Pro Academia Help

The Linearity of Contemporary Criminal Justice Thought

Chapter 1: Introduction: The Linearity of Contemporary Criminal Justice Thought: Perspective, Context, and Direction

Chapter 18: Contemporary Police and Society, pp. 290-294

Godown, J. (2009, August). The CompStat process: Four principles for managing crime reduction. Police Chief Magazine, LXXVI(8). Retrieved from

Unit Lesson

Throughout history, the American criminal justice system has experienced a myriad of challenges and changes along its evolutionary journey. Ever since the inception of our nation’s first police agency, law enforcement has been charged with the responsibility of instituting public policy and initiative that exhibits a clear perspective on how to detect, deter, and prevent crime.

These perspectives set the foundation for the way our criminal justice system addresses the contemporary issues facing modern law enforcement in the 21st century. The evidentiary shift from traditional criminal justice practices to a more innovative, contemporary law enforcement strategy arose from research-based theory and practice. Three contemporary tools deserving a deeper level of explanation and analysis include the following elements:

 evidence-based practices (EBP),

 crime mapping, and

 community and problem-oriented policing.

These tools are key to what is referred to as predictive policing. The premise behind predictive policing rests on the idea that society will be much safer if we do not wait to make an arrest after a crime has been committed, but rather, we prevent the crime in the first place (Maguire & Okada, 2015).

Evidence-based policing, simply stated, is the marriage between scientific research and taking that evidence and those results and putting them into practice with the use of guidelines and policy. This notion has been used in medicine when doctors use advanced training as it pertains to the scientific method and follow the most recent evidence available derived from research (Sherman, 1998). We see this firsthand with Berkeley Police Chief August Vollmer in the early 1970s when he began implementing a radical approach to practical policing with innovations such as the patrol car, profiling, and forensics to name a few.


Contemporary Criminal Justice Theory and Practice

BCJ 4601, Criminal Justice Current Topics 2



Crime mapping, such as that provided by the widely recognized program CompStat (computer statistics), is another innovation in contemporary criminal justice that has changed the way law enforcement approaches crime. Crime mapping has a long history dating back to the 1920s. According to Chamard (2006), the most well-known criminological maps came from Chicago sociologists, Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay, who constructed a choropleth map consisting of the residences of over 3,000 juvenile delinquents. Shaw and McKay used polygon shading to indicate the rate of delinquency of the minors between 1927 and 1934. They discovered that crime is essentially caused by community- and neighborhood-level influences such as land use, infant mortality rates, and mental disorders (Chamard, 2006). This was the birth of what we now know as crime mapping.

Crime mapping has been met with differing reviews. According to the New York City Police Department, CompStat has helped to improve the quality of life and decrease crime for over two decades, while other departments across the U.S. have discontinued its use (Godown, 2009). This resistance to CompStat as a contemporary criminal justice tool, in part, is due to the ineffective and improper utilization of the system. We must understand that CompStat is only effective if it is coupled with traditional policing tactics and if it follows the following four principles as outlined by Godown (2009):

 Accurate and timely intelligence: Know what is happening. Proper use of information to address crime problems (i.e., types of calls for service, what crimes are being committed, and if there were any arrests) is essential.

 Effective tactics: Have a plan. Devise a plan based on what has worked in the past, what resources are appropriate, and what law enforcement partners are needed to respond to the problems identified.

 Rapid deployment: Do it quickly. As opposed to traditional reactionary policing, CompStat aims to essentially predict crime and deploy resources to the areas where crime is a problem in order to “head off” a problem before the situation escalates.

 Relentless follow-up and assessment: If it works, keep doing it. CompStat utilizes meetings to monitor prior and current crime trends to ascertain what strategies are successful in order to continuously improve planning and deployment of resources.

Community and problem-oriented policing (POP) also offer a unique perspective in the 21st century criminal justice system. Research suggests that solutions to problems can only come about with proactive involvement and community support (Maguire & Okada, 2015). Essentially, the patrol officer cannot “solve” a problem or manage an issue without spending more face-to-face time within the community. We must take an initiative to remove that wall, step out of the comfort of the patrol car, and assist the citizens with simple requests and personal troubles. These tenets have proven to be highly effective and have now become the basis of what we now know as community policing. These two interrelated ideals of problem solving and community policing simply focus attention on the problems that cause a crime rather than the crimes themselves. This process, as outlined by Maguire and Okada (2015), involves the following components:

 Scan: Identify problems and how they affect a community.

 Analyze: Determine what is causing the problem.

 Response: Search for and select actions that aim to solve the problem.

 Assessment: Ascertain whether the chosen response was effective, and if it was not, develop a new strategy.

As we have learned, we must take an innovative, contemporary approach to crime and criminal justice as we move further into the 21st century. At the heart of these strategies is the melding of a theoretical, scientific, and fact-based research approach that law enforcement officials can use to essentially solve problems while predicting and preventing crimes.


Chamard, S. (2006). The history of crime mapping and its use by American police departments. Alaska Justice Forum, 23(3). Retrieved from

BCJ 4601, Criminal Justice Current Topics 3



Godown, J. (2009, August). The CompStat process: Four principles for managing crime reduction. Police Chief Magazine, LXXVI(8). Retrieved from

Maguire, M., & Okada, D. (2015). Critical issues in crime and justice: Thought, policy, and practice (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Sherman, L. W. (1998, July). Ideas in American policing: Evidence-based policing. Police Foundation. Retrieved from

Suggested Reading

The report below discusses community policing as a problem-oriented policing concept and outlines its importance to current law enforcement agencies.

U.S. Department of Justice. (1994, August). Understanding community policing: A framework for action. Retrieved from

The following report by the U.S. Department of Justice provides an in-depth look into crime mapping and hot-spot analysis and examines how these concepts play a role in our contemporary criminal justice system. This information is an excellent supplement to the Unit I Lesson.

U.S. Department of Justice. (2005, August). Mapping crime: Understanding hot spots. Retrieved fromEvery public policy begins with a purpose. Law enforcement and criminal justice strategies are no different. Describe two contemporary law enforcement strategies, and describe the technology that comprises predictive policing. Discuss both the intention and the concern for people and communities that are behind the strategies.

Your response should be at least 200 words in length.

Call to Action

Calculate Price

Price (USD)