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Ever Heard of the Concept of Signal Crime?

April 16, 2009

While the concept of signal crime may sound like something you have to study for on your police entrance exams, don’t worry, it’s a fairly straightforward concept. All it means is that certain crimes that take place in a local community may be indicators or signals, that something is terribly wrong in the community. That “something” needs to be addressed and not ignored.

For instance, if the community starts experiencing a rash of break-ins, vandalism, smashed car windows and people dealing drugs, something is drastically wrong with the fabric of the community. It’s not only the visible problems and their consequences that need to be dealt with. It’s what is causing the social unrest in the first place.

Crimes like this are not easy to police because putting the offenders away for their crimes does not address the question of why they were committing the crimes in the first place. While you may be thinking this is not a police problem, that it has more to do with their families and the government, it becomes a police problem if the issues are not dealt with. Quite the vicious circle, isn’t it?

This also brings up the concept of community policing once again. Just what is it supposed to accomplish? In a nutshell, the idea is that the people in the community can help put a lid on crime by telling the police what is going on in the community and who may be responsible for certain crimes. We won’t get into the “stool pigeon” mentality in this post, but suffice it to say that even community policing does have some inherent problems.

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