Most crime prevention advice is aimed at reducing the opportunity for crime. It is pre-emptive advice, which if put into practice, increases the effort and the risks involved in carrying out an offence and decreases the rewards if an offence is committed. It makes no attempt to improve society or the long term motivation of a potential offender. In most cases, it simple deflects an offender to other targets or even other types of crime.
Such advice, in the form of notices and leaflets, have been around for the past 60 years or so. The advice given in those early days, mainly concerned itself with house burglary and reminded people to lock their doors etc.
In the 1970’s public information films were used. By this time most police forces had dedicated crime prevention officers, the following is a typical example.
In the 1980’s a slightly different approach was used that involved groups of individuals working together. Neighbourhood groups were formed to carry out informal surveillance, thereby deterring thieves, and to feed information back to the Police. The Police in turn supplied crime prevention advice and local alerts of current crime trends for the groups to share. This initiative continues today in the form of Neighbourhood Watch schemes. No evidence exists that such schemes reduce the overall crime rate but it does deter potential offenders from visiting areas covered by these schemes.
This type of crime prevention is known as “situational” and in its most simple form can be illustrated by what is known as the “crime triangle”.
The Crime Triangle
The following three points form the “crime triangle” removing one completely, eliminates the possibility of a crime being committed.
A suitable target needs to be available.
For a theft to occur the target needs to have some perceived value, be visible to the offender, easily accessible and removable.
The target has no suitable guardian.
This could be the absence of a person, whose mere presence would deter a potential offender or a physical deterrent like an alarm or CCTV for instance.
A potential offender needs to be present
Someone who has the motivation and ability to commit the crime and happens to be in the same area as the unguarded target.
Situational crime prevention addresses the first two points of this triangle. It is not intended to totally eliminate either of these points but to reduce the offenders opportunity to commit a crime successfully.
There is a huge amount of advice on the Internet, covering all aspects of modern day crime. Each of the 43 Police forces within England and Wales have pages of their web sites dedicated to crime prevention. Other public organisations also have advice usually tailored to their projected audience. The advice given is similar but its presentation is variable. This site will try to point you in the direction of the best and latest advice available.
The principles of situational crime prevention is also used by designers and architects. A good example being car immobilisers, since their introduction, the number of car thefts have fallen dramatically.
The third point in the crime triangle is dealt with by the justice system and addressing the reasons why people turn to crime, drug/alcohol dependence, inadequate education, poor housing etc. This is known as “social crime prevention”.