Other Free Encyclopedias » Law Library - American Law and Legal Information » Crime and Criminal Law » Police: Policing Complainantless Crimes - Why Law Enforcement Action Is Requested For Victimless Crimes, Police Tactics Employed In Victimless Crimes, Extrapolation To Other Types Of Criminality

Police: Policing Complainantless Crimes - Extrapolation To Other Types Of Criminality

traffic enforcement accidents public

Although this entry has emphasized prostitution, the principles discussed can be extrapolated and applied to other areas of "complainantless" crimes such as gambling, illegal drug use, or public intoxication. Even enforcement actions directed toward other criminal activities unrelated to traditional vice crimes can be rationalized on the same basis; that is, the true victims are not the participants but are innocent bystanders.

For example, traffic offenses that do not involve vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-pedestrian contact are included in the rubric of complainantless crime. Because there are no victims in the traditional sense and because the only witness is a police officer, traffic offenses are not perceived to be malum in se by a large section of the public. At best, the enforcement of traffic laws is viewed as an inefficient use of a police officer's time when other types of criminal violations are more deserving of attention. Unless an actual collision has taken place many members of the public feel that police attention to traffic violations is unwarranted. At worst the enforcement of traffic laws is incorrectly viewed as a dubious means of providing local revenue and as an unnecessary limitation of freedom.

However, prompting by the public is also evident even in traffic offenses. As a case in point, when motorists speed through areas near schools where children walk, parents will direct complaints to the police. Similarly, when lanes are blocked by illegally parked delivery trucks, complaints to the local police will follow. However, citizen outrage and a demand for instant and vigorous police action usually takes place when there has been an increase in the severity and frequency of traffic accidents. Traffic accidents where children are the victims tend to draw the fastest and most vigorous police response.

The most effective response to a rapid rise in traffic accidents comes through a program known as selective enforcement. It is an accepted reality that the police simply cannot respond to every traffic law violation. Selective enforcement entails a four-step process that allows the officers to focus their attention on the most serious offenses. First, the formal reports of the most frequent and severe forms of traffic accidents are reviewed and analyzed to determine patterns (such as time, day, location) and common hazardous driving actions. Second, officers who are normally assigned to patrol the areas in question are briefed on the situation and advised of the interrelated variables causing the accidents. Third, the officers are directed to issue traffic citations only for the specific hazardous driving behaviors leading to the accidents. Fourth, the efficacy of the enforcement program is reviewed and a decision is made to continue, reduce, expand or alter the enforcement efforts accordingly.

Whether the criminal activity is prostitution or some other form of so-called victimless crime, involvement of the formal machinations of the criminal justice system may never completely eliminate the offending behavior. However, agents of the criminal justice system, particularly the police, are ethically bound to respond to the needs and desires of the affected citizens who live and work in the area, and are legally bound to take the appropriate action against the perpetrators. They are also required to do so with procedures in compliance with established legislation and judicial review.

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