CIB trains police focus on prevention of minor crimes

The Central Investigation Bureau has sent its senior police back to school in order to learn about what it calls “sustainable” crime reduction.

  • Published: 7/04/2014 at 02:07 AM
  • Newspaper section: news

The officers will be trained to focus on misdemeanours, rather than only cracking down on felonies, which range from burglary to rape to murder, according to CIB chief Pongpat Chayaphan.

This approach is known as the “Broken Window Theory” to police in New York, who coined the term. The method is said to have led to some success in reducing crime, especially robberies and drug offences, in many countries.

The Broken Window Theory centres on officers being vigilant in spotting and dealing with tiny mistakes in order to prevent them feeding further, more serious crimes, Pol Lt Gen Pongpat explained.

The term “broken window” comes from an observation that if a house window is left broken without repair, it could be damaged further, and, as a result, attract trespassers and criminals.

Wrongdoers may put their hand through the broken window to steal from inside. The breakage may allow criminals to enter and live illegally in the building.

In contrast, “if police immediately tell home owners to fix a broken window, there will be nothing to attract criminals”, Pol Lt Gen Pongpat said.

The CIB chief also cited traffic law violations as an example. When police see three people travelling on a motorcycle, they should not ignore them, they must stop the motorcycle and carry out an inspection.

When police do nothing, they send the wrong signals to people that they can get away with committing crimes, especially more serious ones, because of perceived police leniency.

These ideas alongside similar lessons are currently being taught to more than 40 CIB officers working in various agencies, including the Crime Suppression Division, Highway Police Division, Marine Police Division and Forestry Police Division.

These police groups, with ranks ranging from deputy commanders to inspectors, will be trained to become teachers who will then pass the knowledge on to their subordinates.

From now on, Pol Lt Gen Pongpat said, these officers will be more aware that arresting criminals alone is not enough to reduce crime.

They have to start taking the broken windows more seriously, he said.

Once they grasp the significance of the theory, the next step is to learn how to implement it properly. Pol Lt Gen Pongpat believes this stage will change the poor image of the police in the eyes of many people.

He, along with his colleagues conducting the broken windows course, agreed that officers need to make it clear that attempts to enforce more severe warnings against violations of the law are because the police care about the welfare of the general public, Pol Lt Gen Pongpat said.

If pedestrians do not use zebra crossings correctly then police must explain the safe way to cross streets out of concern about potential road accidents, he said.

Also, when giving warnings to the public, police must act politely to avoid negative reactions, which can turn confrontational.

The use of the Broken Window Theory is to some extent a soft way to implement the concept of community policing which was introduced as a key policy of Pol Lt Gen Pongpat.

Under this policy, CIB officers are urged to think more about how to use their authority to serve people in their community. The policy is also about police care for the public's well-being and safety.

The Broken Window Theory may seem simple and relatively uninteresting for some police who prefer more sophisticated cases.

However, Pol Lt Gen Pongpat argued that if police can successfully talk people into using zebra crossings, this will help pave the way for them to follow other regulations and laws which will in turn help prevent crime.

He intends to eliminate the narrow view held by many Thai police that “if you are monks, you have to pray and if you are police, you have to arrest criminals”.

That view is outdated, Pol Lt Gen Pongpat said. Police have to think more about crime prevention, and this is what the Broken Window Theory teaches.

“Don’t forget that small criminal issues can develop into large ones if they are ignored,” Pol Lt Gen Pongpat said.

The CIB is preparing to hold classes on the Broken Window Theory in Trang next month for policemen in southern provinces, said trainer Pol Col Thiradet Thammasuthi, a superintendent with the Crime Suppression Division.

Contact Crime Track: crimetrack@bangkokpost.co.th

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Writer: Wassana Nanuam
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