What are some potential disadvantages of being more "tough on crime"?
If the punishments for crime are severe enough, the nastiest criminals have a greater incentive to murder their victims, to prevent them from ever reporting the crime.
If the punishments for crime are severe enough, even innocent people may be tempted to do unethical things such as bribing witnesses, to avoid the possibility of being convicted.
The death penalty – and this is an undeniable fact – has resulted in the execution of completely innocent people.
Studies show that a stay in prison, without rehabilitation programs, is one of the least effective ways of preventing a person from committing crime again, and even with rehabilitation it's not necessarily very helpful, because prison can be a school for crime – and even, somewhat surprisingly, a drug-takers paradise! There is an argument that we need to rely less on prison and more on community-based punishments, and we need to emphasise more on rehabilitation, and treatment for drug addicts, so that they don't need to steal or prostitute themselves to feed their habits.
If police officers always carry guns and are very aggressive and quick to react aggressively, this may scare some criminals – but it may also have a corrosive effect on community relations, especially if the majority of police officers are white and the community is mainly non-white. In Britain most police officers do not carry guns, and we don't seem to have such a big problem with abuse of tasers by police officers as America has, either.
There are ways to be "tough on crime" that are just totally unacceptable. Having a huge secret police and cameras in every home would probably be very effective at reducing crime – but at what cost? Freedom and human rights are important.
Being "tough on crime" in the ways usually proposed, fails to tackle one of the key drivers of crime – illegal drugs. How long is the war on drugs going to continue before politicians realise that it's unwinnable?