The core function of the police should be to maintain order.' Discuss with particular reference to Wilson and Kelling's 'broken windows' thesis. This essay will provide an explanation of the broken windows thesis and link this to the role
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'The core function of the police should be to maintain order.' Discuss with particular reference to Wilson and Kelling's 'broken windows' thesis. This essay will provide an explanation of the broken windows thesis and link this to the role of the police in maintaining order. It will highlight that the thesis only recognises street crime as a source of criminal activity and how disorder and order are defined in this context. The issue of how maintaining order produces tension with regard to human rights will be examined and in particular who is often labelled as disorderly and therefore criminal. The issue of reducing crime will also be investigated and the reason why reducing crime is viewed as so important in the first place. Finally the positive effects of the thesis will be examined and it will look at the alternatives to the police maintaining order. When Robert Peel founded the metropolitan police in the early 19th century, the primary function was crime prevention and maintaining order through street patrols. This was to protect the public from the 'menace of mob disorder' (Reith 1938) as Robert Peel did not want to leave the streets 'in the nightly possession of drunken women and vagabonds'.
An article in the Daily Star newspaper explains how a man was minding his own business and these 'hoody thugs' attacked him without provocation (Malley 2005), while the daily mirror shares the opinion of the Ex-Metropolitan Police chief who believes 'hoodies' should receive longer prison sentences (McGurran 2005). There is an assumption that disorderly behaviour and therefore criminal elements are easily recognisable and by removing these elements the problem will be eliminated. Kelling and Wilson even recognize the failures in establishing who is criminal. They point out that when people on a housing estate were asked where the dangerous places were they identified where young ones gather and play music, even though this was not an area of crime. This puts the thesis on shaky ground, they claim that if you sort out the disorderly elements this will stop it escalating into further criminal action. However if the people pinpointed as disorderly are not committing or causing criminal acts how does stopping and harassing them prevent further criminal acts, it could surely produce the opposite effect in that they feel oppressed. Instead it is labelling people as disorderly and therefore criminal for what they look like and what they wear. This also illustrates that the thesis is one sided as it looks at the feelings and thoughts of the 'victims' but fails to take account of the feelings of those who are actually labelled as criminal.
It also points out that those labelled as 'criminal' are not necessarily criminals. They are more likely to be those who appear different and those highlighted by the media. There also appears to be a never ending cycle of those labelled as criminals and there is a failure to take note of any social influences. In addition the prejudice that results from labelling can have devastating consequences. All of these reasons coupled with the point that the police are unlikely to catch a person in the act means that a police presence in the form of foot patrol is unlikely to have an effect on street crime rates. However it does seem to have a positive effect on those in the community fearful of crime. Although due to police accountability and political pressures this is not seen as important or cost effective. In conclusion, I don't think that the core function of the police should be to maintain order as it has little effect on crime rates and they tend to target those who 'looks' like criminals, also by using foot patrols and concentrating on street crime means other areas of crime would to be overlooked. However I do think that the police role in maintaining community relationships does have merit, as they could be used in an advisory capacity and this way police could continue monitoring crime and fear levels within the community.
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