Abstract

Measuring the effectiveness of the police in reducing harm to communities is often limited to comparing violent crime counts from one year to another, and occasionally separately measuring traffic accidents. At present, the policing field lacks a comprehensive measure that encompasses the multidimensional role of the police in the community while giving suitable weight to the serious crimes that are of greatest public concern. Existing costs of crime and harm indices rated through sentencing structures potentially ignore inadvertent harms perceived to affect communities such as the consequences of certain police activities. This article introduces an index of harm based on sentencing guidelines that covers a wider array of offences than costs of crime estimates or many previous sentencing guidelines, and demonstrates its applicability with a case study from the city of Philadelphia, PA, USA. The article then examines the more polemic merits of including a measure of police investigative activity (pedestrian and traffic stops) as a potential harm experienced by a community. The article demonstrates, by examining police districts within Philadelphia, that significant variations of harm profile exist at the police district level.

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