The Role of the Police in Violence Prevention

Neild, Rachel
Jul 1999
This document is one of a series of technical notes that describe the nature and magnitude of violence in the region, its causes and effects, and how it can be prevented and controlled. The notes provide useful information on designing programs and policies to prevent and deal with violence. This technical note discusses the roles of police in controlling and preventing violence and crime. These issues are the subject of much debate. Broadly, the debate breaks down into two opposing views that represent the two ends of a continuum of crime prevention programs: One view asserts the importance of the police role in controlling crime through effective law enforcement that removes criminals from the streets and increases the potential cost of committing crime, thus deterring potential offenders. The other viewpoint posits that police actions operate at the margins rather than at the root causes of crime and so have little impact on broad trends in crime rates, which are fundamentally driven by economic, demographic, social, and cultural factors.