Shifting and Sharing Responsibility for Public Safety Problems

Source: Herman Goldstein, Michael S. Scott, University of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1340, December 22, 2014

From the abstract:
The public calls upon the police to respond to an astounding range of problems and to perform an extraordinary diversity of tasks, all the while assuming that police have the expertise and resources to do so. Many of these problems and tasks fall to the police through the default of others: from gaps in government services, to the abandonment of responsibility by private citizens, corporations, and other organizations. This has always been a concern. In recent years, through a more methodical approach to policing, police are increasingly pressing for a more rational distribution of responsibilities based upon a detailed examination of the differing facets of police business.

This guide details the ways in which police can persuade or coerce others to address crime and disorder problems. As such, it differs from other guides in the Response Guides series; whereas most Response Guides examine the kinds of responses that can be used to address common crime and disorder problems — crackdowns, street closings, publicity campaigns, video surveillance, and so forth — this guide examines how police can get others to respond to such problems, regardless of the form that such responses may take, provided they do not violate basic standards of propriety and legality.

Public safety problems are commonly addressed through a combination of responses; seldom is a single type of response sufficient. Of course, many public safety problems are adequately addressed by the police in the exercise of their normal authority and expertise. Increasingly, however, police and others are discovering that it is not only the police who have the authority and expertise to respond to many public safety problems; consequently, the police have come to depend heavily upon others to aid them in responding effectively to crime and disorder. There is growing evidence that by addressing the conditions that underlie crime and disorder problems, rather than merely looking to arrest offenders, police can more effectively prevent and control such problems.