individual country
reports, see the following websites:
A. Jones, J.D., Dr.jur.
Wiseman, J.D., Dr.h.c.
Los Angeles, California / Genoa, Italy - December 24, 2006
--- Arthur A. Jones and Robin Wiseman are international human
rights lawyers with legal educations in the United States and
They are consultants and authors on international policing, social
policy and human rights, and regular contributors to the forum
at LA Community Policing.
For more of their work, please see the Think
additional information or a complete list of references, contact: