Beat cops – and the community-oriented policing projects they practice – are on the decline says Sudhir Venkatesh, Professor of Sociology at Columbia University.
In an article appearing last week in The New Republic, Venkatesh notes that tackling current crime concerns increasingly requires a partnership of federal resources, such as hi-tech gadgetry, and local knowledge of criminal networks. But to support these collaborative taskforces, “[t]he Feds are getting a bigger share of funding, while [local police] are forced to continually make layoffs.”
Venkatesh argues that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In many ways, joint taskforces have delivered. In addition to racking up arrests and convictions, “[Chicago] [r]esidents felt safer using public spaces, storeowners experienced less extortion, and even gang members exited their organizations at a greater rate after a federal operation.”
But, while traditional community policing may be outmoded for today’s complex investigations, Venkatesh also warns that cuts have had unintended consequences. Fewer cops on the street has created vacuums – opening the door for solutions from local gangs and vigilantes.