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Does prevention or punishment deter crime?

On Behalf of | Oct 17, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

The old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure applies to crime and punishment. Recent polls in the United States show that voters want a focus on crime prevention. The belief is that it makes sense to deter crime across the US, including in states such as Colorado.

The National Institute of Justice (the institute) seems to share the sentiment that prevention is better than punishment. The institute says that it’s highly likely that using human behavior patterns can deter would-be criminals.

The fear of being caught

The fear of being caught doing something wrong is a greater deterrent than the fear of punishment. The institute reports that law enforcement officials can deter crime by increasing the perception of detection.

Police deter crime by actions such as hot spot policing. This is a strategy in which police focus on small areas where crime is high. If the police presence is known, crime is less likely to occur.

Some states also use strategies such as parking empty police cars along the highway. The belief is that this will deter speeding because drivers don’t know if the police cars are empty or not.

Increasing the severity of punishment doesn’t deter crime

Statistics show that the threat of severe punishment does little to deter criminals. Policies and laws that focus on increasing the severity of punishment are usually ineffective. Criminals usually know nothing about these policies and laws until they’ve committed a crime and are dealing with the criminal defense.

Some voters might argue that punishment does deter crime. However, statistics and research tend to show that prevention is the best choice when it comes to crime. Voters in the US want candidates who understand the value of preventing crime instead of focusing on punishment.

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