ARSRPE Conference Paper Database

The effects of increased traffic enforcement on other crime

Fell, James C (Peer reviewed)

Police Enforcement Programs


American communities are currently confronted with several public safety challenges: homeland security, violent crime, illegal drugs, property crimes, and calls for service. This is also apparently true for many other countries around the world. Law enforcement resources are being stretched thin in every community in attempts to deal with these issues. Traffic law enforcement has been given a lower priority despite the fact that traffic crashes result in more deaths, injuries, and societal costs in most communities than any of the other problems. Specific traffic law enforcement strategies have been shown to be effective in reducing impaired driving. In 2003, the Fresno, California, Police Department increased impaired driving enforcement from 1 or 2 operations per year between 1998 and 2002, to 32 in 2003 and almost 130 in 2010. Not only were alcohol-related crashes reduced by 17%, but burglary rates and motor vehicle theft rates per capita declined by 17% and 32%, respectively, between 2003 and 2011. This is compared to another city in California (Simi Valley) that did not change their traffic enforcement over that same period (2003-2011), conducting 3 impaired driving operations in each year. Burglary rates per capita increased 5% while motor vehicle theft rates per capita decreased only 3% during that period. When examining robberies, the rates in Fresno decreased 29% between the periods from 1996-2002 (pre-intervention) and 2003-2011(post-intervention). In contrast, the Simi Valley rates for robberies increased 35% between those same periods. Employing high-visibility traffic enforcement, such as the use of sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols, is known to raise the perceived probability of apprehension for impaired driving, but may also raise the perceived risk of being arrested for other criminal activity. If it can be demonstrated that increased traffic enforcement reduces other crime in the community, police departments in the United States and other countries may be more willing to use resources to implement that strategy. Countries that already use high visibility traffic enforcement in terms of random breath testing (RBT) and automated enforcement (speed and red light cameras) should analyse other crime rates associated with those activities.