Does An Arrest Deter Crime


Does An Arrest Deter Crime? Essay, Research Paper

The police are known sometimes to be intimidating, influential, and authoritative. The reaction of civilians to the police intervening with them, or their direct orders can vary with individuals. A study was done in 1981 in Minneapolis, to find out if the act of arresting or the threat to arrest all domestic violence offenders or possible offenders, deters further crime. Four different cities were used in this experiment, Milwaukee, Omaha, Dade County in Florida, and Colorado Springs. Three different strategies were used by the police: arresting the suspect, ordering the suspect from the premises for 24 hours, and trying to restore order (Berk, 1992). Lawrence W. Sherman and Douglas A. Smith have written an article in the American Sociological Review which states that despite deterrence theories, arrest had no overall crime reduction effect in repeat domestic violence offenders. Race nor record of prior arrests prove any effect of restrain for further domestic violence (Sherman 1992). Subsequently, Richard Berk, Alec Campbell, Ruth Klap, and Bruce Western, all from the University of California, Los Angeles, wrote an article that promotes that arresting an offender does have diversified effects. Depending on their racial background, employment, and previous arrest records, increased crime did occur. Both articles were written about

the same study.

Sherman and Smith’s article depict different case studies on arrests in a period of time. Sherman, from a previous article (1984, p.78), explains that people who are moresocially bonded people are more deterrable”. Which suggests that people who are unemployed, not married, or not happily married may be more unlikely to be deterred by an arrest. This is so due to possibly a socially bonded person might show stronger effects of wanting to stay outside of a jail while a person who isn’t as socially bonded might show

less of restraint to be incarcerated (Smith 1992, p.681).

Sherman and Smith form General Deterrence Hypotheses about the interaction between legal and informal threats of punishment. The first is conditional hypotheses then the replacement hypothesis, and finally the additive hypothesis. The conditional hypothesis claims that legal threats only deter potential offends are sufficiently tied to conventional society to suffer from its trauma of arrest. The replacement hypothesis assumes that the threat of legal control is effective only when informal control is absent.

The additive hypothesis which is derived from Wrong (1961) and by Grasmick and McLaughlin (1978), claims that both informal and legal controls deter potential offenders. The more of either type of control, the greater the deterrence (Smith, 1992, pp. 681-682). They also determined that on average, individuals with strong bonds to spouses and to employment have a greater stake in conformity than unmarried

and unemployed individuals (Smith 1992, p. 683).

The suspects that were sampled varied by race and in “stakes in conformity.” Almost all (91 percent) of the suspects were male. Blacks comprised 79 percent of the suspects. Over one-half (56 percent) of the suspects were unemployed at the time they entered the experiment. The employed suspects were generally blue-collar service jobs. The majority of the couples (70 percent) had never married each other, but 68 percent reported living together for two years or more. About one-third of the suspects had a record of a prior incident of domestic violence (Smith 1992, p. 683).

The findings of the study varied on different variables. 36.3 Percent of the offenders were involved in at least one subsequent incident of violence in the period following the experimental case. Out of 411 repeat offenders, 45 percent had more than two incidents during any of the variable follow-up periods (6 to 18 months). The rate for all the suspects for annual rate of subsequent violent incidents was .612 incidents per suspect per year, which is roughly a 1 out of 2 suspects per year for additional

violence. Repeated violence is significantly higher for unmarried, black, and unemployed men. Subsequent battering as also more likely if the suspect had engaged in domestic violence during the previous year. Also, among married victims, only 11 percent of the known incidents were not

reported to the interviewers compared to 29 percent for unmarried victims. A similar pattern holds for employment status, which is 28 percent withheld among victim of the unemployed compared to 21 percent among the employed. In addition, 28 percent of victims who were black withheld compared to 14 percent among whites. However, results indicate that whether the subject was arrested or simply warned had no significant association with the occurrence or number of subsequent violent incidents (Smith 1992, pp. 683-685).

To summarize, the question of arrest influences subsequent violence is generally depending on the arrested person’s stake in conformity. Arrested persons who lacked a stake in conformity were significantly more likely to have a repeat offense than their counterparts who were not arrested.

Conversely, those who were married and employed, arrest deterred subsequent violence (Smith 1992 p. 685) In contrast to the article stated above, Berk, Campbell, Klap, and Western researched and examined the same topic, using the same data. In the Milwaukee and Dade county experiments, there are suspects who are “good risks” and suspects who are “bad risks.” An arrest may benefit victims of good risks and harm victims of bad risks (Berk 1992, p.699). The findings in each of the regions studied suggest

that individuals subject to informal social controls are “good risks” and individuals not subject to such control are “bad risks.” Good risks seem to be deterred by arrest, while bad risks are more likely to repeat offend. The key “risk” indicators are employment status and marital status (Berk 1992 pp. 700-702).

Unlike what Sherman and Smith said, the point is made here that if employment status and marital status affect the impact of arrest, we are uneasy with the social control and/or labeling framework. Employment status and marital status are only indicators, they are not direct measures of the strength of social attachments. In addition, employment status and marital status are probably related to a number of

other psychological and social phenomena. For example, Employed suspects are home less and have fewer opportunities to interact with the victim. Under these circumstances, the deterrent impact of arrest may be less likely to dissipate. This might also make an arrest while being married moreeffective. (Berk 1992, p. 704)

In the two articles stated above, the basic argument is whether the police have such an effect on people to make them stop committing a crime, or change a way of living. The first article, written by Lawrence Sherman and Douglas Smith had some very agreeable points. One of these is the element of if the person is their “stakes in conformity.” This means whether or not the person was socially acceptable and/or the

person was part of the society. A person who is socially acceptable, or has many stakes in conformity might see that committing a crime against their spouse is something that is not socially acceptable. This could be a major reason why people who do have more stakes in conformity commit fewer crimes of domestic violence. If the same person was not very deeply tied within their sub-culture, committing the crime could possibly be a better way to deal with the circumstances. If a person does not have too many friends within the society, he or she would see as getting away from the place they reside in and getting a beginning, all from committing a domestic violence act. This, in turn makes people who are unemployed, not married, or not happily married more likely suspects for domestic violence. This also leads to the question of the threat of an arrest or an actual arrest will deter further crime. Personally, I agree

with Sherman and Smith saying that the theory of arrest deterring crime is something that is inconsistent and sporadic. I believe this due to the fact that many of the people who are unhappy with their quality of life will try and change it in a drastic way, most likely in an illegal way. Most of the people who committed the violent crimes were socially not active. The people who are considered socially active, arrest had an impact on their ideas for future crime, but the number that were socially active was

small, and unfortunately, the number of people today who can be considered socially active is small. That is why possibly so many violent crimes in the home exist today, and why that arrest simply does not deter crime. People will do things sometimes and not think about what is going to happen to them in the future, but they will just think about the present time.

With Mill’s concept of social imagination, he explains how we must learn to understand our individual lives in terms of the social forces that have shaped them. Mostly everything in a person’s social class and in their social value, will effect their outcome in life. Every social class has its distinct styles of crime. An example of this is a white collar crime. Most of these crimes are more to do with income tax evasion, bribery of public officials, securities violations, embezzlement, and false advertising. All of these crimes are due to the fact of having power, prestige, and wealth. On the other hand, a blue collar crime

would be more to do with mugging, pimping, and burglary. These people in the blue collar class have less opportunities to encounter then those in the white collar class. Because of this, there acts are more deviant and malicious towards others.

“A society becomes industrialized, a peasant becomes a worker; a feudal lord is liquidated or becomes a business man. When classes rise or fall, a man is employed or unemployed; when the rate of investment goes up or down, a man takes new heart.” (Mills, 11) According to Mills, he exemplifies, how life is based on the outcome of which society you are placed in.

Before writing this paper, I believed that if someone threatened to arrest another person, the person would normally back off and not consider the illegal act again. But after writing this, I learned that people seem not to care what happens to them but just to commit an act of violence for reasons of hate and anger. I discovered if people were more in-tune with the other people around them, they would not be so hostile to their loved ones. They would understand their point of view instead of scrutinizing it, which in turn leads to arguments, and in turn in some cases, leads to violence. Unfortunately, with new technology the world is losing more of their stakes in conformity everyday, and starting to learn how to be more independent and not rely and interact with other people, which will ultimately destroy society altogether.

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