Crime Prevention and Control - 3 Different Approaches
CRIME PREVENTION and control
Social control = mechanisms to ensure conformity (MTEC).
Below are 3 STRATEGIES societies have used to try to ensure that people conform.
STRATEGY TO ENSURE CONFORMITY
KEY IDEAS, KEY STUDIES, KEY THINKERS…
Aim to manage or alter the immediate environment of crime and to increase the effort and risks of
1 SITUATIONAL CRIME
committing the crime thus reducing the rewards.
Examples: target hardening measures like locking doors and windows
Ron Clarke (1992) defines it as
Increased surveillance in shops via CCTV and security guards increase the chances of shoplifters being caught.
Theory underlying situational crime prevention is rational choice theory – view that criminals weigh up
‘a pre-emptive approach that
potential costs and benefits before deciding to commit a crime. This contrasts with theories which explain
relies, not on improving
crime through faulty socialisation or capitalist exploitation. The solutions, revolution or radically better
society or its institutions, but
socialization, are to Clarke unrealistic and he argues for a focus on the immediate crime situation where
simply reducing opportunities
scope for prevention is greatest. Most crime is opportunistic, therefore reduce the opportunities.
2 ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME
Based on Wilson & Kelling’s
‘broken windows’ thesis
(described as ‘perhaps the
most influential single article
on crime prevention ever
3 SOCIAL AND COMMUNITY
Place the emphasis firmly on
the potential offenders. Aim is
to remove the conditions that
push individuals into crime in
the first place.
Example: Felson (1998) – The Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York was poorly designed and provided
opportunities for deviancy. The toilets were a setting for luggage thefts, rough sleeping and drug dealing.
Reshaping the physical environment helped to design out crime, for example by replacing large sinks in which
vagrants were bathing by small hand basins.
‘Broken windows’ signifies the various signs of disorder and lack of concern for others found in some areas –
noise, graffiti, begging, littering, vandalism….Argument is that leaving windows broken sends out the wrong
message i.e. that non-cares. In such areas there is lack of both formal social control (police) and informal
social control (the community). Police turn a blind eye to nuisance behavior and respectable people feel
intimidated and powerless. Without remedial action the situation deteriorates tipping neighborhood into
spiral of decline. Good people move out, bad people move in.
Solution is to crack down on any disorder with a twin strategy:
a)Environmental Improvement strategy – repair any broken windows immediately, scrub graffiti, tow away
b)Zero Tolerance Policing – police proactively tackle the slightest sign of disorder to prevent serious crime
Place the emphasis firmly on the potential offenders. Aim is to remove the conditions that push individuals
into crime in the first place. These are longer term strategies aimed at tackling the root causes of offending,
rather than simply removing opportunities for crime. Because the causes of crime are often rooted in social
conditions such as poverty, unemployment and poor housing more general social reform programmes
addressing these issues may have a crime prevention role, even if this is not their main focus. For example
policies to promote full employment are likely to reduce crime as a ‘side effect’.
The Perry pre-school project
A community programme for disadvantaged black children in Michigan aimed at reducing criminality. An
experimental group of 3-4 year olds was offered a 2 year intellectual enrichment programme with home visits
included. A longitudinal study followed the children’s subsequent progress. Striking differences were noted
between a control group who had not undergone the programme. By age 40 they had significantly fewer
lifetime arrests for violent crime, property crime and drugs. More had graduated from high school and were
in employment. It was calculated that for every dollar spent on the programme $17 were saved on welfare,
prison and other costs.
OVERALL EVALUATION – WHAT IS MISSING?
They all take for granted the nature and definition of crime – they focus
on a narrow range of harms (typically violent crime, burglary, car crime,
This ignores the crimes of the powerful and green crimes
The definition of the crime problem reflected in the 3 strategies reflects
the priorities and agencies asked to prevent crime.
1 Displacement – if criminals are acting rationally will simply
move to softer targets. Chaiken et a(1974) found crackdown on
subway robberies in New York just displaced them to streets
Counter evaluation: changing from toxic coal gas to less toxic
natural gas reduced the suicide rate in Britain, in this case
displacement did NOT occur.
2 Overemphasis on opportunistic petty street crime. Ignores
white collar, corporate, green and state crime which are more
costly and harmful.
3 Assumes criminals make rational calculations which seems
unlikely in the case of violence and crimes committed when
drunk or drugged up.
4 Ignores root causes of crime like poverty
5 CCTV surveillance tends to target young males and for
feminists CCTV is an extension of the ‘male gaze’.
Great success has been claimed for zero tolerance policing in
New York. The ‘Clean Car Program’ subway which meant that
subway trains were removed if they had any graffiti on them
virtually eradicated graffiti. Other programs tackled fare
dodging, drug dealing and begging and squeegee merchants.
1993-1996 crime fell significantly in New York, for example
murders fell by 50%.
However there might have been other factors which
contributed to the falling crime rate like 7000 more police
officers, jobs creation, crack cocaine was scarce, improved
medical emergency services which prevented some deaths
which would otherwise have become murders.
1 Seeks to tackle the deep-seated root causes of crime unlike
situational and environmental crime prevention strategies.
2 One time (1962-67+), one place (Michigan), small sample size
(123), one ethnic group (Black Americans), one class
(working/lower class). Therefore may well not be
2 Overemphasis on those who will potentially commit
stereotypical visible ‘street’ crimes. Does nothing to tackle
white collar, corporate crime, green crime and state crime
which are arguably far more costly and harmful to human
Whyte (2005) conducted a survey of 26 crime and disorder partnerships in NW England.
What they are interested in targeting
What they had no interest in targeting
Car crime Burglary Drug Crime Violent Crime
Water quality offences
Anti-social behaviour Robbery Fear of Crime Speeding cars
Firms releasing cancer causing chemicals into the air
Whyte concluded that in terms of detrimental impact on the health of communities the ‘crimes’ in the right hand column are just as
harmful as the ones on the left – however they are NOT considered to be part of crime and disorder partnerships.