5 facts that will make you rethink the power of Deterrence

Does punishment prevent crime? If so, in what sorts of manner and at what cost? Jails are costly and many of them don’t have what it takes to properly change and resocialize a criminal. In his essay “Deterrence in the Twenty-First Century”, Daniel S. Nagin argues that the certainty of being caught and the certainty of a punishment is far more effective than the severity of the punishment itself. That is the basis of deterrence: a psychological effect that dissuades one from committing a crime or harmful action. We all have the choice to commit good and bad – deterrence, in many ways, forces one to wage the benefits and costs of an action.

These 5 points summarize how effective deterrence is when well applied.

1. Police deter crime by increasing the perception that criminals will be caught and punished.

According to Canada’s National Institute of Justice, “police deter crime when they do things that strengthen a criminal’s perception of the certainty of being caught. Strategies that use the police as “sentinels,” such as hot spots policing, are particularly effective. A criminal’s behavior is more likely to be influenced by seeing a police officer with handcuffs and a radio than by a new law increasing penalties.”[1]

2. Minor transgressions are many times effectively deterred with the threat of a major war.

Regarding this point, there are pinpoint cases in humana history one could speak of, but as to give one example: on the verge of the Cold War Era, in 1955 the Eisenhower administration prepared for war and even raised the possibility of using nuclear weapons in response to a Communist Chinese attack on the sparsely populated and strategically marginal islands of Quemoy and Matsu, ultimately deterring Chinese aggression. On this case, the United States used their dissuasory power of owning nuclear weapons to intimidate the Chinese. The effectiveness of deterrence can be explained by the real value of the interests at stake.[2]

3. Death penalty studies have concluded that there is no proof of death penalty deterring murder– or crime, in any way.

Empirical studies have concluded that death penalty isn’t an effective deterrence for murder. Columbia Law School’s Jeffrey Fagan compared murder rates in Hong Kong, where the capital punishment was abolished in 1993, and Singapore, where a death sentence is mandatory for murder and other crimes and is typically administered within a year and a half. The researchers found little difference between the two Asian metropolises.

Instead, a good police work, better monitoring, can do far better in discouraging meditations on murder that lead to criminal behaviour. [3]

4. You should combine and alter deterrence strategies.

Big dogs, big locks, strong doors, security systems, security cameras, motion activated light, a continuous aerial monitoring system flying by your business property detecting threats are all manner of effectively fortifying your security to make them unappealing to potential criminals. Layering your business security like an onion gives peeling a job hard enough to make a thieve cry – and for sure a gun fire resistant and persistent balloon – an eye in the sky – would be the hardest shell to crack.

5. Nature does it all the time – so should you.

Ever heard of mimesis? Mimetism is when an organism “impersonates” another organism, or part of it. A great deal of animal mimesis, deimatic behaviour, use an intimidating, threathful display in order to scare predators to survive.


Atlas Moth

Take the  Atlas moth, for example, they are weak, their body is small and heavily disproportionate to their wings, making them unsteady fliers. They would be an easy prey to frogs, birds and other animals. But because their flashy and large wings resemble the heads of a snake, this moth succeeded in overcoming its predators and has become an endemic specie living in the forests of Asia. The cases can vary a lot, from snakes pretending to be poisonous (False coral) to animals raising their bodies or wings to seem bigger. It seems that deterrence is natural to animals as a go to strategy, it mustn’t be different to us. In this sense, tethered aerial monitoring systems are a great example of a “man made” deterrence factor – a big spherical mass on the sky is a sure thing to raise fear and questions on the eyes of those who don’t know it’s purpose.

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