Monday, April 1, 2013

The Law Of Unindented Consequences Of A Law’s Unintended Consequences

There was a really good piece over at The Atlantic Cities recently that looked at the efficacy of various laws aimed at texting and driving. The piece examined a study of these laws and whether or not traffic accidents were reduced by them. The story had this interesting bit:

One study to look at texting bans in four states, back in 2010, actually found that accidents increased in those states, compared to neighboring states without the bans — perhaps because drivers tried to hide their phones while texting, making the act even more dangerous.

Via The Atlantic Cities

The piece went on to look at how effective these laws were by the way they were written, such as whether their were exceptions written in the laws that made them difficult for police to enforce.

It’s not enough to have a law regulating certain types of dangerous behavior. Those laws must be well written so that we don’t end up with a scenario that a poorly written law actually makes things worse.

This is probably a prescient sentiment given the Texas Legislature is busy preparing all those bills they will try to turn into laws in this legislative session.

This Week’s Crime Analyst Resource

This week we’re looking at the second in the series of Problem Oriented Policing Center POP Guides The Problem of Street Prostitution.

There are very few crimes that can be more problematic than street prostitution. One of the reasons for this is that street prostitution is almost never found without street level narcotics. Additionally, the street prostitution trade will often bring other types of crime such as robbery, theft and assaults.

Because this crime is very visible, police departments will often get significant community pressure to do something about “the hooker standing on the corner”. However, because in most instances, prostitution is not considered a serious offense, it is often a misdemeanor offense with very little jail time.

Police can arrest prostitutes and often see these persons back on the streets within days. It can be very resource intensive to tie up 5 to 10 officers to make a handful of misdemeanor arrests. It gets even more problematic if these arrests provide very little deterrent for prostitutes.

This POP Guide can help provide some insights that will help you to develop an effective strategy. For instance this POP Guide has this bit worthy of note:

Clients are more easily deterred than prostitutes. They are more readily ashamed of their behavior, and fear harming their public reputation or their standing in their personal lives. Consequently, they fear being identified publicly more than being fined for their conduct.

Armed with this knowledge, an effective strategy may be to “poison the well” by increasing the perception to prostitution customers that the police are watching and will enforce the laws to the customer’s detriment including publicizing these arrests.

If your department deals with street prostitution, this POP Guide is worth reading.

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