Combating the Rise in Homicides by Expanding the Use of Citations In Lieu of Arrest


Maya Szilak
Former Resident Senior Fellow, Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties

Key Points

The surge in violent crime, particularly homicides, warrants increased attention from law enforcement.

Police need better methods to handle petty offenses that will free up time and resources for violent crimes.

Issuing citations in lieu of arrest improves community relations; reduces recidivism and jail crowding; and allows officers to spend more time addressing the surge in violent crime.

Press Release

Give law enforcement resources to address violent crime by changing arrest practices

Executive Summary

The rise in homicide rates that began in 2020 continues to be a major source of public concern. Law enforcement agencies need effective strategies to deal with this issue without unduly burdening taxpayers or asking more of already cash-strapped state and local governments. Issuing citations to non-violent offenders who commit low-level crimes and present low flight risk is one method by which law enforcement agencies can address increased homicides. For instance, officers may summon offenders to appear in court at a later date and release them at the scene, in lieu of placing them under custodial arrest or jailing offenders. The use of citations in lieu of arrest enhances law enforcement capacity to address violent crime by reducing time and energy spent on low-level arrests. Reducing low-level arrests through citations can also lessen risk of harm to officers and citizens in street encounters, improve community relations and reduce overall recidivism. While the use of citations in lieu of arrest presents potential drawbacks, largely centered around increased rates of failure to appear and net widening effects, negative impacts can be minimized through data collection by law enforcement agencies to identify problems in citation programs and facilitate the development of practices to address these issues.

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