John K. Roman and Jeffrey A. Butts
Vital City, Issue 1
Deterrence is about generating fear among people inclined to break societal rules. It highlights the consequences of rule-breaking and demonstrates government’s capacity to carry out those consequences with certainty, severity and swiftness. Policing, by and large, does not prevent crime—policing deters crime. When police leaders say they prevent crime, they are asserting the effectiveness of deterrence.
Prevention is different than deterrence, and it uses other tools and resources. It lowers risks and builds assets. Risks are obstacles to safety that often metastasize across individuals and increase harm to entire communities, including substance abuse, antisocial peers, unemployment, and family violence.