'The core function of the police should be to maintain order.' Discuss with particular reference to Wilson and Kelling's 'broken windows' thesis.

Essay by janeyangelladyB+, August 2005

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It may be surprising for some of us to learn that the duties of the police do not just involve fighting crime, apprehending criminals, chasing thieves and other 'crime busting' duties, but include traffic control, dealing with community and social nuisance problems, attending sports/social events, crime prevention advice and many other less pressing tasks, in other words, 'order maintenance'. The police force as we know it today has changed radically from the first policemen that patrolled the streets in the 19th century and criminologists have recently played a large part in influencing police strategies. Recently, a return back to the early days of maintaining order has seemed to have emerged with the appearance of the 'broken windows' theory, an approach to policing that emphasizes creating and maintaining orderly public spaces. suggesting that continuing urban decay of a community will lead to higher levels of crime and disorder. In order to determine whether the core function of the police should be to maintain order, it is useful to understand why the police force was created in the first place, to look at the theory in practice and to evaluate its success on crime rates.

Typically, the task faced by the police in the early 19th century was that of maintaining order. The role of the police at this time, before a professional 'police force' was established, was to maintain a visible presence and police were literally 'watchmen', observing and dissuading unruly public disorder by their presence. The 19th century was a time of great unrest, stemming from homelessness and social deprivation, as towns grew in size and the Industrial Revolution whilst creating great wealth, conversely created poverty on a massive scale. Mob power grew out of the working classes' struggle against destitution and hunger, while homeless children and drunks roamed the...