U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Traffic Enforcement and Crime: Another Look

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 66 Issue: 7 Dated: July 1999 Pages: 25-28
Date Published
December 1995
4 pages
This article presents findings from prior studies of the impact of traffic law enforcement and vehicle traffic stops on crime reduction, with attention to two recent experiments in Indianapolis: the Indianapolis Safe Streets Project and the Indianapolis Directed Patrol Experiment.
The Indianapolis studies, along with previous similar studies, have found that traffic law enforcement can be an effective mechanism for disrupting organized criminal enterprises, particularly when these groups market drug and illegal firearms; however, such strategies apparently are more effective when implemented in high-crime areas. Further, traffic law enforcement can be an effective tool for increasing police visibility, thus increasing the perceived risk of apprehension. it is important, however, that the degree of visibility be in marked contrast to normal practice. When using this general deterrence approach, it is more effective to increase the level of enforcement dramatically for a short time, back off, and then return later. It is clear that traffic stops can result in the seizure of firearms, narcotics, and/or the apprehension of wanted persons. In deciding whether to use such a strategy, it is important to consider the likelihood of this occurring on any given stop. Although the policy of using traffic enforcement as a crime-control tool is likely to remain controversial, police departments can obtain community support for such actions. Prior to implementing the directed patrol project, for example, Indianapolis police officials met with community representatives to discuss the program's objectives and methods. Almost all endorsed the effort. 2 tables

Date Published: December 1, 1995