There was a great article in the New York Times this past weekend that looked at the efficacy of spending criminal justice dollars on police versus spending it on incarceration.
As the American prison population has doubled in the past two decades, the city has been a remarkable exception to the trend: the number of its residents in prison has shrunk. Its incarceration rate, once high by national standards, has plunged well below the United States average and has hit another new low, as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced recently. And crime in the city has fallen by more than 75 percent, almost twice as much as in the rest of the country.
Whatever has made New York the safest big city in America, that feat has certainly not been accomplished by locking up more criminals.
In a nutshell, the article points to the data driven policing technique known as Hot Spot Policing as the main reason that led New York City becoming a much safer place without filling New York prisons with criminals. By mining crime data to determine what geographic areas have a disproportionate share of crime and then detailing police officers to spend time in those areas you can drive crime down in a community.
The whole piece is worth the read. What does your agency do to reduce crime hot spots in your community?