While the concept of crime prevention is familiar to most people, traditional definitions have focused on the role of police protecting the public from law violators (Rush 2000) or groups engaging in activities intended to deter individuals from committing crimes (Champion 1998). While others connote crime prevention with deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation (Rosen-baum, Lurigio, and Davis 1998, 9), this analysis explores various approaches to the prevention of crime. Some of these include innovative policing strategies (that is, problem-oriented policing), situational crime prevention (lighting and access control), legislative mandates (civil remedies), delinquency programs (family-based programs, mentoring, and so on), and public awareness (media campaigns, citizen patrols, and Neighborhood Watch). For the purposes of this analysis, crime prevention and crime control will be distinguished according to efforts to prevent criminal events from occurring in the first place, versus controlling the behaviors of those who have already committed criminal acts.

How crime prevention efforts are viewed, implemented, and preferred relies heavily on the political emphasis of the era and the inclination of those in command. ”Ingrained in the very process of designing crime prevention strategies are certain core assumptions and political choices” (White 1996, 97) defined by whether a crime prevention strategy assumes a conservative, liberal, or radical view of crime. Each of these three models ”identifies the key focus and concepts of a particular approach, preferred strategies of intervention, dominant conception of ‘crime’, the role of the ‘community’ as part of the crime prevention effort, and relationship to ‘law-and-order’ strategies” (White 1996, 98).

The conservative model focuses heavily on opportunity reduction theories that seek to deter crime through increased costs to offenders and reduced opportunities for crime commission. In the liberal model, the emphasis is placed on addressing social problems and improving opportunities for disadvantaged groups through creating self-help and community development programs. Finally, the radical model embraces a social justice approach that confronts the problem of marginalization, social alienation, and inequality (White 1996, 100) by seeking to improve social conditions for every member of society. Throughout the most recent decades, the political inclinations and public outcry have leaned toward a ”law and order” approach that concentrates on police taking the lead in the prevention of crime.

Police Strategies of Crime Prevention

Traditionally police work was reactive in nature with the expectation that officers would respond to calls for service, rather than take a proactive approach to crime fighting. In the 1970s, efforts to improve policing practices led to a new approach that focused on fostering positive police-community relations: the birth of community policing (Cordner and Biebel 2005, 158). While this was an improvement over traditional policing approaches, a need for proactive crime prevention strategies was needed. As a result, in 1979, Herman Goldstein introduced the concept of problem-oriented policing (POP) in which officers became the problem solvers of recurring crime problems.

In problem-oriented policing, officers, in coordination with skilled crime analysts and community members, work together to develop effective strategies for reducing crime. Problem-oriented policing shifts police efforts away from reactive policing to more proactive and preventive efforts. ”By focusing more on problems rather than incidents, police address causes rather than mere symptoms and consequently have a greater impact” (Cordner and Biebel 2005, 156) on public safety. The focus of POP is to find patterns and resolve problems utilizing the ”most targeted, analytical, and in-depth approach” (Cordner and Biebel 2005, 158) to uncover the ”underlying conditions that give rise to incidents, crime, disorder, and other substantive community issues” (Cordner and Biebel 2005, 156).

Officers have incorporated a systematic four-stage approach to problem solving called the SARA Model (scanning, analysis, response, and assessment), which allows police to conduct in-depth analyses of crime problems and seek creative alternative strategies to prevent crime. In the scanning phase, officers identify recurring problems through a cursory review of data including, but not limited to, calls for service, arrest rates, recurring acts of vandalism, requests from store owners for assistance, or other indicators of crime and disorder.

The analysis phase delves further into the crime problem and identifies the problem’s underlying causes and characteristics. The focus is to gather information about the problem such as finding answers to questions such as ”Where is the problem most concentrated?” ”When are the crimes occurring?” ”Why does the problem persist?” ”Who is responsible?” and ”How is it affecting the community?” Quite often, this phase involves officers interviewing neighborhood leaders, business owners, and residents for their input.

During the response stage, officers devise custom-fitted responses best suited to address the community’s problem. In the selection of a prevention strategy, officers most frequently use the problem analysis triangle, which targets the three components of a crime to be altered: the victim, offender, and location of the crime. Through the use of this triangle, officers select strategies that protect probable victims, ward off likely offenders, or reduce opportunities for crime at given locations.

Finally, the strategy is assessed to ensure its effectiveness, make improvements, and create a foundation of knowledge for police everywhere. This evaluation utilizes measures taken before and after the intervention was introduced to assess the impact of the response.

The advent of new technologies that increase communication between agencies, handle large sources of data, and identify crime patterns have also aided police in the prevention of crime. Technologies including, but not limited to, the geographic information systems (GISs) used for crime mapping and advances such as AMBER Alerts help police identify and respond to problems more quickly than ever before. While crime mapping is used to mark the sites of recent crimes in order to ascertain patterns and trends occurring within specific neighborhoods, AMBER (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alerts utilize media broadcast systems to quickly distribute information about missing children among an assortment of law enforcement agencies as well as to the public.

At the same time that policing strategies underwent a transformation, another mul-tidisciplinary approach to crime prevention originated. Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) was established in the early 1970s as a multidisciplinary approach intended to alter the physical environment in ways that discourage offenders from committing crimes (Jeffrey 1971; Newman 1972). Careful attention to design details was said to lead to a ”reduction in the fear and incidence of crime, and an improvement in the quality of life” (Poyser 2004, 123). Now, ”it is widely accepted that the design of buildings and their surroundings can influence the commission of crime and nuisance behavior” (Poyser 2004, 123) through the creation or elimination of opportunities for the commission of crime. Although this approach did not gain popularity rapidly, some criminolo-gists incorporated elements of CPTED into new ways of fighting crime.

James Q. Wilson and George Kelling’s broken-windows theory (1982) examined the effects of how visible signs of decay in neighborhoods impacted the behavior of both abiding and non-law-abiding community members. According to the authors, signs of disorder including both physical indicators of disorder such as broken windows, vacant lots, deteriorating buildings, litter, and graffiti as well as social indicators such as loitering, public drunkenness, gangs, drugs, panhandling, and prostitution (Lab 2000, 42) instill fear in law-abiding citizens and communicate a host of available criminal opportunities to non-law-abiding offenders. Wilson and Kelling ”suggest that neighborhood incivilities are fear-inspiring because they indicate a lack of concern for public order and suggest the inability of officials to cope” (Poyser 2004, 124) with the negative influences that are leading to the incivilities in the first place. Law-abiding members respond to these indicators with fear, whereas potential offenders welcome the increasing opportunities of limited risk of apprehension since frightened citizens are too afraid to leave their homes, confront strangers, or call the police.

Situational Crime Prevention

In yet another perspective, Cohen and Fel-son’s (1979) routine activity approach states that three components must converge in time and space for a crime to occur. A suitable target, a motivated offender, and a lack of a capable guardian must all converge at one time in a specific place. Cohen and Felson’s routine activity approach focuses more on the elements of the crime than on the characteristics of the offender. The authors claim that crime is the result of everyday activities and interactions and assume motivated offenders exist everywhere. Cohen and Felson originally developed their perspective as a result of the rising crimes between the 1960s and 1980s. Their controversial perspective focused on the changing number of women working outside of the home who were leaving residences unoccupied and therefore unguarded against possible offenders. For them, the key to crime prevention rests with limiting the number of suitable targets and increasing the number of capable guardians.

The routine activities approach uses the term target instead of victim to indicate the fact that the victim of a crime may be a person or thing as in the case of a stolen wallet. The four main factors that make targets more attractive from the offender’s perspective may be summarized by the acronym VIVA: value, inertia, visibility, and access. Typically, offenders want to obtain the most valuable item through exerting the least amount of effort. Items such as CDs, iPods, and other small items with a high monetary value exemplify these principles. The item should be valuable, whether it be for resale purposes, or for personal use. Inertia refers to the weight of the item and the ease with which to steal it. For example, inertia would explain why a thief would choose to steal a small laptop that can be easily concealed in a backpack as opposed to a traditional desktop computer system, which must be carried in multiple pieces in a less secretive fashion. Visibility and access both refer to the principles of witnessing the availability of an item and the ease with which to remove it. If a thief witnesses a college student place an expensive iPod in the pocket of a coat placed on a chair next to the aisle in a cafe, the offender has the advantage of visibility and access. He or she has seen the item and knows exactly where it is placed. Furthermore, the fact that the chair is located next to an aisle provides easy accessibility to make an attempt to remove it without being noticed (Felson 1998).

Much like Cohen and Felson’s approach, an economist and a psychologist began viewing crime from a perspective they coined rational choice theory. They viewed crime from the perspective of the offender’s decision making. According to the authors, offenders make rational choices and decisions as to who is a suitable target based on the possible gains achieved and the risks suffered. In viewing crimes according to the opportunities for offenders, Cornish and Clarke (1986) concluded with five techniques by which to alter situations in a manner that limits opportunities for offenders. These techniques focus on limiting the opportunities for offenders by increasing the effort in carrying out the crime, increasing the risk of being apprehended, reducing the benefits expected from the desired target, removing the possible rationalizations to justify a criminal act, and reducing provocations that tempt or incite offenders. Applying a cost-benefit analysis to rational decision making about crime, Clarke turned these five categories of altering situations into twenty-five techniques of situational crime prevention that include, but are not limited to, target hardening, controlling access entries, identifying property, and countless other techniques (Clarke 2003) that limit crime opportunities and constrain the decisions of offenders.

Civil Remedies

Legislative measures such as civil remedies, also known as civil injunctions, also serve as a tool for law enforcement to address crime. Civil remedies represent a wide array of ”procedures and sanctions found in civil statutes and regulations [designed] to prevent or reduce criminal problems and incivilities, such as drug dealing, disorderly behavior, panhandling, and loitering” (Mazerolle and Roehl 1999, 1). Police and prosecutors gather evidence of public nuisances in neighborhoods using ”evidence used to support an injunction [which] includes the criminal history of gang members, written declarations by officers familiar with the neighborhood, and sometimes, declarations from community members that describe the effects of specific nuisance activities on neighborhood residents” (Maxson, Hennigan, and Slone 2005, 580). Using this evidence, restraining orders are filed against the defendants for ”illegal activities such as trespass, vandalism, drug selling, and public urination, as well as otherwise legal activities, such as wearing gang colors, displaying hand signals, and carrying a pager or signaling passing cars; behaviors associated with drug selling. Nighttime curfews are [also] often imposed” (Maxson, Hennigan, and Slone 2005, 579). These civil injunctions, or restraining orders, create a vehicle by which lawbreakers can be ”prosecuted in either civil or criminal court for violation of a valid court order and fined up to $1000 and/or incarcerated for up to six months” (Maxson, Hennigan, and Slone 2005, 581).

Civil remedies are also intended to encourage law-abiding individuals to assist in fighting crime. ”Police often apply civil remedies to persuade or coerce non-offending third parties to act against criminal or nuisance behaviors” (Mazerolle and Roehl 1999, 1), by encouraging store owners to file reports against loiterers or anyone engaged in illicit behaviors. In a gang prevention attempt initiated by the Chicago Police Department, unresponsive owners were forced to respond by the Municipal Drug and Gang Enforcement (MDGE) program. ”Before the program, according to CPD, building owners or managers were not forced to manage their properties in a manner that contributed to the vitality rather than the decay of the neighborhood. The MDGE program strategy attempt[ed] to engage building owners as proactive partners in corrective measures—and present[ed] powerful deterrents against those owners who are unresponsive” (Higgins 2000, i). In many cases in which ordinary citizens are too afraid to intervene, police place the responsibility for illicit behaviors on landlords and store owners. Typically, a specifically designated task force . . . identifies city buildings . . . [and] documents drug and gang problems, conducts inspections for code violations, provides information and recommendations for improving the properties, and conducts administrative proceedings to bring landlords into compliance. . . . [The task force also] refers some cases to city attorneys at the Department of Law for prosecution under the modified city nuisance abatement ordinance allowing the city to hold landlords accountable for some criminal activities of their tenants. (Higgins 2000, i-ii) While civil remedies demonstrate some promise in preventing crime, studies have shown the effects to be short lived (Green 1996) and many fear the potential abuses of mishandling such a tool. ”Stop-and-frisk practices and anti-loitering laws cause concern because they circumscribe the rights of individuals . . . [and] are used disproportionately against minorities (Rosenbaum, Lurigio, and Davis 1998, 117). According to White (2004, 3), many ”attempts to restrict the street presence of gangs have taken the form of youth curfews or anti-loitering statutes … [that] have been struck down by the Supreme Court as being unconstitutional,” yet when legislators have clarified specific types of loitering, such as blocking traffic, the courts have accepted the injunctions (White 2004, 3). Nonetheless, countless individuals are troubled by ”the commonly applied prohibitions [that] any two or more named gang members associating with one another” (Maxson, Hennigan, and Slone 2005, 580) be questioned.

Delinquency Prevention

A challenge of crime prevention is to recognize which techniques are effective and which show little, if any, effectiveness despite their popularity. Though widely popular, Scared Straight and boot camps have not shown the type of effectiveness suggested by their popularity. Scared Straight was designed to take young offenders to a maximum security men’s institution in hopes of frightening the juveniles into ceasing their criminal activities (Finkenhauer 1978). While this may sound logical, Scared Straight has consistently failed to show deterrent effect on juveniles (Finkenhauer and Gavin 1999).

Similarly, in a meta-analysis of boot camp participants, the results show ”no overall difference in recidivism between boot camp participants and their control group counterparts” (Welsh and Farring-ton 2005, 345). Only those boot camp programs incorporating counseling and therapeutic programming show positive results among boot camps” (Welsh and Farrington 2005, 345). On the other hand, research has cited numerous programs that have demonstrated effective results in preventing delinquency including family-based techniques such as home visiting programs, day care/pre-school programs, parent training, treatment foster care and multisystemic therapy (Farrington and Welsh 2003), cognitive-behavioral techniques (Tong and Farrington 2005; Wilson et al. 2001), and drug courts (Wilson et al. 2005).

In a meta-analysis of 200 program evaluations, Lipsey and Wilson (1998) determined that ”overall, the most effective programs were cognitive-behavioral skills training programs” (Farrington 2005, 242). ”Other programs showing evidence of effectiveness included individual counseling, restitution, employment programs, academic programs, and family counseling (for noninstitutionalized offenders) and teaching family homes and community residential programs such as therapeutic communities (for institutional offenders)” (Farrington 2005, 243). The programs showing the least effectiveness at preventing delinquency were programs emphasizing deterrence, challenges (that is, wilderness camps), increased supervision, and drug and alcohol self-restraint (Farrington 2005). Of the community-based prevention programs, gang member intervention, mentoring, and after-school recreation programs offer the greatest success (Farrington 2005, 243).

While some family-based and community-based programs offer hope for prevention, lack of evaluation research of other types of programs makes it difficult to assess the effectiveness of many programs. In some cases, the most effective crime prevention method may involve more than one mode of intervention. In a study by Whitted and Dupper (2005), ”the most effective approaches for preventing or minimizing bullying in schools involve[d] a comprehensive, multilevel strategy that targets bullies, victims, bystanders, families, and communities” (Whitted and Dupper 2005, 169).

Community and Individual Self-Protection

Citizens have sought participation in proactive crime prevention efforts through increased awareness, Neighborhood Watch, citizen patrols, and property marking projects. Several efforts involving mass media campaigns have sought to empower citizens through increased awareness. In October 1979, the ”Take a Bite Out of Crime” campaign was initiated as a joint venture involving various agencies (Rosen-baum, Lurigio, and Davis 1998, 61). This campaign encouraged citizens to take a more active role in the prevention of crime through their participation in Neighborhood Watch. As the times and the crime problem changed, so did the emphasis of the campaigns (Rosenbaum, Lurigio, and Davis 1998). At first the focus was to increase awareness about crime, but as the need changed, the stress shifted to reducing drug use. More recently, the ”Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” campaign renewed its message to target the casual drinker who consumes one or two drinks with the new slogan ”Buzzed

Driving Is Drunk Driving.” According to Rosenbaum, Lurigio, and Davis (1998, 64), ”mass media crime prevention programs have produced mixed results,” which have raised public awareness and at times led to increased fear of crime.

On a more individual level, Rosen-baum, Lurigio, and Davis (1998) have identified two distinct self-protective measures for individuals to protect themselves from victimization: ”(1) those behaviors intended to reduce the risk of victimization, and (2) those behaviors intended to manage the risk of victimization when crime is unavoidable” (p. 81). Risk avoidance behaviors encourage individuals to focus on, and often alter, their routine activities by avoiding certain places, activities, or people that may lead to increased risk of victimization. This may include activities such as not staying out in the evenings, avoiding bars, and avoiding persons who have a propensity to cause harm. In contrast, risk management focuses on reducing the opportunity for victimization in a different way. Because it may not always be possible to avoid specific places or activities, one can manage the risk by not carrying cash or by driving instead of walking (Rosenbaum, Lurigio, and Davis 1998, 85).

It may be possible that self-defense training or other individual efforts to defend oneself provide individuals with the confidence to take better measures to protect themselves (Brecklin and Ullman 2005, 738). ”From 1992 to 1996, non-fatal assaults on nurses, others in health care, and those in mental health settings were similar in frequency to those in law enforcement, well over 200,000 annually” (Massachusetts Nurse 2005, 12). While encouraged to attend self-defense and crisis intervention courses, nurses are also encouraged to protect themselves with a few small behavioral changes such as not carrying any keys or pens that can be used as a weapon against them or wearing things around their necks that could be used in confrontations.


While problem-oriented policing, situational crime prevention, civil remedies, socially based programs, public awareness projects, and self-defense represent some of the most popular current crime prevention trends, these do not embody an exhaustive list of all existing crime prevention efforts. Unfortunately, fighting crime presents an interesting dilemma in that crime prevention efforts require a significant amount of resources, yet provide few substantial measures to confirm that a criminal act was prevented. Political pressures often lead to a misuse of time, energy, and resources on efforts that have not been proven to work, and forego the resources needed to design new approaches for preventing crime. For prevention efforts to succeed, careful planning, implementation, and evaluation are required. For these reasons, there is a growing need for more research into which programs work, for whom, and under what circumstances

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