Crime and Policing Revisited

New Perspectives in Policing

September 18, 2015
Author: Anthony A. Braga

Today a new report has been released by Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety (2008-2014) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) which recaps the change in thinking in the last thirty years about the role of policing in preventing and reducing crime and highlights the research on what types of policing are effective at crime prevention.

In 'Crime and Policing RevisitedAnthony Braga argues that new evidence from research conducted since the 1990s has changed attitudes about the role that policing can play in reducing crime. At the time of the first Executive Session on Policing from 1985-1991, the general consensus in academia was that police did not matter in crime prevention and control. But a growing body of experiential knowledge and scientific evidence leads us to believe that the police can reduce crime if they take a focused approach to addressing recurring crime problems, engage the community and a diversity of partners, and implement tactics and strategies appropriately tailored to the conditions that give rise to crime problems. This plan of action includes community policing, problem-oriented policing, hot spots policing, and focused deterrence strategies.

This New Perspectives in Policing report was written by Anthony Braga, Senior Research Fellow, Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, Harvard Kennedy School and Don M. Gottfredson Professor of Evidence-Based Criminology, School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers University. Crime and Policing Revisited is the final report published in the series New Perspectives in Policing from the Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety (2008-2014), funded by the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) National Institute of Justice (NIJ).

Reflections on this Executive Session

"I'm delighted to see the release of the final paper in the current Perspectives Series. In it Anthony Braga surveys what we've learned about the practical challenge of crime control over the last 30 years, and describes the specific ways in which the themes and focus areas explored in this most recent Executive Session served to fill in many of the gaps in knowledge and experience that were left after the original executive session concluded back in 1991. 

More broadly, I believe that NIJ and Harvard, as co-sponsors of the Executive Session, should be proud of the collection of 23 papers that make up the 'New Perspectives in Policing' series. The Executive Session process from which they spring has been described as a 'crucible' – where academics and senior practitioners are forced to work together over a protracted period (in this case spanning 6 years). Practitioners are forced to grapple with theory and conceptual analysis, and to be more rigorous in examining their own experiences and assumptions; academics are forced to be relevant, practical, and current, and to present their ideas in a manner accessible to practitioners. It is a serious challenge for both sides.

The 23 papers in this series – many of them jointly authored by practitioners and academics working together – constitute a unique kind of contribution to the literature and to the law enforcement profession. As joint sponsors of the project with NIJ, we (at HKS PCJ) very much hope police leaders will find here a rich and enduring source of understanding and inspiration as they seek to advance their profession." 

-Malcolm Sparrow, Professor of the Practice of Public Management, Harvard Kennedy School


Findings and conclusions in these publications are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice