Monday, October 14, 2013

Are police sting operations really an efficient way to stop crime?

The tech journal Ars Technica had an interesting story from Nate Anderson about police sex predator stings. You know, the ones where police troll the interwebs and chat up people looking to have sex with minors. I'm not commenting on this because I want to seem sympathetic to pervy dudes who want to have sex with minors. However, there was a bit in the story that I think is worth looking at.
Why does it take 30 people to arrest solo strangers knocking on the front door? It's a labor-intensive operation, involving drumming up suspects, performing "open source intelligence," installing hidden cameras, filling out police paperwork, cuffing suspects, dealing with suspects' vehicles, and executing search warrants on suspects' homes after arrest. Each operation requires: 
House commander
House supervisor
Chat supervisor
Case agents
Vehicle team
Investigative support team
Arrest team
Surveillance team
Prisoner transport/takedown team
Audio-visual and IT support
Forensic support
A "house scribe" to handle documentation
Via Ars Technica

That seems like a heck of a lot of police resources to make a single bust. It seems to me that there has to be an easier, less resource intensive way to police to discourage this kind of activity.

The Problem Oriented Policing Center has excellent publication in their Response Guide series that looks at police sting operations that is worth reading. The guide looks at both the positive and negatives of police sting operations.

Does your agency conduct sting operations? If so, for what types of crimes?

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