Zero tolerance policing has been a hotly debated subject, both by the public and the police. Much of this strict quality-of-life law enforcement debate focuses on the extent the extent to which antisocial behaviors and conducts should be constrained. Zero tolerance policy is a strategy that emphasizes and focuses on enforcing laws that improve the quality-of-life in the neighborhoods (Walklate, 1998). These included crackdowns on littering, graffiti, prostitutes, and other minor crimes (Walklate, 1998). While the crime rate fell in the some of the cities that applied this approach, research has not demonstrated that the zero tolerance policing strategy is the cause.
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Under the auspices of 'zero tolerance' policing, the problem is that enforcement activities has escalated, and some officers on the street have taken this approach too far, seeing themselves as combatants in a warlike setting (Wallman & Blumstein, 2000). Police administrators want zero tolerance within reason and within the confines of the law but some officers translate this to mean 'do whatever it takes (Levinson, 2002). This policy has gone awry due to the aggressive order maintenance activities (Levinson, 2002).
Critics argue that this policy is to blame for police brutality and that zero tolerance policing and popular code enforcement tactics are insensitive to the true needs of the poor minority communities, and create an "us-versus them" mentality (Levinson, 2002). However, enforcement is not a simple yes-no option but requires careful planning, the consent of the public, solid working relationships built on trust, and the thoughtful exercise of police discretion (Punch, 2007).
Zero tolerance can also slide into intolerance through the pursuit of the public spaces that are free of fear, mutating into violations of citizens' private space. When zero becomes the overzealous pursuit of all quality of life offenses, everyone loses (Punch, 2007).
Finally, the debate about zero-tolerance policing has another dimension; whether police and government intervention in any neighborhood is helpful or harmful in empowering the community. Aggressive policing cannot serve as a substitute for self-regulating, neighborhood-based policing, but it serves as the first (and necessary) step in putting a neighborhood policing policy back on its feet (Johnston & Shearing, 2003).
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