Improvement of Canada's Safety with Community Policing

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Throughout the history of Canada, as well as many other countries, there have been efforts to make each country a safer place. This can be seen in Canada from laws being established to protect individuals to changing the healthcare system to provide services for individuals across the country and so on. Although these efforts have made a tremendous difference in the livelihoods of the citizens living in this country, not everyone is treated under the same circumstances and some are suffering more than others. This is especially seen in minorities, who face drastic differences in the treatment they get within the criminal justice system. These disproportions in incarceration rates are seen in both Canada as well as the United States. Minority communities and people of colour are not only more likely to experience unfair treatment in the criminal justice system, but they also become less trusting and obligated to obey the law through these unfair treatments (Clear, 2011, p. 191). In one theory mentioned by Clear (2011), removing offenders from the community through incarceration can act as a tool to promote public safety by eliminating or reducing the risk of violence that can occur (p. 181). Therefore, it could be said that by eliminating these risks by improving public safety, violence seen within this neighbourhood should decrease. Thus, in this paper, the concept of violence will also be associated and overlapped with the concept of public safety. He also mentioned that public safety also played a large role in the effectiveness of policing, that being said, although incarceration is effective in most communities, in communities with high concentrations it may be ineffective (p. 181). The concept of violence will be generalized to encompass gun violence, sexual violence, as well as other forms of violence. This paper will argue the three concepts of “human capital”, “social capital” and “collective efficacy” and the impacts they have within our societies.

The first concept that will be mentioned is the concept of human capital. Human capital is the attribute of an individual, detached from others, that is in reference to the talents an individual brings to social life, innate and acquired (Clear, 2011, p. 185). People who suffer from lower levels of human capital are less able to accomplish their choices in pursuit of their personal desires compared to those with higher levels of human capital (Clear, 2011, p. 186). In other words, minority communities or those of colour are at a greater risk for lower levels of human capital than the white community. One issue that may be faced for living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods is the idea of over-policing. Generally, over-policing is seen in lower income neighbourhoods, that is said to be high in crime rates. The police may police this neighbourhood more extensively thus increasing the chances for police to citizen encounters, which may increase incarceration rates, this may become a vicious cycle. Therefore, in this case, police response may not be effective in addressing this issue of human capital and may in fact be making this issue worse. By being incarcerated and spending time in jail, offenders are most likely less able to pursuit their desires, and these offenders are also limiting their opportunities for pursuing their goals. One way these offenders are limiting their opportunities is that being incarcerated, they will obtain a criminal record that will lessen their chances for employment. Furthermore, without employment, they are less able to produce an economic value to society as a whole, this will further decrease the levels of human capital. In addition to this, even before these individuals had become offenders, they were already predisposed to the disadvantages of the neighbourhood they live in. “Men of colour live in neighbourhoods that are racially and economically homogeneous” (Clear, 2011, p. 184). This quote may also be interpreted in the sense that in these communities where majority of the inhabitants are those of colour, they are faced with predisposed disadvantages of the neighbourhood in and of itself. This concept of disadvantaged neighbourhoods is also mentioned in Thompson, Bucerius and Luguya’s 2013 article where they state that “disadvantaged neighbourhood” and “at-risk neighbourhood” are neighbourhoods that are characterized by “economic, social and resource deficits that undermine community capacity and pose challenges to residents’ quality of life” (p. 924). Human capital is also affected by neighbourhood, especially in children, where human capital may not be as easily obtained due to inadequate schools and learning environments within the proximity and limited or restricted leisure time choices (Clear, 2011, p. 188). Their leisure time may be affected because of the view of the neighbourhood as being “unsafe” and “dangerous” due to high levels of incarceration.

One issue within these neighbourhoods, is that the police may be using “hard-policing strategies” which focuses on the crimes committed or may be committed. Although in these disadvantaged neighbourhoods, it may be more beneficial to use “soft-policing strategies” which focuses more on prevention rather than incarceration. By implementing the “hard-policing strategies” it may be ineffective in addressing the issues of violence within these communities since this may increase the overall incarceration rate in the neighbourhood, which will then effect not only the offender, but also their families. Since men are eight times more likely than females to go to prison (Clear, 2011, p. 184), these leave children in a single-mother family which then will provide less support for human capital in these children (Clear, 2011, p. 187). Furthermore, families that lack a male adult role-model, could face higher than average amounts of economic stress and provide reduced levels of child supervision (Clear, 2011, p. 188). Human capital is also affected by neighbourhood, especially in children, where human capital may not be as easily obtained due to inadequate schools within the proximity and limited or restricted leisure time choices (Clear, 2011, p. 188). Through the strategies in which police address the issue of violence in our society may be harmful to children within these neighbourhoods, if the children are not properly reared, this will have a negative outcome in their adult life. Through these circumstances they are unable to fully acquire potential talents that otherwise could have been available.

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The second concept that will be discussed in this paper is the concept of social capital. Social capital “is an attribute that refers to the quality and potency of interpersonal attachments” and “is the capacity of a person to accomplish important personal aims through that person’s connection to others” (Clear, 2011, p. 185). Social capital is not only the attribute of the individual, but also the attribute of others in the group (Clear, 2011, p. 186). In other words, this is the network of relationships that one may build over the course of their life, that may help them obtain their personal aims or goals. This also means that if an individual is unable to obtain neither human capital or social capital, individuals may have very limited choices, which could unfortunately turn them towards crime. Therefore, individuals who suffer from human capital may benefit from social capital. Although in some circumstances obtaining either human capital or social capital is difficult. Similarly to human capital, social capital may also be restricted by the neighbourhood they live in. By living within a disadvantaged neighbourhood that has higher violent crime rates, children may not want to be outside or are unable to go outside since the area may be viewed as unsafe. By limiting the opportunities to venture outside, children may also limit the interactions that they may have had with others in the neighbourhood, which could have helped them build a stronger sense of social capital (Clear, 2011, p. 190). Social capital is enhanced by creating various and broad weak ties in order to expand these social connections as much as possible (Clear, 2011, p. 188). Although in poorer neighbourhoods this is an issue, rather than creating various weak ties, individuals in this neighbourhood establish strong ties in smaller networks (Clear, 2011, p. 188). This becomes problematic when they need to call upon these ties and have less people to turn to for help, especially if these ties are already incarcerated. This further amplifies the issue of over-incarceration within these disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Clear (2011), also mentioned that socializing associations and groups are an important part of social capital, without attending church, organized groups and social get-togethers, it will be more difficult to build social connections and ties (p. 189).

One issue in relation to the ineffectiveness of policing may be referred back to the concept of over-policing. By over-policing the area, children or individuals in general may be less inclined to venture outside, especially is the neighbourhood lacks in community amenities and facilities. Another issue is with the “hard-policing” strategies where police are more involved and focused on getting individuals “off-the-streets” rather than implementing “soft-policing” that may involve campaigns or programs that engages police in building trust within the neighbourhoods. Therefore, if police change their strategies in dealing with disadvantaged neighbourhoods, they may assist individuals in these neighbourhood to build better social capital which will be advantageous in pursuing their personal aims and goals. Furthermore, in Thompson et al.’s article they mention that characteristics of the communities may have more effect on violent crimes than characteristics of individuals. In addition to this, they also mention that with a lack of positive role models, this may inhibit them from becoming successful members of society (2013, p. 925). This means that police strategies that focuses on incarcerating offenders rather than preventing crimes may be ineffective in dealing with violence in society, since this will take away potential role models in children’s lives. Clear (2011) stated that family is an important source of public safety can be learned though the family (p. 186). Hence removing these role models from the family may be detrimental in social capital. Another issue with police incarcerating offenders is that these offenders will have difficulty reintegrating back into these communities upon release. Also, when individuals are incarcerated, they are not the only ones affected, the family may also be affected through entanglement from churches, neighbours and social groups (Clear, 2011, p. 191). Through preventative and proactive policing, police may engage with youths through programs, such as a basketball club. This can decrease amount of time available for deviant behaviours as well as increases adult supervision (Clear, 2011, p. 189-190) and can result in higher levels of social capital through engagement with other youths.

The third, and last concept that will be mentioned is the concept of collective efficacy. Collective efficacy “refers to the ability of an aggregate to put shared expectations for their community into action and to achieve desired qualities of life” (Clear, 2011, p. 186). A key point to note is that in order to exhibit a strong sense of collective efficacy, both human capital and social capital need to be in place. In other words, in disadvantaged communities and neighbourhoods as discussed in this paper, it will be difficult to form a strong sense of collective efficacy, since both human capital and social capital in these neighbourhoods are lacking. As Clear (2011), stated that if this were to happen on a large concentration of people in a particular area, there will be lower potentials of generating collective efficacy (p. 186). If the majority of the people in the neighbourhood have low levels of community participation, then it is unlikely for them to be able to form social capital, and without social capital collective efficacy may be difficult. Collective efficacy is also difficult to obtain or is not possible if the neighbourhood is not trusting of the formal social controls (Clear, 2011, p. 192), such as the policing and their ways of policing, this also undermines police legitimacy. Lack of collective efficacy is also present when the neighbourhood does not share common values and are unwilling to engage in community values which also contributes to neighbourhood crime and violence (Thompson et al., 2013, p. 928). In neighbourhoods with higher levels of collective efficacy, youth are more discouraged from engaging in criminal activities (Thompson et al., 2013, p. 931). Therefore, by increasing social capital, there may also be an increase in collective efficacy. This means it is important for the neighbourhood to create greater opportunities for youths to engage with each other and build their social capital.

One issue of an ineffective policing strategy is that it is focused on reactive and hard-policing strategies rather than preventive, proactive and soft-policing strategies. For levels of collective efficacy to increase, it may be necessary or at least helpful for neighbourhoods and communities to build upon creating interactions and connections amongst individuals. This could be done through after-school programs, camps or through the use of community centres. This could also be done through police and police services, such as utilizing community policing practices. Community policing practices focus on building relationships with the communities and getting to know the communities rather than focusing on incarceration. If this is properly executed, it could increase the levels of trust and legitimacy in which the neighbourhood views the formal social controls. By utilizing this approach of policing, it will also treat the minority community more fairly, which can alter the negative views of the criminal justice system into a positive one. If people who have been treated unfairly by the criminal justice system would feel less obligated to obey the law (Clear, 2011, p. 191), then if they were to be treated in a fairer manner, they may feel more obligated to obey the law. This may result in lower crime rates and lower violence rates.

This paper discussed the three concepts of human capital, social capital and collective efficacy in context to disadvantaged neighbourhoods, where there were also high levels of incarceration. In all three of the concepts discussed, it has been viewed that police strategies for incarcerating offenders in disadvantaged neighbourhoods may not be beneficial, but is more detrimental. Incarcerating offenders is detrimental in human capital because it is difficult for the offender to reintegrate back into the neighbourhood. This also affects the level of accomplishment and talent they can put forth to obtain the pursuit of their personal goals. This also affects children and youth by limiting their access to “acquiring” talent within their neighbourhoods due to inadequate schools and learning environments. This is also limiting and restricting leisure time due to the view of the neighbourhood as being “unsafe” and “dangerous”. This connects to the effects on social capital, by limiting leisure time it makes it more difficult to build social connections. Without human capital and social capital it is difficult for the neighbourhood to obtain collective efficacy due to low levels of community participation. Overall, it can be summarized that reactive and hard-policing strategies are ineffective in decreasing violence within a community with high incarceration rates. Police should instead focus on preventative, proactive and soft-policing strategies that can help them build a better connection within the neighbourhood, which can lead to a better quality of life for the residents.

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