Information, apprehension, and deterrence: Exploring the limits of police productivity

Wesley G. Skogan*, George E. Antunes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


The capacity of police departments to solve crimes and apprehend offenders is low for many types of crime, particularly crimes of profit. This article reviews a variety of studies of police apprehension and hypothesizes that an important determinant of the ability of the police to apprehend criminals is information. The complete absence of information for many types of crime places fairly clear upper bounds on the ability of the police to effect solutions. To discover whether these boundaries are high or low we analyzed data from the 1973 National Crime Panel about the types and amount of information potentially available to police through victim reports and patrol activities. The evidence suggests that if the police rely on information made readily available to them, they will never do much better than they are doing now. On the other hand, there appears to be more information available to bystanders and passing patrols than currently is being used, which suggests that surveillance strategies and improved police methods for eliciting, recording, and analyzing information supplied by victims and witnesses might increase the probability of solving crimes and making arrests. In light of this we review a few possibly helpful innovations suggested in the literature on police productivity and procedure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-241
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1979

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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