Preventative Policing

Matan Blog Posts, HBHE 680 3 Comments

After noticing a sharp increase in robberies in Brownsville, a New York City neighborhood with many public housing developments, New York City Police Department Housing Bureau Chief Joanne Jaffe first tried to increase conventional policing strategies. However, by early 2007 Chief Jaffe had begun to think of new ideas for police interventions in the neighborhood. Chief Jaffe had decided to compile a list of every youth under 18 who lived in Brownsville public housing who had been arrested for robbery. Based on this data collection the new and innovative Juvenile Robbery Intervention Program (J-RIP) of the NYPD was developed and launched in 2007 in this neighborhood.[1]

 

J-RIP is a new style of preventative policing in New York City. The program seeks out youth who have been involved in robbery and provides them with an option: the individuals can choose to cease their involvement in crime, or the justice system will discipline them especially harshly after their next offense. After committing an offense a young offender in the program is assigned NYPD officers to manage his or her case. As long as the youth elects the first option the officers will be there to support the participant and his or her family. In this way J-RIP seeks to prevent the individual’s next transgression before it occurs.

The J-RIP officers bring Turkeys to families on thanksgiving and designer shoes and clothing to younger siblings. Officers provide tailored support, such as driving family-members of program youth to doctor’s appointments. Officers may help program participants to finish high school, attain GEDs, or find work.1 However J-RIP officers do not only involve themselves with program participants in such pleasant ways. Officers also follow their assigned cases, alienating them from gang members or friends involved in crime. Officers make Facebook profiles, often of attractive females, that are then used to monitor the program participants on the social media site.1 Additionally, should a program participant fail to steer clear from the justice system, prosecutors collaborate with NYPD to harshly punish the program participant. It is what The New York Times calls, “The Police Department’s own brand of tough love.”1 Chief Jaffe says, “We tell these kids… If you commit a new robbery or any other crime that is going to hurt people, we are going to do anything we can when you get arrested to put you in jail.”1

J-RIP expanded to public housing in the Rockaways in 2008 and to East Harlem in 2009.[2] A press release put out by the NYPD explains that, “Prior to entering the JRIP program, the youth invited into the program had been arrested for a total of 180 robberies. One year later, of the same group, police recorded only 29 robbery arrests.”2 This new and preventive style of policing is important for professionals interested in preventing youth violence and other crime to take note of. The J-RIP program may be attaining positive results through a number of factors such as increased social support, stronger future-orientation among program participants, positive adult role models, fear of harsher punishment, decreased access to negative peer-influences, etc. As the program grows and potentially is replicated to other sites it will be important for researchers to root out what factors lead to the success of the program. Additionally, the program raises important ethical considerations for practitioners to consider. For example, at what level of risk is it appropriate for interventionists to follow program participants and forcefully alienate them from their friends and peer-groups? What negative implications could this have for the participant’s mental and emotional wellbeing as well as for their physical safety? Grappling with these important questions will be an essential part of scaling up or adapting the J-RIP program to other communities and sites.


[1] Ruderman, W. (2013, March 03). To stem juvenile robberies, police trail youths before the crime. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/04/nyregion/to-stem-juvenile-robberies-police-trail-youths-before-the-crime.html?pagewanted=1&_r=3&hp

[2] New York Police Department, (2009). NYPD expands juvenile crime reduction program. Retrieved from nyc.gov website: http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/pr/pr_2009_023.shtml

Photocredit: Eric E. Johnson; http://ericejohnson.com/

Comments 3

  1. This article shows how having a positive relationship with police officers can have a positive effect on the youth. Many only have the police harass them and accuse them of committing crimes so they go alone and do criminal activities. However, having the officers help them and their family members out helps the youth from committing another robbery and/or other crime and keeps them on the straight and narrow.

  2. It would be interesting to see the evidence base for this sort of intervention. You also made a good separate point by bringing up the issue about alienating youth from their friends and their peer groups. This is a concern in that youth often join gangs in the first place because they are unable to find social support or acceptance through school or through more “normal” means, and thus may turn to gangs which may provide these things to their members. Thus, it would be interesting to see if any other studies have been done where it shows that such a strategy may have a positive effect, or with providing a different social support system with youths in their similar situation.

  3. Two things I find most troubling about J-RIP is that 1) it comes off as more of a public safety and crime reduction approach than a youth violence intervention; and 2) by virtue of where the youth live, Brownsville housing projects, youth may fall pray to hyper-surveillance, over-policing, and targeting through stop and frisk tactics – this counters the success of programs like J-RIP because there is likely police mistrust on the parts of Brownsville youth (as well as others in the area).

    To elaborate on my first point, I think that it is great to see police doing more to help the families of youth offenders (turkeys, sneakers, clothes), but in an area like Brownsville, families may face a myriad of concerns and have access to limited resources. Unless the NYPD is connecting the youth and his/her family to all of the resources they may need, a turkey dinner is just not sufficient or sustainable. Additionally, these youth receive these kinds of assistance only after they have committed an offense…why not before? Moreover, why are these youth committing robberies? If the percentage of robberies committed among youth in Brownsville is higher than the percentage of robberies committed among youth in Park Slope, then maybe the NYPD and other NYC officials should dig deeper to come up with prevention programs that reflect success even when police patrolling and presence is not as high as it is in areas like Brownsville. This clearly means a financial commitment from city officials serious about cracking down on crime, but so does having a large number of police on foot and in patrol cars in Brownsville.