Crime reduction through situational crime prevention: a study in the united kingdom


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Evaluation and Conclusions

The present study is aimed at taking an overview of the practices in situational crime prevention in the UK. The idea was to develop an insight in to this strategy so that similar initiatives, with appropriate adoptions, could be carried out in case of India. The Report has been brought out in primarily keeping with this audience in view. However, certain observations and conceptual evaluation concerning the boundaries of the SCP may be interest to the criminologists and crime reductionists in the UK.

This Chapter proposes many new ideas for consideration and practice in the process of situational crime prevention.
Opening Remarks:
The criminologists have avoided any precise definition of SCP. There seem to be valid reasons for it. SCP was primarily conceived not as concept rather it was developed as a practice. SCP is about checking the criminal action by making the target inaccessible through several techniques based on the manipulation of environment and applications of technology. It would be proper here to see how the contemporary criminologists attempted to place the concept of SCP in the theoretical framework of the subject.
The salience of SCP approach is traceable in the way the criminologists have perceived the crime and criminal behaviour. Modern criminologists have also referred to some theoretical fallacies in criminology. Clarke (1997), for instance, talked of two such ‘mistakes’ of contemporary criminologists. The first relate to the fact that the theorists in criminology did not make much difference when explaining crime and criminals. The factors that predispose a person to crime do not necessarily explain the dynamics of crime (Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990). The situational criminologists are of the opinion that a motivated offender is not enough to commit crime unless he finds facilitating opportunity and absence of ‘capable guardians’ checking the offending advancements. Secondly, the issues of crime control and handling of offenders have been confused with each other (Willkins, 1990). Apparently, responding to the criminal behaviour (treatment, prison, correction, rehabilitation etc.) and reducing crime could be two separate matters.

The above understanding leads us to conclude various matters. First, the agencies of criminal justice can only have a partial role and limited capacity to prevent or reduce crime in their traditional manner of performance. This is mainly due to the fact that the setting of crime and opportunity factor based prevention is hardly included in their agenda.

The Emerging features of SCP

The objective here is to highlight some significant features of SCP approach in the UK. The following characteristics emerged clearly in this exercise.

1.Matured progression: SCP did not take place abruptly. It was the result of innovation and experimentation carried out in the UK in the last three decades. A brief account of history of crime prevention efforts, as provided earlier in this report, in the UK makes it clear. It was largely the result of realization that much crime can be avoided by simply targeting the opportunities. The opportunity reduction model of crime prevention got significant amount of official support in the UK.
2. Focused and target oriented: The reason of the preference and popularity of SCP amongst policy makers and practitioners is due to its practicability and specificity.
3. Problem oriented: The law enforcement agencies applied it successfully as it aimed at specific problems.
4.Tactical and Managerial: It’s also about skills based on aptitude of wide varieties.
5. Pro active: Being pro active in nature, it carries capability to reduce crime significantly.
6. Evidence based crime reduction: Earlier efforts in crime prevention were not certain in terms of amount of crime cut by them. SCP is evidence based that works on pre decided target and shows in the end the extent of crime reduced by it.
7. Technological inputs: The use of technology is the highlight of this approach.
8. Efficient and quick: SCP is efficient. The results starts coming, the moment it applies.
9. Stake holder based: It effectively caters to the requirements of the stakeholders.

Theoretical Evaluation

In this section, an attempt has been made to look at the theoretical foundations of situational crime prevention in a fresh light. The need to critically examine the theoretical foundations of SCP stems from several reasons. This is not to deny that the theories that are normally attributed to SCP are invalid. The theories in the framework of SCP- RAT, rational choice, opportunity model, and environmental design are absolutely functional. But what has been ignored is crucial. The all-central concepts in SCP and opportunity reduction drew significantly from the victimological knowledge. However, the acknowledgment to victimological thrust has seldom been made in the works conducted on SCP. The issues like risk, vulnerability, victim recidivism or repeat victimization, victim’s role in crime, victim precipitation and victim types are some of the major concepts in victimology that have applied and utilised quite widely in SCP practices. The risk of victimization was the main plank of victimologists in the 80’s and earlier. The early victimologists like Hentig, Mendelsohn, Nagel, Wolfgang, Fattah, Schafer in the 1950’s and 60’s developed many ideas that are clearly attributable to SCP.

Critique of Major arguments in SCP
Crime Triangle:

The RAT argues that when a crime occurs, three things happen at the same time and in the same space: a suitable target is available, there is the lack of a capable guardian to prevent the crime from happening and a likely and motivated offender is present.

This is the core postulate in the RAT theory and the foundation of SCP. Some arguments are being advanced here to look beyond it.

The first issue pertains to the matter of capability of guardians. Needless to state that capable guardian factor becomes crucial in the occurrence of crime. Situational criminologists have not gone further about the dynamics of this factor. Presumably, this factor does not seem to be a static phenomenon and its nature and variation can have bearing on victimization. Following propositions are being presented below to widen the theoretical gamut of this approach.

  • Capability of guardians is relative and dynamic. Hence, it would respond differently to the offending advancements. And the likelihood of victimization would also rest on it.

  • Capability is specific. This may not respond to all offending initiatives equally. This may prove to be a deterrent to one offence but not the other. The guardian’s capability and offender’s capability come in to clash in the process of crime. The outcome would depend on who overpowers whom. A security guard with old-fashioned gun at the door of Bank may seem to be capable but he may be a failure in facing a better-equipped offender. This is the case as to how superiority in capability affects the outcome of incident.

  • To occur a crime, the suitability of target ought to match with offender’s capability. Here the mere ‘motivation’ may not be enough. Like, a motivated offender cannot do fraud or forgery for want of specific capability to commit the act.

  • Capability may not necessarily be the third dimension of the triangle. Sometimes, the capability may relate to target itself. In such case, the target’s perceived suitability may be misleading. The ‘potential but capable victim’ may change the course of the event.

  • Target’s suitability is perceived and not absolute. This is why some targets cannot be overpowered and some capabilities do not seem to work always.

  • The factor of ‘motivation’ is also dynamic. Sometimes motivation may not be so intrinsic and this may be situationally charged.

  • The opportunity creation in the context of behaviour of three dimensions of RAT (target, guardian and offender) may not necessarily follow the conventional route. In other words, this may not be the product of routine interaction amongst the three. There can be extraneous factors that may create, maintain and manipulate the opportunities for crime commissions.

Missing Thrust:

The focus of SCP is normally on the target and the setting (space or environment) of crime. The two variables become the major players in the techniques of SCP. The point to be noted here is that the entire knowledge on the behaviour of ‘target’ stems from victimology. The corollary would then be that all target-based prevention (e.g. target hardening, access control etc.) is of victimological nature. The prevention of this sort is essentially victim oriented. The victim typologies provide crucial data on the personality, behaviour and his/her/its predisposition to criminal assault. The sixteen techniques model of opportunity reduction developed by Clarke (1997) captures all victimological ingredients. The difference is of course that the victim based information and knowledge has been very well translated in to practical solutions. All SCP efforts and crime reduction practices, to a great extent, is what is known in victimology- de-victimization. The element of risk was recognized long back in victimological studies. Mendelsohn was a pioneer in developing victimogenesis. The sources of victim-risk were identified in the personality, behaviour and situation or environment surrounding the victim. The environmental designing and crime prevention draws upon the similar notions. Removing, protecting and concealing the target (SCP techniques now) are clearly based on the notions like victim proneness and vulnerability. Similarly, SCP techniques like reduced frustration and stress, avoiding dispute, control of drugs/alcohol etc are based on the concept of victim precipitation. Wolfgang (1958) in his seminal study on homicides in Philadelphia had clearly identified the typology of a class of victims who were assassinated because of their provocative behaviour. Spark (1982) making a victimological analysis found that crime occurs due to precipitation facilitation, vulnerability, opportunity, attractiveness and impunity on the part of victim. Even the Sutherland’s DAT and Merton’s strain and deviant behaviour theories could be brought in to the theoretical foundations of SCP. Cloward & Ohlin's Differential Opportunity also did not find mention when the ‘opportunity makes the thief’ brand notions were being developed. Another theory that was invariable overlooked was that of Hindelang, Gottfredson, & Garofalo's Lifestyle Theory that talked of situational factors in victimization quite sometime ago.

The argument is simple here. The victimological studies and concept did not find adequate mention in whatever theories developed in the area of SCP and crime reduction. It is therefore a bit misleading to conclude that the RAT or rational choice theories alone are fully attributable to the development of notion of SCP. Of course, the credit goes to a school of criminologists that include Felson, Brantingham and Bratingham, Clarke, Tilley, Laycock, Berry, Pease, Ekblom etc who have commendably translated several ideas in to enforceable practices leading to the development of SCP techniques.
Placing SCP in Criminological Context

While the idea and practice of SCP are getting wider acceptance, there is need to place SCP approach in a proper framework of arrangement in criminological theories. Going by all analysis made above, SCP may be treated as practical way of crime and victimization reduction. Looking at the conceptual and theoretical strands that run through the practice of SCP are essentially based on certain bodies of knowledge that have already made significant impact in contemporary and modern criminological thinking. Following are some prominent approaches or branches of knowledge that contributed a lot on the theories behind SCP:

1. Environmental criminology - the study of crime and criminality as they relate, first, to particular places, and secondly, to the way that individuals and organisations shape their activities spatially, and in so doing are in turn influenced by place-based or spatial factors
2. Environmental victimology- that looks in to the spatial factors generating vulnerability and proneness for victimization by facilitating the offending practices (Draper, 1995)

3.Security and Risk Management – is also an emerging approach that makes risk analysis in case of varieties of targets and develop the possible intervention strategies. This approach needs careful consideration as risk generation and management are the acknowledged practices in SCP.

4. Broken window Approach - Many ideas in SCP and later on problem oriented policing were inspired by the broken window thesis. James Q. Wilson and George Kelling developed the `broken windows' thesis to explain the signalling function of neighbourhood characteristics. This thesis suggests that the following sequence of events can be expected in deteriorating neighbourhoods. Evidence of decay (accumulated trash, broken windows, deteriorated building exteriors) remains in the neighbourhood for a reasonably long period of time. People who live and work in the area feel more vulnerable and begin to withdraw. They become less willing to intervene to maintain public order (for example, to attempt to break up groups of rowdy teens loitering on street corners) or to address physical signs of deterioration.
Sensing this, teens and other possible offenders become bolder and intensify their harassment and vandalism.
5. Conjunction of criminal opportunities and offender’s resources: These two premises have been proposed by Ekblom and Tilley (2000). The conjunction of several ‘immediate precursors’ of crime prepares the situational context for crime. The idea of ‘adequately resourced offender’ is also another facet of the theoretical discussion on SCP. The notion behind this premise is that the resources of a wide range like personal, cognitive, moral, facilitatory, collaborative are equally important on the part of offender who enter to a situation for crime commission.

New Considerations

It may be mentionable here that the researcher in the present study tried to look in to the idea of SCP in its totality. The attempt has been made to place this concept in a proper arrangement of criminological thinking. An attempt has also made in this study to enlarge the concept of SCP by embracing some more pertinent conceptual issues in its fold. This study intends to propose following concepts to look at SCP in a fresh light.

Defacilitation: This can be a renewed thought in the area of SCP. Conceptually speaking, SCP methods do cause a state of ‘defacilitation’ for the offending behaviour. This may be direct, indirect, implicit or manifest. The argument is therefore that if the paraphernalia and situation necessary for offending are zeroed, the likelihood of crime diminishes significantly.
Disruption of offending process: SCP is intended to work for disrupting the offending process. Presumably, the offending has a chain of sequence and if any link in the chain is prematurely identified and obstructed, crime commission becomes tougher.
Identity disclosure: The fear of identity discloser works significantly on the part of potential offenders. The CCTV is the best example here.
Shaming effect: In Australia some of the studies in a different context have shown that the shaming effect remains quite influential in case of offenders. The SCP’s methods are at work some time for this.

Psychic deterrence: The diffusion benefits received by SCP measure confirm the fact that SCP has a capacity to instil a psychological barrier and deterrence in potential offenders.

Socialising effect: This proposition needs empirical validation. SCP measures by controlling the access and specially by setting the rules surely leave a effect on the behaviour of offender in particular and public in general. It’s a socialising effect to conform to non-criminal behaviour.

De-victimization: Several measures that are initiated from the perspective of target or victim pave the way for de victimization.

Critical Issues
1. Displacement

This is invariably argued that crime displacement considerably weakens the effectiveness of situational crime prevention measures - for while crime rates may decrease in the area where situational projects have been undertaken, they might increase in other areas where these measures do not appear to exist (Gilling, 1997: 182). The situational criminologists have, however refuted this by citing several studies. Their view is that the displacement of crime may only be partial and insignificant.

Barr and Pease (1990) suggested the idea of ‘benign displacement’. They said, “Consequences of benign displacement may either be changes to offending or the more equitable distribution of crime throughout society. In the first instance, while offending may not be prevented, it might change and become less serious as a result of situational crime prevention measures. For example, robbery might become burglary, assault with a weapon might become simple assault and robberies with guns might become robberies without guns. In the second instance, displacement could provide a more even or equal spread of crime and victimisation across the community. The argument here is that some level of crime is inevitable in society but that it is not spread evenly across the social spectrum. Subsequently, the displacement of crime across the community would result in the burden being shared equally by all.” (
2. Fortress Society and ‘big brother’ syndromes
The British people are said to be the most spied upon people in the world. In many sections of the society, there is apprehension that too much reliance on surveillance measure, like CCTV, in the private and public zones of the community are likely to create a ‘fortress society’. Moreover, this may also lead to the unreasonable state intrusion in the privacy of the people. Resultantly, there is also an anti CCTV website-
2. Situational Crime Prevention and Nature of Crime

SCP has been predominantly associated with crimes like burglary or theft of varying nature. The worth of this technique has been proved beyond doubt in such offences. It is often felt that SCP may not be effective in many other varieties of crimes. The proponents of this school however claimed that SCP could be equally effective in several other kinds of crimes. The purpose of this section is to examine the issue.

SCP is always very specific. It is directed to target a particular crime. Hence, no generalisation is possible in this technique that may be made applicable to any other category of crime. Sometimes SCP needs to be reshaped even in the same type of offences. Poyner and Webb (1991) found that the prevention of domestic burglaries of electronic goods may require different measures from the domestic burglaries of cash and jewelleries. Clarke ( 1997) is of the view that SCP is applicable in all kinds of crime not just ‘opportunistic’ offences. Applying this to violent crimes, it is said that rates of homicide may have a situational angle as they are often found to be associated with the availability of guns in the society. SCP methods have also applied successfully in many grave crimes like hijacking prevention by strict baggage screening (Wilkinson, 1986) and prevention of robberies in post offices, buses etc by target hardening.( Ekblom, 1988). Clarke(1997) is also of the view that crimes of violence could also be approached by SCP. The use of technique of ‘deflecting of offenders’ was found useful in some cases. A study conducted in Australia convincingly depicted that SCP could prevent violence. Indermaur (1999 )said ‘ Situational prevention helps to focus on specific situations in which violence occurs and prevent those situations gravitating or escalating to the point where violence is more likely’. This study mainly focused on the prevention of alcohol related and gun related violence.
A publication from Helsinki Institute by Markku and Paksula (1997) discussed the applications of SCP in economic crimes.

New Considerations: As science and technology progresses, new forms of SCP will emerge. If SCP continues to remain effective, they would require keeping pace with the changes. The purpose here is to consider some more techniques in the framework of SCP. The new shape and structure of the SCP may be seen as ‘Integrated Situational crime Prevention’. The term ‘integrated’ is being used here to widen the reach of SCP measure. Notably, many vital measures are yet to be included and practiced as situational measures of crime reduction.

Proposing Integrated Situational Crime Prevention (ISCP):
The knowledge produced in several discipline of knowledge (Crime Science) could be used in SCP. The term Integrated Situational Crime Prevention symbolises the application of multidisciplinary knowledge in crime reduction initiatives. The efficacy of this approach heavily depends on utilising expertise available in all branch of learning. We will talk of couple of such measure and approaches that have been left out in the framework of SCP despite their great preventive value. The study proposes their inclusion in the ISCP.
1. Geo profiling: Geographic profiling is an emerging methodology that applies the locations of a connected series of crimes to determine the most probable area of offender residence. It is generally applied in cases of serial murder, rape, arson, and robbery, though it can be used in single crimes (auto theft, burglary bombing, etc.) that involve multiple scenes or other significant geographic characteristics.
The basis of geographic profiling is the link between geographic crime site information and the known propensities of serial criminals in their selection of a target victim and location. The system produces a map of the most probable location of the criminal’s centre of activity, which in most cases is the offender’s residence. When linked with additional information relating to the crime incidents, and with additional data sources, such as motor vehicles databases and suspect databases, geographic profiling has been proven to have a profound impact on the effectiveness of a police investigation (

2. Computer softwares in Crime reduction: Certain situational and managerial interventions could be carried by the applications of computer softwares. CrimePoint™ is a new software solution to aid law enforcement and public safety agencies. It provides investigators, analysts and administrators with an integrated data consolidation, analysis and visualization experience. There is software called ‘Crimestat’ that not only makes an spatial analysis of crime patters in the geographic locations but also prepares ‘hot analysis’ enabling the agencies to specifically address to the problems of crimes. Another useful software in this chain is ‘Crime risk analysis software’. Some further information in this regard can be seen at -

3. GIS solutions to Crime Reduction: The GIS has already become a powerful tool in the hands of crime analyst. The identifications of crime locations, patters, and mapping and hot places analysis become quite insightful with the GIS technology. In several countries, the police have already started using it. This tool needs to be used as an effective SCP measures.

4. Forensic solutions in situational crime prevention: This is one of the least explored areas. Forensic aided methods of investigation and detection have an effect on the crime scene in any community. There can be host of situationally effective measures from the angle of forensic science. The developments in voice identification devises, digital imaging, reconstruction of identity devises, forensic mapping, computer aided detection technology etc. could be included in this category.

5. E- solutions: In the present age of information technology, the cyber criminality has become a major challenge. There are number of ways within the framework of e-solutions to curb cyber crimes.
6. Strengthening private sector response: The private sector has recently emerged an effective resource in the community safety arena. To be able to be more effective, the SCP thinkers would require to strengthen this sector in all possible manner.

7. Security technology: The recent past has witnessed spectacular changes in security technology. The CCTV, microwave detection systems, portable radios and cameras, magnetic sensors, and laser technology, e- tracking systems are becoming household names in the security world. Recently invented electronic tracking devises do have great potential to become effective SCP measures. Electronic surveillance and computer tracking using radio, satellites, Internet and phone network are some of them. Use of personal GPS and GSM tracking devises and E-mail tracker with police could be extremely effective.

8. Capacity and Capability building for guardians: Speaking in terms of RAT, most criminal incidents have a situational bearing stemming from the incapacity and incapability of ‘guardians’. Depending upon the targets, the role of guardians is played by persons, agencies, organisations, security agencies or the police. The offenders often exploit the weaknesses or vulnerabilities in covering or protecting the targets. Therefore, the issue of Capacity and Capability building for guardians assume importance.
Summing up:
Some broad conclusions emerging out of the study can be summarized as below:

  1. The situational crime prevention ought to be viewed as a dynamic application. The need to widen its approach and applications in the newer setting and crimes is therefore imperative.

  2. SCP needs to be clearly located in the theoretical boundaries of criminological research. An attempt in this study has been made to this effect.

  3. SCP thinkers and practitioners will have to find satisfying answers to displacement factor.

  4. SCP needs to be tailored to respond other variety of crime. It can have applicability in cases of certain economic, violent crimes and terrorist crimes.

  5. Almost no research exists as to whether SCP would work in the changing context or not. The most SCP practices were carried out and evaluated in case UK, USA or Australia. The applicability of SCP in developing countries, diversified regions, and relatively lesser techno-oriented societies etc. is yet to be explored.

  6. SCP has many success stories in the UK and USA where the crimes rates have shown visible reduction due these measures.

  1. The issue of sustainability of SCP in long term is also crucial.
  2. The personnel applying and evaluating SCP needs to have adequate training orientation.

Implications for India:
One of the objectives of this study was to assess the adoptability and applications of situational crime prevention and crime reduction measures in case of India. Obviously, it could be an independent and vast study in itself. The idea here is, however, to do spadework for a subsequent study.
An exercise of this kind would need to take in to consideration a range of factors. These may pertain to the socio-geographical and criminal justice performance based issues. The state of India offers a context highly diversified in terms of all basic profile factors. Its geography is extensive and cultural context is heterogeneous. The population is more than one billion. The economy is vibrant and open. The police and law enforcement agencies have to work hard to cater to such a huge population. Crime scene in the country is critical. Its not the routine crimes like property offences every where but also serious violent crimes, organized crimes and particularly terrorist incidents in certain areas pose real challenges.
SCP can in fact contribute to reduce the incidence of theft, burglary, vandalism and street crimes in case of India. Most strikingly, several types of terrorist incidents, that occur due to security lapses or lack of vigil, can be responded by SCP. The methods like target hardening and access control and other could be made applicable in such cases. This can be achieved by undertaking some pilot project in any particular area. The results of measures applied in this case may be studied and crime reduction plans may be developed focusing upon the local requirement. The crime reduction partnership is another idea that can be given thought in India. The involvement of multi agency partnership in India can address to problems like crimes of everyday.

Needless to state that a careful consideration for applying SCP model in India would be needed. The task of project formulation, implementation and monitoring would require a full-fledged exercise. We may at this juncture be able to think of a SWOT analysis of applying the SCP in case of India. The major issues likely to be emerged in this pursuit are indicated in the following Table.



  • Reduction in manpower deployment

  • Evidence led outcome

  • Quick outcome

  • Wider effect (diffusion)

  • Effective

  • Target specific and outcome oriented


  • May not work for all types of crimes

  • Need high cost technology and enough budget

  • Feasible in techno savvy society

  • Create ‘Fortress society’

  • May not work in unstructured areas

  • Need responsive audience


  • Search for innovation in police in India is on

  • Pilot projects implementation possible

  • Consideration as anti Terrorist measure

  • Technological opportunities growing

  • Specialised units within police available


  • Promote ‘Big brother tactics’

  • State intrusion

  • Risk society

  • Displacement of crime

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