University of Central Florida Undergraduate Research Journal - The Politicization of Crime and Its Implications
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The Politicization of Crime and its Implications

By: Komysha Hassan | Mentor: Dr. Jonathan Knuckey


Unfortunately, the skewed narrative and continued ambiguity around crime, its origins, and effective ways of deterring it serves political purposes. Matters of personal security carry the greatest potential for impact on individuals, touching on the innate desire for self-preservation. Politicizing crime allows politicians and policy makers to tap into this powerful driver for short-term political gain. We continue to see that phenomenon today with school shootings and the gun control debate (Lloyd 2016), the opioid crisis and the ongoing drug war (Rodriguez 2018), and varied manifestations of the War on Terror (Mancino 2016). Meanwhile, the true factors of crime in society, and potential solutions, are given little attention. Worse still, the mechanisms, institutions, and agencies taxed with protecting the public, ensuring safety, and repelling deviance do so with a distorted mandate. The law enforcement apparatus continues to operate under an outdated narrative of the actors and agents of crime and criminality, unnecessarily racializing police activities and creating a dichotomy of confrontation. The federalization of law enforcement subsumed its professionalization, negatively influencing the localized strategy and responsiveness needed to effectively police and serve communities, while reducing the positive effect of professionalization. It has also facilitated the politicization of crime and given outsize power to politics and politicians over crime control.

So long as politics remains the central animating force in crime control, truly effective mechanisms for law enforcement and a fair and just system will remain elusive. However, there are signs of a positive shift. Growing public awareness and a reformist wave in political and institutional rhetoric suggests that a more effective and equal system of crime control may yet be possible. Uggen and Larson (2017) state that “the public is making halting but steady progress toward becoming smarter, rather than tougher, on crime.” Recognizing the inherent fallacies of the crime narrative and the politicized shaping of law enforcement, which this research has attempted to do, is a step in the right direction. Further research in this area and on the means and mechanisms of reform and reevaluation is needed to discover viable solutions.

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