argument top image

What is the role of the police in America?
Back to question

The police deter and prevent crime

More police presence equals safer communities because the police are better able to enforce laws. This enforcement of laws is their main task, as they do the footwork of the judiciary.


With almost 1% of Americans in prison, we are at a critical juncture in terms of how to define our correctional system [1]. Should it expand, remain as is, or be reformed? There are people on all sides of the debate, but reaching a consensus is important so as to implement cohesive, effective policy regarding prisons and the police.

The Argument

The police in America stop crime not by interrupting it, but by discouraging it. Statistically speaking, fewer people are arrested when there is more police presence because fewer people are committing crimes [2]. This causal connection has been seen in studies all over America, as well as the entire world [3]. This means that police keep communities safe just by patrolling the streets. Prevention is the best medicine, and so dissuading criminals from committing crimes in the first place is the best use of the police’s time and resources. Communities are safest with no crime at all rather than with crime occurring that is never fully carried out vis-a-vis the police. The police enforce laws in the communities they serve by conveying the fact that all criminals will be caught [4]. This is because it is better for potential criminals to be dissuaded from acting on their impulses than for more of them to be arrested. An ideal community has both minimal crime and minimal citizens incarcerated, and deterring crime is the way to do this. This is the true role of the police. However, they do have other duties, such as dealing with problematic citizens/repeat offenders and areas with a high density of criminal acts [5]. They need to be stopping crime with those people (a select few), and deterring crime for the community as a whole. This keeps both individuals and society safe. Furthermore, more police presence need not mean a more draconian atmosphere in towns where this occurs. A better relationship between police and citizens equals less crime too. The police may stop crime when they have to, but their true role is to use their authority, resources, and manpower to deter crime so as to maintain the safest communities possible.

Counter arguments

This argument assumes that the police forces deterring crime in communities have sufficient manpower and resources to do that job. Not all police departments do, which means the role of the police changes since they have to do their in different ways. That’s why using crime-stopping as a broad police policy exists. Deterring crime as a policy may be effective, but it’s just not feasible in most places. Therefore, the police have a different true role. Deterrence may be one facet of it, but the police can only keep communities safe by doing much more than patrolling the streets as deterrent.



Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Tuesday, 6 Oct 2020 at 15:24 UTC

Explore related arguments