The proposal of the study ‘Crime Reduction through Situational Crime Prevention-A Study in the United Kingdom’ was accepted by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, Association of Commonwealth Universities London for session 2003-04. The Researcher was given the opportunity to carry out the study at the Department of Criminology (formerly Scarman Centre), University of Leicester. The Researcher as Visiting Commonwealth Fellow carried out the exercise from October 2003 to April 2004.
The proposed study is an endeavour to understand the concept and applications of situational crime prevention (SCP) in the UK. SCP as part of Crime Reduction Programme of the Home Office, London has shown encouraging results in cutting the incidence of crimes to a significant extent. Reducing opportunity for crime by a range of measures based on managerial, environment and technological interventions is the core feature of this strategy.
The study has following objectives:
To critically review the concept of SCP
To analyse the techniques of SCP
To look in to the performance of SCP in various programmes
To understand the Crime reduction initiatives
To explore crime and disorder partnership structure in the UK
The Researcher, for the most, part adopted informal methods of data and information collection. The data and information was primarily collected by visiting several libraries including University of Leicester, University College, London and Radzinowicz Library at Cambridge University.
The data collection was also carried out with the help of interview schedule and questionnaire in case of respondents belonging to crime and disorder partnerships. As many as 46 such respondents were contacted at a Seminar in Manchester for data collection.
The informal discussions with police officials and crime reduction personnel were also held quite frequently. The exchange of ideas and information with experts from various Universities were also held. The Researcher utilised couple of such occasions when participating ‘Launching Crime Science conference at Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, London (November, 24-25, 2003) and the Home Office’s Seminar on Violent Crime at Manchester on December 11, 2003.
The observations of the Researcher about the sites depicting situational crime prevention in the City Centres, residential areas, offices and commercial buildings enriched the insight necessary for bringing out this Report. The informal discussions with security personnel and stakeholders provided a perspective for this work.
The situational crime prevention has come to stay as one of the most effective strategies in the UK. Situational crime prevention (SCP) approach distinctly varies in its theoretical orientation from the mainstream criminological expositions. SCP has a practical focus. The wider acceptability of this practice was due to various factors. This may include the virtual failures of the traditional methods of crime prevention and control and consistently eroding confidence of people in the traditional styles of performance of criminal justice agencies. Typically in most countries of the globe, the discussion centred largely on how the police could be made more result oriented and justice dissension a quicker one. The pursuits like these took enormous time but the results were still not very convincing. The people and sections of the society seem to crave for something that could bring an instant and visible check on criminal practices taking place in their immediate environs. In the recent past, the measures of situational crime prevention were able to satisfy these expectations of people to a great extent.
The focus in situational crime prevention remains in the setting and context of crime rather than on criminals. It makes the criminal action difficult by making the target inaccessible through several techniques based on the manipulation of environment and applications of technology. SCP works on the premise that the crime reduction is possible if the opportunities for crime are significantly reduced. This objective is achievable in various ways. Sometimes it may be by making the target less accessible and less vulnerable (‘target hardening’), by increasing natural and techno-surveillance or by making criminal action more risky and gains less rewarding. Paradoxically, the lead in all such initiatives is not taken by the criminal justice agencies as SCP techniques may be implemented by a ‘multi agencies partnership’ of all basic community institutions such as school, municipals, health centres, transport authority, business enterprise, communication departments, entertainment centres like cinema, clubs, theatres etc.
The notion that the public safety can no longer remain the exclusive domain of the criminal justice system, but should also be pursued through other state institutions and non-governmental organizations is gaining ground these days. The pro activism in the recent efforts in crime prevention has replaced the reactive approaches in crime control. The shift from offender to victim and environment has altered the shape of crime prevention. Instead of crime alone fear, public order and sense of security in the community have come to the agenda.
The key concepts in SCP, according to Gilling, (1997), are opportunity and physical environment. SCP is defined as those interventions designed to prevent the occurrence of crimes, especially by reducing opportunities and increasing risk. (Tony and Ferrington, 1995).
SCP is about the practical ways to reduce crime. The business establishment, banks, public transporters, shopping centres, housing society managers, entertainment industries, factory owners and residents in the community are always concerned with the security against any offending practices. They tend to seek for measures those could immediately deliver the results. They look for ways and means capable of visibly discouraging criminals’ movements. The emergence of CCTV, electronic alarms, swipe cards, computer chips for identification, password, screening devises, secured parking systems, hidden cameras are the product of the growing concern to quickly respond to crime problem. Remarkably, these situationally effective measures have had a history of efficient performance in all parts of the world. Regrettably, the SCP measures did not evoke any policy attention till recently. The concept of situational crime prevention traces its origin in the UK (Clarke, 1997). Though the Newman’s ‘defensible space’ and Jeffrey’s work on crime prevention through environmental design emerged in the US but they really did not take shape in resulting in to any crime prevention methodology until recently.
Theoretical Orientation: The situational crime prevention is often criticised for it’s too much of practicalities and little contribution to the theoretical understanding of crime especially in causal terms. The present structure of SCP is essentially based on some crime theories developed with situational perspectives in crime occurrence. A brief overview of these is as follows.
Routine Activity Theory – that explains that crime is often a result of a triangle – victim, offender and lack of capable guardian. The convergence of these three variables: a likely offender, a suitable target, and the absence of a capable guardian against crime are invariably result in crime occurrence.
A capable guardian is anything, either a person or thing that restricts crime from taking place. These can be formal or informal.
Some examples of capable guardians could be: police patrols, security guards, Neighbourhood Watch schemes, door staff, locks, fences, barriers, lighting, alarm systems, vigilant staff and co-workers, friends, neighbours, Close Circuit Television (CCTV) systems etc.
Of VIVA and CRAVED:
The likelihood of a target becoming prone for offending practices depends upon many things. In other words, a target causes criminal temptation due to a combination of factors. This statement takes us to ‘hot products, person and object’.
The VIVA (Clarke, 1999) is about a characteristic model indicating ‘hot factor’ approach.
Value: The basic value of the object may be of interest to the motivated offenders.
Inertia: The items of lighter weight (CD Player, jewellery etc.) are more preferred by offenders than the items of high weight.
Visibility: The objects in display become more suitable targets.
Access: The easy access to the object causes ripe situation for crime commission.
This model was replaced by another model explaining the cases of theft. This is “CRAVED”, identifying six important properties: these products are generally Concealable, Removable, Available, Valuable, Enjoyable and Disposable.
Rational Choice Theory – this assumes that offending behaviour is designed to benefit the offender in some way. It seeks to understand how the offender makes crime choices, driven by a particular motive within a specific setting, which offers the opportunities to satisfy that motive. The focus of modus operandi here is closely linked to Situational Crime Prevention.
Situational Crime Prevention - although not strictly a theory, this approach takes an offender’s motives and propensities as given and therefore seeks to influence the offender’s decision or ability to commit crimes at particular places and times.
Opportunity Theory – seeks to re-emphasise opportunity as a cause of crime, regardless of criminal inclinations. Opportunity is necessary and is the single principle that governs the theory of how settings cause crime. The easy or tempting opportunities entice people into criminal action. Felson & Clarke (1998) elaborated the opportunity and crime model by suggesting ten principles. These are as under:
3. Crime opportunities are concentrated in time and space
4. Crime opportunities depend on everyday movements
5. One crime produces opportunities for another
6. Some products offer more tempting crime opportunities
7. Social and technological changes produce new crime opportunities
8. Opportunities for crime can be reduced
9. Reducing opportunities does not usually displace crime
10. Focussed opportunity reduction can produce wider declines in crime
Displacement Theory - classifies the types of crime displacement that may occur when a crime is prevented. Reviews of displacement suggest that displacement occurs much less frequently or fully than previously thought, but it is still a consideration in crime prevention work (www.crimereduction.gov.uk). The displacement is of several (Clarke and Felson, 1998) types:
crime can be moved from one location to another (geographical displacement);
crime can be moved from one time to another (temporal displacement);
crime can be directed away from one target to another (target displacement);
one method of committing crime can be substituted for another (tactical displacement);
one kind of crime can be substituted for another (crime type displacement).
Clarke (1997) proposed the following set of measures of situational crime prevention.