Criminologists think broadly when studying crime. Not only are they looking at the type, frequency and location of criminal activity, they are also trying to understand root causes and the impact crime has on public safety and the society at large.
Considering the economic uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, mass demonstrations and police reform efforts taking place across the nation, along with the bail reform movement and a push to reduce coronavirus exposure in prison populations, criminologists have many new factors to consider when analyzing crime data, prevention strategies and protection services.
Earlier this year when New York City Police Department crime figures spiked, some pointed fingers at the progressive bail reform legislation that went into effect that abolished bail for many misdemeanors and nonviolent crimes. Those numbers pale to crime statistics the NYPD released for the first week of June. There was a 402 percent increase in burglaries and car thefts were up 66 percent compared to the same time last year.
In New York and elsewhere, police force leaders and policy makers are navigating the delicate balance between police reform and controlling crime. Caught in the spotlight are proactive policing methods and police response to crimes in progress. As an example, recently the NYPD disbanded anticrime units that have historically targeted violent street crime events and recidivists, which has been attributed to the decrease in crime over the past 20 years. According to New York City Police Commissioner, Dermot Francis Shea, “This is a seismic shift in the culture of how the NYPD polices this great city. It will be felt immediately in the communities that we protect.”
With prolonged civil unrest and unchecked anxiety related to the pandemic and recessionary economy, the recent crime statistics in New York City may indicate a longer-term reality where private security is needed to fill an emerging gap and provide an alternate option to crime response. On the crime prevention front, it might be time to enhance security technology and physical security measures like upgrading to more effective locks or installing glazed glass for stronger windows. Implementing a safe room or area of retreat may be appropriate to defend against these increased threats.
As criminologists evaluate the dynamic factors influencing crime in today’s world, for some it may be time to think anew about the nexus of public and private security.