Car patrol vs. foot patrol

by on April 5, 2008 at 2:29 pm in Law | Permalink

Car patrol eliminated the neighborhood police officer.  Police were pulled off neighborhood beats to fill cars.  But motorized patrol — the cornerstone of urban policing — has no effect on crime rates, victimization, or public satisfaction.  Lawrence Sherman was an early critic of telephone dispatch and motorized patrol, noted, "The rise of telephone dispatch transformed both the method and purpose of patrol.  Instead of watching to prevent crime, motorized police patrol became a process of merely waiting to respond to crime."

That is from Peter Moskos’s Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore’s Eastern District; here is my previous post on the book.

1 David Heigham April 5, 2008 at 2:35 pm

The basis of successful policing in Britain used to be described as “ground cover”. Police in pairs in cars somehow do not “cover the ground”. The odd thing is that the first British attempt at motorising the urban policeman seemed to work: it used small, almost silent motor cycles. Somewhere there should be data establishing whether the problem is motorisation as such, automobiles with their greater isolation from the surroundings, telephone despatch, patrol in pairs or some combination of these.

2 Kent Richards April 5, 2008 at 3:14 pm

We’ve known that preventive patrol does little or nothing to prevent crime since the Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment in 1971. See http://www.policefoundation.org/docs/kansas.html

The reality is that the police largely react to crime and there is very little they can do to prevent it. Efforts in recent years to use community oriented policing, problem oriented policing, and other strategies to address the conditions that lead to crime are one way that police departments with the resources have responded. Putting more visible police cars out on the street is politically popular because it makes people feel safer but there’s little reason to believe crime rates are affected.

3 David Zetland April 5, 2008 at 3:38 pm

Watch the Wire (season three?) for a dramatized version of this story — cops on the street get to know the street and can see crime coming. It’s not a romantic view but realistic. For a compromise, consider cops on bikes. They can cover ground, stop to meet people, are quiet and blend in. (Smaller guts on cops as well.)

4 Anonymous April 5, 2008 at 6:11 pm

Suburban sprawl makes foot patrol utterly impractical. Giving cops Segways or bicycles might help a little, but that’s not really practical in inclement weather.

5 mouse April 5, 2008 at 11:10 pm

I was told in a criminal justice class that patrol cars were used because they lowered the corruption in the police force. Once police were removed from walking their beat, they were less likely to shakedown all of the businesses on the beat, they were less likely to know enough about the neighborhood to pull off such extortion, more likely to field calls in various locations, and therefore, more likely to be an honest broker when responding to calls–because they didn’t already have favorites.

Is there any truth to what I was told? Has any study been done on walking the beat and corruption, or how to stop corruption of street level police?

6 Andrew April 6, 2008 at 8:46 am

Mouse,

So, you were told that some virtuous interests made the intentional move to patrol cars based on a marginal improvement in corruption for the good and welfare of all?

I’ll keep it in mind to feel all warm and fuzzy the next time I see a checkpoint of black paramilitary garbed police. I’m beginning to think that if cops aren’t going to be walking around, then they shouldn’t even be let out of the building except to respond to crimes in progress. I think the common citizen is becoming something less than human in the eyes of the insular cop. This is why everyone is treated as a threat and subject to pre-emptive tazing and weapon confiscation, etc.

I’m not even making the “privatize protection” argument that will be dismissed out of hand. But, considering the only other times I see cops out of their cars is when they are protecting private events, we are inadvertantly well on our way.

Mine is a utility argument. The form fillers who have responded to my handful of victimizations have seemed entirely blase about their job. It’s got to be a waste of resources to have a trained officer come around and fill out a form that a conscientious junior high kid could do. For that matter, we could all fill out our own forms on-line. Then the crime complaint statistics would be searchable.

I realize I’m in the vast minority. I get the sense that the “show of force” makes a lot of people feel like they are well protected.

I think the time has returned for the neighborhood cop. One solution to the corruption question would be to have overlapping jursidictions with STRONG incentives to expose corruption to overcome the thin blue line fraternity cliche.

Periodically, paradigms need to be revisited in the light of developments such as technology like the internet. Another development is the militarization and bellicosity of the cops partly due to the impersonal relationship between them and the public. With the internet and the ability to expose vast amounts of corruption with anonymity, the odd bad cop problem will be easily addressed.

7 shawn April 6, 2008 at 10:49 am

…perhaps it’s my youth of mischief, but I still don’t feel comfortable around cops; especially in cars. walking around, he’s a citizen; in a car, he’s a monster with a store of weapons in the trunk.

8 Anonymous April 6, 2008 at 12:24 pm

Andrew,

I’m not sure just what kind of “logical argument” you’re planning to get into to get yourself tazed. You seem to be complaining that if cops can’t be bothered to walk around then they shouldn’t even be let out of the building… and yet if they were walking around and interacting with you, surely that would only increase your own anxiety? Thanks for sharing insights into your personal issues, but vague anecdotal feelings of unease are hardly a basis for setting public policy.

9 Peter Moskos April 6, 2008 at 2:08 pm

Vague anecdotal feelings of unease may not be the best basis for setting public policy, but they have their place. I’ll take an amazing anecdote over a slippery statistic any day.

I’m always interested in why people–especially the non-criminal public–don’t like police. With Tasers specifically, there have been too many cases of police using tasers unnecessarily.

My following thoughts on tasers are from my blog (www.copinthehood.com). But they seem relevant here with regards to Andrew’s fears.

The death I refer to took place in a Canadian airport.

Since Tasers can kill people (though very very rarely), Tasers (and other less-lethal weaponry) should only be used in situations where you’re willing to use lethal force (or where there’s no clearly less lethal force practical).

This man should not have died. Nor should he have been Tasered. There were four cops. Why the hell can’t they take the guy down with muscle? Is the Taser emasculating police officers? Tackle the S.O.B.! You know the guy isn’t armed (it was a secure area of the airport).

I don’t like the idea of people, police included, being able to cause pain at the press of a button. It makes it too easy to torture. I’ve said it many times: policing is a hands-on job. If you need to hurt somebody, it is best to do it with hands (or stick). Hurting somebody with your hands is a natural check and balance to excessive force. Physical force takes effort, reminding you of the consequences. And being close to somebody means you might get hurt, which also is good to keep in mind. It’s just too easy to press a button.

I also don’t like that Taser is a private for-profit company. That’s not inherently a bad thing. But for makers of less-lethal munitions and prisons, it may be. They shouldn’t have P.R. and lobbyists. Or studies saying how great and safe their product is. At least for other forms of munitions, there’s healthy competition and generic products. Plus, Taser’s slick website looks like something out of the movie Starship Troopers. It’s just a red flag.

10 Grant April 6, 2008 at 11:00 pm

After reading Peter’s comments, I think I’m definitely buying his book.

I’m always interested in why people–especially the non-criminal public–don’t like police. With Tasers specifically, there have been too many cases of police using tasers unnecessarily.

Myself, and most of my friends (especially one who is a public defender in a rural county), tend to hate most cops. The reasons are varied but have a common thread: Most all of our contact with police involves getting harassed for so-called victimless crimes. It doesn’t help that the police in my area (Gainesville FL) seem to generate a significant amount of revenue from traffic tickets (the AAA has put up a billboard or two warning people of speed traps near some towns not too far from me, Waldo, Stark and Lawtey FL).

I don’t think anyone hates police when they catch rapists, murderers, thieves, drunk drivers, etc. Most even cheer when drugs and dealers are arrested (although I don’t, I realize I’m in the minority here). The problem is that most normal citizens never see cops doing these things. Their contact with police is often, in my experience, nothing more than a shakedown. It doesn’t help that there have been at least two police shootings in my (small) area over the past decade that were completely unjustified (one of the victims was a friend of a friend, but I hadn’t met him), yet the cops got off relatively scot-free (it seems that in Florida, one must prove that a cop was not acting in his capacity as a police officer in order for his actions to be tried in normal court of law). The Justin Meyers tasering incident didn’t help either.

There is just the general attitude that cops can use force and not be punished for it. Whatever their punishments may be, few people would believe they near anything which would be faced by a private individual using force (especially via a taser or gun) on another person. In my opinion, the results of giving someone power without the same accountability as everyone else is predictable. Of course the police themselves don’t bear the blame for system as a whole, but they are the public face of it.

I’ve never felt safer because a police officer was around, and I’ve never had the need to call the police. I’ve definitely never been assisted by a cop in any concrete manner, nor has anyone that I know well. Given that we involuntarily pay their salaries, I think a general dislike of police by non-criminals is often pretty rational.

11 peter April 7, 2008 at 12:21 pm
12 H.Gee April 8, 2008 at 1:09 am

Peter, I have an issue with you comments about police use of force. Your argument that the use of “muscle,” physical strength and holds, will lead to less excessive force issues in contrast to Tasers or other less lethal uses of force, needs to be substantiated. Officers who go over the line, in my experience prefer to use physical strength and intimidation. It gives them a better “high;” that feeling of control and power. It has been my experience with the modern Tasers, the ones that can record from a “weapon’s eye POV,” that trained Officers are more likely to stay within the bounds of Departmental policy and the Law. Additionally, do we as a society want to expose our law enforcement officers to MORE danger by not allowing them the advantage of distance? Officers and suspects are less likely to be injured if there is no physical force used. This has multiple “good” effects.

13 GLEN WINDSOR April 24, 2008 at 4:25 pm

I Glen L.W. of baltimore city was sitting in a alley with 3 freinds.officer reed of baltimore city had approached me and my 3 freinds in his car we were smoking a blunt of marijuana.my three freinds took of and ran i was then placed into the back of officer reeds car then he had said that he had just got a call from a residence in the neighborhood about a auto theft in the area and stated were going to find out if we can find out were this crime has takin place.he then pulld around two corners more then 500ft away from were he had put me in the back of his car there was a car he seen with its lights on he then seen a individual exit the vehicle and run.the individual who exited and ran got away i was still in the back of his car through this whole process, then came back to his car and i heard him say damn that does’t ever happen reffering to the individual who had gotten away …..he had asked me who was the individual in the car i had no clue and beings i didnt know who was in the car he had said its not ratten man jus give me the names and i said how am i going to give you the names of some1 i dont know and he then said on the way back to the southwestern district that i was being arrested for grand theft auto resisting arrest after i was taken to the southwestern facility i wasnt giving no charge paper from then i was sent to cbif facility it wasnt till 4 hours after i was locked up i was giving my charge papers and this is what my charge paper stated///ON
APRIL 23 2008 AT O155HRS, I RESPONDED TO THE 2100 BLOCK OF HARMEN AVE FOR A AUTO THEFT IN PROGRESS. UPON MY IRRIVAL, I OBSERVED A RED PLYMOTH NEON WITH ITS INTERIOR LIGHTS ON AND A UNKNOWN W/M IN THE PASSENGER SEAT.ONCE I APPROACHED THE VEHICLE,THE W/M EXITED AND RAN.AFTER A BREIF FOOT PURSUITE,THE W/M WAS DETAINED UNTIL I COUL DO FURTHER INVESTIGATION ON THE RED NEON HE THEN SAID UPON MY INVESTIGATION I OBSERVED THE IGNITION HAD BEEN TAMPERD WITH.AND THEN HE HAD RAN THE VEHICLES TAG NUMBER TO GET THE OWNERS INFORMATION. THE VEHICLE CAME BACK TO MS CRYSTAL P.MS P WAS NOTIFIED AND RESPONDED TO HER VEHICLE.MS P ADVISED THAT NO 1 HAD PERMISSION TO BE IN HER VEHICLE.SHE FURTHER ADVISED THAT HER IGNITION WAS NOT DAMAGED WHEN SHE HAD PARKED HER CAR AND THAT NOTHING ELSE WAS MISSING FROM HER VEHICLE. MS P STATED THAT SHE BELEIVES THAT SHE LOCKED AND SECURED HER VEHICLE.THE W/M,GLEN W WAS THEN PLACED UNDER ARREST AND TRANSPORTED TO CBIF FOR FURTHER PROCESSING.

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14 GLEN WINDSOR April 24, 2008 at 4:29 pm

I Glen L.W. of baltimore city was sitting in a alley with 3 freinds.officer reed of baltimore city had approached me and my 3 freinds in his car we were smoking a blunt of marijuana.my three freinds took of and ran i was then placed into the back of officer reeds car then he had said that he had just got a call from a residence in the neighborhood about a auto theft in the area and stated were going to find out if we can find out were this crime has takin place.he then pulld around two corners more then 500ft away from were he had put me in the back of his car there was a car he seen with its lights on he then seen a individual exit the vehicle and run.the individual who exited and ran got away i was still in the back of his car through this whole process, then came back to his car and i heard him say damn that does’t ever happen reffering to the individual who had gotten away …..he had asked me who was the individual in the car i had no clue and beings i didnt know who was in the car he had said its not ratten man jus give me the names and i said how am i going to give you the names of some1 i dont know and he then said on the way back to the southwestern district that i was being arrested for grand theft auto resisting arrest after i was taken to the southwestern facility i wasnt giving no charge paper from then i was sent to cbif facility it wasnt till 4 hours after i was locked up i was giving my charge papers and this is what my charge paper stated///ON
APRIL 23 2008 AT O155HRS, I RESPONDED TO THE 2100 BLOCK OF HARMEN AVE FOR A AUTO THEFT IN PROGRESS. UPON MY IRRIVAL, I OBSERVED A RED PLYMOTH NEON WITH ITS INTERIOR LIGHTS ON AND A UNKNOWN W/M IN THE PASSENGER SEAT.ONCE I APPROACHED THE VEHICLE,THE W/M EXITED AND RAN.AFTER A BREIF FOOT PURSUITE,THE W/M WAS DETAINED UNTIL I COUL DO FURTHER INVESTIGATION ON THE RED NEON HE THEN SAID UPON MY INVESTIGATION I OBSERVED THE IGNITION HAD BEEN TAMPERD WITH.AND THEN HE HAD RAN THE VEHICLES TAG NUMBER TO GET THE OWNERS INFORMATION. THE VEHICLE CAME BACK TO MS CRYSTAL P.MS P WAS NOTIFIED AND RESPONDED TO HER VEHICLE.MS P ADVISED THAT NO 1 HAD PERMISSION TO BE IN HER VEHICLE.SHE FURTHER ADVISED THAT HER IGNITION WAS NOT DAMAGED WHEN SHE HAD PARKED HER CAR AND THAT NOTHING ELSE WAS MISSING FROM HER VEHICLE. MS P STATED THAT SHE BELEIVES THAT SHE LOCKED AND SECURED HER VEHICLE.THE W/M,GLEN W WAS THEN PLACED UNDER ARREST AND TRANSPORTED TO CBIF FOR FURTHER PROCESSING.

CROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOKKKKKEEEEDDDDDDD FFUUUUUKKKKKIIIING COOOOOPPPS GOOOO EAT ANOTHER FUUUUUUUUCKKKKKING DDDDOOOOOOONNNUTTT…………

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17 Dwain June 15, 2010 at 9:49 am

There are pros and cons when it comes to ground cover and car cover. My opinion is that car patrols are better because they can respond faster and they can engage in a chase. If the police was on foot, anyone with a car could get away.

18 miriam November 2, 2010 at 9:39 am

Of course we can have both, but it seem the our local authorities are more interested in having a high degree of criminal acts so they have what to do and complain about not having enough funds to fight crime. car sales Philadelphia

19 Raducu November 24, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Police officers need to patrol on foot and by car.I don’t think it is right to pull off the police officers out from neighborhoods to fill cars.I guess there should be more people hired as police officers.car dealers Salem

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21 Japanese Used Vehicles January 17, 2011 at 2:58 am

Hmm, Its nice topic and post.I think Patrolling through Car is more effective than foot patrol.

22 Hartley Gulbrand January 30, 2011 at 4:49 pm

This problem has two sides. When it used to be just the pedestrian patrol, prevention was better but intervention took too long. Now, with a car patrol, the police can respond to a call in a matter of minutes. I’ve read on some car dealer websites that these patrol cars are better equipped than the regular models and can be very efficient in fighting crime.

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