Crime Control

Hannah Fitzpatrick

Definition of Crime:  

            Because crime is the main focus of the crime control model, the definition of crime has been provided. This definition of crime has been taken from the “Crime” glossary entry. Please see glossary entry for more information regarding crime. 

            “Defined by the dictionary, crime is an “action or omission which constitutes an offence and is punishable by law”.”

Definition of Crime Control:

Crime control is a method that aims to reduce criminal action by making frequent arrests in large numbers, with the hope of deterring future crimes from occurring (Packer 9). This concept, named by Herbert Packer, proposed that “repression of criminal conduct is by the far the most important function to be performed by the criminal process” (Packer,113), arguing in support of increased arrests in the name of the law. Essentially, Crime Control is a method for upholding the law. Crime control increases power held by law enforcement, putting faith into police officers to make arrests. Officers rely on the presumption of guilt when making these arrests. This justifies a large volume of arrests (Packer, 9). Due to the large number of arrests being made under this model, it is often referred to as the “conveyor belt” (Herbert, Lecture), due to the uniformity of the procedure. While focusing on the deterrence of crime, the crime control also legitimizes the authority of the police (Herbert, Lecture).If people see that law enforcement are taking small criminal violations seriously and arresting those who do break the law, they will see the legitimacy of officers, and will help them develop a respect for the law, and decrease the likelihood that they will commit a crime.   


Crime Control has had a very complex history and continues to evolve today. In 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “War on Crime”. Crime in the 1960’s had reached record highs. Because of this, Lyndon B. Johnson establish a committee called the “President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice” (Hinton). The goal of this group was to collect statistics on crime and formulate ways to reduce the amount of crime the country was experiencing. The Crime Commision formulated the concept of increased arrests as an attempt to crack down on crime (Corley). Later, in 1968, Herbert Packer used this idea and the influence of the Johnson administration to propose two models of the criminal justice system, one of them being the Crime Control method, referring to the technique involving a high number of arrests for criminal actions. Packer’s model served as a “normative guide” (Roach, 672), and helped formulate guidelines for the criminal justice system. 

In 1984, Ronald Reagan and Congress passed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which made several new strategies available to crime control advocates(S, 1762–98th Congress). For example, it allowed Federal Judges to detain criminal offenders before going to trial (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1), and also puts extra consideration towards safety (S. 1762–98th Congress). More recently, former President Bill Clinton passed his crime bill which lead to mass incarceration for small crimes and drug violations, destroying the lives of many people, as time in prison is almost impossible to erase from your record (Lussenhop). A large issue with these bills passed by government is that many believed they were methods of re-election. Because politicians rely so heavily on public support for re-election, they will pass laws that appeal to the people. Of course, a bill that says it will reduce crime and take action to make communities will seem very appealing to middle and working class voters. A second and equally important historical issue with Crime Control is the benefits received by Private Prisons. These prisons make government money off of housing inmates. Increased arrest for them, means more of a profit (Burkhardt).  

 The crime control model has been extremely controversial since its formation. Many believe that it is too harsh and violates rights, while others think that the model helps increase public security and community safety. Others argue that the criminalization of drug users through methods such as Crime Control was unjust. Today, many legal professionals view the crime control method as unfit, claiming they are “out of date” (Roach). Legal issues in the United States have become too complex to be handled with a conveyor belt process that disregards human circumstances.


Evidence has shown that the Crime Control Method has been fairly successful at improving deterrence. A study gathered statistics from 40 countries measuring how formal contacts with police and increased prosecution and detention rates impacted crime occurrence. Data was collected through a Crime Trend Survey conducted by individual governments, as well as an International Crime Victimization Survey that accounted for crimes not reported to the police by citizens. The data found that areas with higher police involvement (in the ways mentioned above) had significantly lower crime rates (Albanese). This demonstrates the impact that the Crime Control method has on countries.Police interactions and detention rates have a large impact on lowering crime rates and improving deterrence. 

A second study done by the U.S. National Research Council’s Committee to Review Research on Police Policy and Practices identified eleven evaluations focused on deterrence strategies.Ten of the eleven studies “reported strong and statistically significant crime reductions associated with the focused deterrence strategy” (Braga), once again demonstrating the strength of the Crime Control model. This again demonstrates how the Crime Control model hashad an impact on deterrence and reducing crime. While these studies generally support the use of the Crime Control method, it is important to consider both the benefits and consequences of using such a system. 


A benefit of the Crime Control model is that it is a very quick and efficient way to decrease crime levels (Packer, 1).Not only does it remove those who have possibly committed a criminal act from the streets and punishes them as seen fit, it promotes the deterrence of crime in the future. Packer believed this model would do so through demonstrating what will happen to people who were accused of committing crimes, and hoped that the threat of punishment will be enough to keep further crimes from being committed.Deterrence of crime is believed to justify the large number of arrests made daily by officers according to the Crime Control Model (Packer 2, 1964).

A factor that contributes to this upside of Crime Control is that this method is referred to as a conveyor belt (Herbert, Lecture).This is achieved through convictions that are quick and don’t rely on a court decision. Everything is very uniform and similar, creating efficiency and allowing for a large arrest turnover. Especially when police officers are focusing on areas with high crime rates, it is important that they have an efficient system with quick turnover (Ariel, 812). This idea is commonly referred to as “Hot-Spot Policing”, (Ariel, 811), when police officers are stationed in certain areas due to the number of crimes that have been found committed there.Because of the quickness of the Crime Control method, officer efficiency increases. Officers spend less time on each crime, allowing for the larger number of arrests to occur. This also means that officers will have the means to respond to more serious crimes if needed.    

Another benefit of Crime Control is the creation of a safe community.By detaining people who are presumed guilty of a crime, officers see themselves as reducing the amount of crime on the streets .It contributes to trust between most citizens and police officers as it shows they have public safety in mind. (See consequences section for counterargument). Ultimately, the Crime Control method uses the conveyor belt system to quickly prosecute accused citizens and attempt to improve the safety of communities 

            In conclusion, although corrupt, efficiency is often valued more over accuracy and equity because in the eyes of law enforcement and of the people, the quick punishment and detention of criminals will protect the public and improve safety, even if it means jeopardizing the rights of those convicted of crimes. 


One flaw of the Crime Control model is that when officers are trying to make a large number of arrests, they will tend to linger in areas that are more identified with crime.These areas are usually characterized by high poverty rates, a high percentage of minority occupants, “where class and race-based inequalities are endemic” (Herbert, 1). These are the areas where many officers focus their time in order to make large numbers of arrests, even if there is an equal amount of criminal activity in a more well-off community.If officers focus on these areas, this can be seen as discrimination towards those living in the areas and creates “police-community tension” (Herbert, 1). Discrimination widens the socioeconomic gap and creates a distrust between citizens and law enforcement. (See “Institutional Racism” glossary definition).

Another consequence of the Crime Control model is that it is seen as a “band-aid” to the crime issue as a whole.A large piece of the criminal process is recidivism, the chance that a person will commit the same crime a second or third time (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Rather than focusing on this issue, the Crime Control model focuses strictly on deterrence.This is an problem, as punishing a person does not guarantee that they won’t become a repeat felon (Herbert, Lecture). Steve Herbert argues that Crime Control is counteractive as it ignores the underlying issues of crime such as “unemployment, insecure housing, mental illness, and substance abuse” (Herbert 9).While it does help remove some “criminals” from the street, the model is not doing much to help criminally prone populations or areas. 

Perhaps one of the most erroneous flaw of the Crime Control model is the struggle between attempting to stop alleged crime through swift, cursory arrests and balancing the rights given to people in the sixth amendment (Shaffer).Compared to the Due Process model, where precision and thoughtfulness are valued, the Crime Control model focuses on speed. When speed is the priority, rights fall amiss. For example, a criminal proceeding is less likely to be fair under the Crime Control model due to their desire for quick turnover.This violation of rights is consequential for several reasons. First, to violate one’s rights is to violate the constitution. However, with the Crime Control model, the violation of rights is seen as necessary to maintain order, and there is no punishment for doing so. A second consequence of violating rights is the distrust it creates between people and law enforcement (Herbert, 8).As previously mentioned, the Crime Control model tends to impact those in lower socioeconomic standing. These groups are usually minorities, such as Hispanics and African Americans. By violating the rights of citizens, tension between people and law enforcement increase as will the “notable class and race-based disparities in both arrests and subsequent jail and prison terms” (Herbert, 8). 

A issue that stems from the reduction of rights is the possibility of false incrimination (Herbert, Lecture). Because the focus of crime control is on making quick arrests and prosecutions, attention to detail and a fair trial can be overlooked, as less time is spent on each individual case. This creates the possibility of false incrimination, which is extremely damaging to individuals (Herbert, Lecture).

Without clear guidelines and management of law enforcement under the Crime Control model, we will continue to see discrimination and violations of human rights.

Personal Analysis

            As a student studying Law, Societies and Justice, the concept of the Crime Control model is quite concerning. Rather than focusing on helping those living in areas identified with high crime and honoring the rights of citizens, this model promotes racial discrimination and only serves as a temporary fix for resolving criminal issues. It marginalizes certain minority groups and communities in society, and instead of deterring crime as it claims to do, it only worses the relationship and respect between citizens in impacted areas and officers. In order for Constitutional rights to be upheld and a true reduction in crime to happen, law enforcement and government officials need to look to more rational methods of criminal deterrence, such as the Due Process Model.

Glossary Terms to View

  1. Crime
  2. Due Process Model 
  3. Institutional Racism 


Albanese, Jay (2016). Crime Control Measures, Individual Liberties, and Crime Rates: An Assessment of 40 Countries.

Ariel, Barak., Partridge, Henry. (2016) Predictable Policing: Measuring the Crime Control Benefits of Hot Spots Policing at Bus Stops. 

Braga, Anthony, A. (2012). Getting deterrence right? Evaluation evidence and complementary crime control mechanisms. 

Burkhardt, C, Brett. (2017). Private prisons, explained. 

Corley, Cheryl. (2017). President Johnson’s Crime Commission Report, 50 Years Later.

Herbert, Steve (2019), University of Washington Lecturer 

Hinton, Elizabeth (2014) Why We Should Reconsider the War on Crime. War on Crime History.

Lussenhop, Jessica. (2016) Clinton crime bill: Why is it so controversial. BBC News Magazine.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Recidivism. 

Packer, Herbert L. (1964). Two Models of the Criminal Process. 113 U. Penn. L. Rev. 1.

Roach, Kent. (1999). Four Models of the Criminal Process. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.

Shaffer, H. B. (1965). Criminal justice and crime control. Editorial research reports 1965(Vol. I). Washington, DC: CQ Press

Thurmond, Strom (1984). Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984. 

U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics (1985).  Crime Control and Criminal Records.