Licensing Criminals : Police and Informants

by Peter Reuter

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This paper has four objectives. First, some substantiation of the claim that police, broadly defined, do frequently issue licenses to criminals is provided. Second, it is argued that there is no alternative to this if the police are to meet the demands placed on them in some areas of crime control. Third, the licensing process is not one which agencies are readily able to control. Both police and informants mistrust any effort to formalize the relationship and to require recording of their transactions. It is shown that efforts to formalize and control will lead either to evasion or less effective policing. Finally, it is argued that the problem is insolvable. The author provides some examples of criminal licenses, discusses the necessity of licenses, how to manage the licensing process, and the limits of reforming the process.

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