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  1. #1
    Five-0's Avatar
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    Question Criminal Justice : Do you believe in Net Widening?

    Thread started here:

    Criminal Justice : Do you believe in Net Widening? @ TigerDroppings.com

    Posted by Zach on TD.com

    Long before I came to this board I had an interesting discussion on another site about the effects of net widening. It wasn't really contentious but very insightful. Haven't seen it discussed here and would be interested in your thoughts.

    The concept says that when crime rates are high in a city and jail/prison space is packed, the thresh hold for arrests, prosecutions and sentences go up. IE, the cop gets a call that someone stole a 12 pack of beer and is running down 70th street. Cop blows it off.

    or

    Cop arrests a kid for smashing the windows out of 10 cars for fun. DA decides not to go to court.

    or

    DA prosecutes guy for selling crack. Judge gives him probation.

    This would be called Net Narrowing (casting a small net)

    Net Widening is the opposite. Crime rates are low. Jail/Prison occupancy is 50%. Cops go after smaller crimes (jay walking).
    DAs prosecute small crimes (stealing the 12 pack of beer).
    Judges give sentences for smaller crimes (4 months for possessing 3 oz of marijuana...first offense).

    The big issues were...
    Do you think it happens IRL?
    Can Net Widening lead to an oppressive police state?

    Linkbacks to TD.com approved on this end.

    Meanwhile, fishing in Russia:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkzV5AIK8iM
    "When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that justifies it." -- Frederic Bastiat

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  2. #2
    Jenna's Avatar
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    I think that has to happen due to the mathematics of resource and time allocation. If an area has 10 officers and 10 violent felonies as well as 10 minor traffic violations per hour, none of the officers will have time to deal with minor traffic violations. If an area has 10 officers, one violent felony, and one minor traffic violation happening per hour, then at least a few of those officers might have time to deal with the minor traffic violations.

  3. #3
    Five-0's Avatar
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    Nothing? Night shifters?

    Meanwhile, fishing in Russia:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkzV5AIK8iM
    "When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that justifies it." -- Frederic Bastiat

    "Certainly there is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter." Ernest Hemingway

    The opinions given in my signatures & threads DO NOT reflect the opinions, views, policies, and/or procedures of my employing agency. They are my personal opinions only, thereby releasing my agency of any liability, or involvement in anything posted under the username "Five-0" on Officerresource.com

  4. #4
    lewisipso's Avatar
    lewisipso is offline Injustice/Indifference/In God we trust
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    If I see a violation and it needs addressing I address it. If it is a mandatory arrest they are arrested. If not I may elect to issue a summons or citation. However, if I can't issue a summons and there I know they will be turned away at the door (say a bench warrant) I have informed the person to go handle their business if it were for a misdemeanor. Felonies are brought to the jail and the jail can deal with it.
    I also believe that if able, minor offenses, when addressed produces a show of presence and discourages other behaviors. Whether minor offenses are handled with arrest, summons or "Alright, beat it" it needs to be handled. That being said I would suppose I am for "widening". Although I would say it is generally what I do all the time regardless. I have slacked off a little this year for other reasons. However, that is another subject for after November.
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    R.I.P. Arielle. 08/20/2010-09/16/2012


  5. #5
    121Traffic's Avatar
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    I'm a Third Watch cop. 2030-0630. My contact with the brass and political issues, other than the odd briefing about a citizen who's calling everyone from the chief to the mayor to his local councilperson demanding extra patrol through a certain neighborhood, is virtually nil. Our jail houses over a thousand inmates. Our county's urban population is about 300,000 spread over 5 major police agencies. We border the City of Denver, so we also catch their warrants. Needless to say, our shit is full. We jail very few misdemeanors. Protection order violations and DV offenses are mandatory jail, but that's it. We'll take the odd DUI there only if they're combative or DETOX is full. Mostly they're released on summons to sober parties or DETOX. The only misdemeanors I routinely jail are resistance/obstruction type offenses. Jailing anybody on a misdemeanor is a time consuming process of swearing out a written affidavit for a warrantless arrest, completing a notarized summons to appear, victim notification paperwork, etc. To jail a simple foot chase and resistance suspect in my county is a 1.5+ hour paperwork endeavor, plus you have to then complete your actual incident report. It's worse with municipal charges. That necessitates a Letter to the Sheriff advising of the ordinances violated, and a SIGNED affidavit by the municipal judge, which means you have to wake one up at 0300 to fax it to him. I've done that exactly three times in 7 years.

    We don't even jail all felonies as a matter of course. If they're incarcerated, there's a 72 hour time frame where a felony filing packet has to be presented in person by an investigating officer or detective to an Intake District Attorney for the consideration of charges. If they need to be off the street now for the felony, we jail them. If they're caught with a half gram of shitty coke, they're processed at the police department and released pending charges. That way, what ever detective that's assigned the case doesn't have another 72 hour filing to do on top of his normal full workload. The peperwork required is the same for misdemeanors, with the omission of course of a summons. It's definitely an imperfect system.

    That being said, it makes ZERO difference to me at the street level, pre-cuffs. I don't care how full the jail is. Will I not spend a whole lot of time on a simple shoplift if I've got other priority calls actually pending? Obviously not. But that doesn't mean if I don't see the guy a minute later running down the street with the beer I'm not gonna chase him on foot. That would be a simple ticket here. If he cooperates and has valid ID, I might even let him go with a summons from the scene. If he's uncooperative and doesn't have ID, I'll book him through to ID him (it only takes 10 minutes), even though I know I'll most likely still release him from the station with a ticket. Hell, I even have the option to detain him for a couple hours in a holding cell so he's not running the street at least for a bit.

    I try to never let prosecutorial leanings influence my enforcement of law and preservation of order. I could give a shit whether I know some lib judge will give a repeat drug offender probation. I could care less whether a DA decides to take a case based on his own abilities as a lawyer or lack thereof. If I have to choose the 100 things that concern me most in this world, whether or not a DA thinks that a kid breaking out 10 windows is worthy enough to bring before a court that is supposedly "too busy" doesn't even rate in that 100. I don't serve the courts. I serve the public. I'm a member of that public. I've been a crime victim. If I was one of those 10 victims that got their windows busted out, and the cops caught the kids doing it, and the cops didn't make the arrest when they had probable cause AND I wanted charges pressed, all because they're pre-screening cases for a supposedly "over worked" DA and/or court system, I'm going to have a serious case of the ass.

    It's important to remember that we all have our part. It's not my job to foresee every facet of the charging decisions made about my case. It's simply my job to enforce the law and protect the community that employs me by ensuring I make arrest based on good solid PC, and I get the ball rolling in the criminal justice process. The only thing that should concern me about the DA declining charges is if my PC wasn't firm. Other than that, if they wanna dec it, let them. I'll sleep knowing I did what I could. To a pissed off citizen with busted property, or to the little kid who got perped on by their creepy uncle, I did my job right.
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  6. #6
    Pudge's Avatar
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    My experience comes from rural policing, so the outlook is a bit different as we haven't seen it in the scale of larger, more populated areas. I think it's simply a matter of available resources at the given time that dictate it. If you're flooded with serious cases and don't have the time or manpower to deal with the smaller fish, they have to be pushed on the back burner or dealt with by alternate means.

    If I'm running call to call to call and handling Domestics, Fights, Drugs, etc....I'm not really able to take the time to deal with the seemingly (in comparison to the day's caseload) minor traffic violation. But if the shift is slower and there is less going on, I'm going to spend the time digging in to that minor violation for enforcement.

    I might be missing the entire point of the OP, but to me it's just common sense whether its on the street or in the courts. I do find it amusing that somewhere along the lines it's been studied, given a catchy name, and debated.
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  7. #7
    pgg's Avatar
    pgg
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    I'm with 121. We do our job the same everytime. If the DA decides not to prosecute it's his perogative. I'm not goning to let that dictate to me.

    I've seen the state troopers here let that dictate their behavior and I think it's just a matter of time before one of them looses their house over it. I cringe everytime I see it.
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  8. #8
    Xiphos's Avatar
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    I've worked a very suburban and densely populated area, an inner city, and a rural area. I've never had anyone at work tell me to arrest more people because the jail is empty, or to ease up since it's full. I've never heard of that happening either.

    I have heard of it at the prosecutorial and judicial levels. People are given time, or probation based upon the current status of the jail. I've also heard, "Sorry, the weekend program is full, you'll have to pull straight time now." I think there are more political considerations that happen at this level in what's prosecuted and what the sentencing is.
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  9. #9
    SinePari's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Five-0 View Post
    This would be called Net Narrowing (casting a small net)

    Net Widening is the opposite. Crime rates are low. Jail/Prison occupancy is 50%. Cops go after smaller crimes (jay walking).
    DAs prosecute small crimes (stealing the 12 pack of beer).
    Judges give sentences for smaller crimes (4 months for possessing 3 oz of marijuana...first offense).
    Everybody choses their own case load. In a busy city with calls stacked at the beginning of your shift you have to triage. Same thing in bad weather, you're not knocking on doors chasing warrants or making inspection sticker traffic stops. But making criminal cases based upon the DA's caseload or abilities, or beds at the jail only comes with your experience in the system. You know who's a knucklead prosecutor and who the good defense attorneys are. You'll also know your own abilities and whether or not you can be effective in putting good, solid cases together.

    Quote Originally Posted by 121Traffic View Post
    But that doesn't mean if I don't see the guy a minute later running down the street with the beer I'm not gonna chase him on foot. That would be a simple ticket here.
    Depends on what kind of beer it is...

    Quote Originally Posted by Pudge View Post
    I might be missing the entire point of the OP, but to me it's just common sense whether its on the street or in the courts. I do find it amusing that somewhere along the lines it's been studied, given a catchy name, and debated.
    Clearly, some egghead PhD needs to do more research on this subject (read, $$$ grants).

    Just my 2 cents...your mileage may vary.
    Insert catchy phrase here

  10. #10
    McCrackhd's Avatar
    McCrackhd is offline Master Officer
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    I see it at the prosecutor's level and the court's level. At the street level, if they need to go to jail, they go to jail.

    121, y'all's system SUCKS! Misdemeanors: take em to jail and sign the warrant (in our presence, dui's, shoplifting, dv) or vi follows us down to sign warrant on all others. Felonies: take em to jail and go to DA's office during business hours to sign warrant. Pretty simple.
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  11. #11
    Bob Loblaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by McCrackhd View Post
    At the street level, if they need to go to jail, they go to jail.
    this. I don't worry about the shit I can't control. What I can control is whether or not I decide (based on a lot of factors...how busy we are, what other irons I have in the fire, the type of offense, etc) to take someone to the jail. What happens to them after that isn't my department.

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