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Managing Crime: Situational Crime Prevention

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

More Crime and Deviance pages from the University of Portsmouth, where this time the focus is on situational crime prevention. These pages are mainly based around the work of Hough, Clarke and Mayhew (1980) and Clarke (1992) that situated the idea of crime prevention around three broad strategies:

• Increase the effort
• Increase the risks
• Reduce the rewards

While there are some observations about the theoretical basis of Situational Crime Prevention – including a short section on Routine Activities Theory that we’ve previously mapped visually – most of the pages are devoted to examples of the practical implementation of the various crime prevention strategies identified by Clarke (1992). If you want a visual representation of these strategies that complements the following pages, this PowerPoint is one we posted earlier. You’ll notice a slight mismatch between the PowerPoint and the Strategies listed below that comes about because the PowerPoint, by Cornish and Clarke (2003), has updated the “broad strategies” by adding two more: “Reduce stimulus” and “Remove excuses”.

Techniques

1. Target Hardening

2. Access Control

3. Deflecting offenders 

4. Controlling Facilitators

5. Entry/Exit Screens

6. Formal surveillance

7. Private Security

8. Citizen Patrols 

9. Citizen surveillance

10. CCTV

11. Surveillance by employees

12. Natural surveillance  

Update

I’ve managed to find a link to the Menu System used by these pages which means you can access them all relatively easily without having to go to each individual page.

If the page gives you an access error, simply refresh it and all should be well.

 

Situational Crime Prevention: The (New Right) Theory

Monday, July 10th, 2017

In two previous posts (Categorising Situational Crime Prevention Strategies  and Categorising Situational Crime Prevention: Techniques and Exampleswe looked at some examples of situational crime prevention strategies and techniques and this third post examines the theoretical background to situational crime prevention in a couple of ways:

Firstly, by looking at the broad background in terms of a general “environmental discourse” that encompasses both cultural and physical environments.

Secondly by looking at a couple of specific New Right approaches – Control Theory and Routine Activities Theory – that flow from this general discourse.

 

Situational Crime Prevention Video

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

This is a video version of the Cornish and Clarke Situational Crime Prevention PowerPoint presentation.

The film runs for around 3 minutes.

Categorising Situational Crime Prevention Strategies

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

Situational crime prevention is an area that has grown in significance over the past 30 years, both in terms of social policies towards crime and sociological / criminological solutions to “the problem of crime”; it involves, according to Clarke (1997), a range of measures designed to reduce or eliminate “opportunities for crime” in three main ways:

  • The measures are “directed at highly specific forms of crime”.
  • They involve “the management, design or manipulation of the immediate environment in a systematic and permanent way”.
  • They “make crime more difficult and risky, or less rewarding and excusable”.

  • One potential difficulty for a-level students new to the concept, however, is the number and variety of different examples of situational crime prevention – from spatial and environmental controls (Designing Out Crime), through different forms of target hardening, to various types of formal and informal population surveillance and beyond.

    To help students organize and make sense of this material, therefore, it can be useful to categorise it in terms of different situational crime prevention:

    Strategies – the primary level of organisation and
    Techniques associated with these strategies – the secondary level of organisation.

    In this respect the work of Cornish and Clarke (2003) is instructive here because they identity 5 strategies that can be used as a primary level of organisation for ideas about situational crime prevention:

    1. Increase the effort required to commit a crime: This deters a wide range of opportunistic crimes if the time and effort to commit them is increased.
    2. Increase the risks associated with the crime: Increasing the likelihood of apprehension lowers the likelihood of a crime being committed.
    3. Reduce the rewards of crime: If the value gained from offending can be lowered there is less incentive for crime.
    4. Reduce stimulus that provokes crime: Careful management of the social and physical environment reduces incentives for criminal behaviour
    5. Remove excuses: Clearly signposting behavioural rules and laws removes the argument that people did not know they were behaving deviantly or illegally.


    The secondary level of organisation identified by Cornish and Clarke involves 25 different crime prevention techniques (5 associated with each strategy) that can be introduced to students if you want them to dig deeper into situational crime prevention. These ideas will be introduced and explained in a subsequent post (probably, but not necessarily, called “Part 2″).

    Situational Crime Prevention

    Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

    scpExamples of different types of Situational Crime Prevention aren’t too hard to find (Alley Gates / Defensible Space, various forms of target-hardening etc.) but a couple of new ones – to me at least – might be useful to add to the list:

    1, Community Shelters: Used as “safe places” for “young people” (12 -18) to meet as an alternative to hanging around on the street. Often used in conjunction with Police Community Support Officers and seen as a way to:

  • Provide “safe spaces” for young people.
  • Control youth behaviour (as a way of keeping them away from businesses and residential properties).

  • 2. Community Triggers: Anyone who has reported a certain number of Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) incidents (usually 3 or more) can demand a review by relevant authorities (such as the Council or police) to explore ways a perceived and persistent problem can be resolved.

    Crime and Deviance Theories

    Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

    A little while back (maybe 5 or 6 years ago – I lose track) I created 3 Crime and Deviance Presentations that were, I like to think, quite ground-breaking at the time for their combination of text, graphics, audio and video – and while they may be looking a little dated now they still have a little mileage left in them. Probably. You can be the judge of that, I suppose.

    Anyway, I think I only ever posted an early version of the Functionalism file and having rediscovered the files on one of my many hard drives I thought it might be nice to update the files slightly, mainly to fix a few little irritating bugettes, such as text not conforming correctly to the original font size and post them here.

    The Presentations, which can be downloaded as PowerPoint Shows (.ppsx) in case you want to use them without the need to have PowerPoint, were, I think, originally designed as some sort of revision exercise, but I could be, and frequently am, wrong.

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    Even More Online Crime Modules

    Thursday, June 21st, 2018

    These online Crime and Deviance learning modules cover situational crime prevention, white-collar crime and hate crime.

    After a brief detour down the side road that is Research Methods we’re back on the main Crime and Deviance highway with a serendipitous (i.e. totally unrelated but I needed to make this post a bit longer so I could fit some screenshots into it) set of modules developed by the University of Portsmouth, presumably to allow their students to enjoy the freedom to not bother attending lectures that is online learning (only joking. I’m pretty sure Portsmouth students are as diligent and industrious as the students from any other Palace of Learning you might care to name).

    The three modules are as follows:

    1. Situational Crime Prevention
    • Prevention Strategies
    • Situational Crime prevention theory
    • Target hardening and removal
    • Removing inducements
    • Rule setting
    • Surveillance (formal and informal)
    • Criticism of Situational Crime Prevention

    If you fancy delving a little deeper into this general area, the Situational Crime Prevention materials I’ve previously posted might help.

    2. Fraud
    • Fraud and Criminology
    • White Collar Crime

    3. Hate Crime
    • Definitions
    • Hate Crime Laws
    • The case for and against Hate Crime laws

    The By-Now Obligatory Tech Note: Depending on the age and type of your browser, you may find there are a few display issues with the resources. These issues, however, have a couple of work-arounds that should allow you to see the resources:

    1. If the main information window doesn’t load correctly you may see a blank window with a menu to the left. If this happens try refreshing your browser and the main window should load correctly. Alternatively, click the on-screen arrow to close the menu, click it again to open it and select an option. This seems to refresh the main window correctly.

    2. If you see an “access denied” message in the main information window click the module title link to the right of the page navigation menu (First, Previous, Next, Last…). This takes you to a page where you have the option to “View This Resource”. Clicking this link should make everything work okay.

    Crime Displacement PowerPoint

    Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

    Over the past 50 years it’s probably fair to say that a great deal of the sociology of crime and deviance in both America and, to a lesser extent, the UK, has been orientated towards situational crime prevention techniques and strategies in terms of both practical strategies and theoretical explanations (such as Routine Activities Theory).

    Part of the reason for this preoccupation with both building better – and trying to strengthen existing – mouse-traps is that there’s quite a bit of evidence to demonstrate the efficacy of various crime prevention strategies in reducing crime. Painter and Farringdon’s Stoke-on-Trent Street Lighting study, for example, is a case in point if you want to illustrate this idea.

    However – and you probably knew there would be a but – when you’re looking at situational crime prevention in a-level sociology it’s always useful to have something up your sleeve for evaluation purposes and, in this instance, there are a couple of different types of “Yes, but…” evaluation you might want to consider.

    T6: Types of Crime Displacement

    The first focuses on six practical criticisms of SCP put-forward by Reppetto (1976) and Barr and Pease (1990) that describe various ways crime may be displaced by crime prevention techniques; that is, although a crime may be “prevented” it’s possible the offence is simply committed elsewhere, at a different time or by different people. In other words, while SCP strategies may give the appearance of “preventing crime” they may not be successful in every instance.

    An obvious example here might be the presence of a burglar alarm on a property. This may deter an offender but if they simply move to burgle another, unprotected, property in the next street has a crime actually been prevented?

    If you want to display the 6 types to your class I’ve put them into a simple Crime Displacement PowerPoint Presentation that should do the job adequately. If you’re not a PowerPoint Person the 6 types of crime displacement are:

    1. Temporal: The crime is committed at a different time.

    2. Tactical: The crime is committed using a different method.

    3. Target: The crime is committed against a different target.

    4. Territorial: The crime is committed in a different area.

    5. Type (or Functional): A different type of crime is committed.

    6. Transgressors (or Perpetrator Displacement): Prevented crimes are committed by different offenders.

    While the types are, I trust, fairly self-explanatory you might want to think about examples you could use to illustrate each type (or maybe suggest one example if needed and ask your students to think of others). A relatively simple example of Territorial crime displacement, for example, might be something like prostitution or drug-dealing.

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    Rational Choice Theory | 2

    Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

    This second (of two) posts evaluates Rational Choice Theory and, by extension, any New Right / Right Realist theories based on the notion of rational cost-benefit analyses of criminal motivation.

    Digested Read

    A list of all the relevant bits to save you having to read through the rest of the post…

    • Rational Choice Theory (RCT) reminds us that an understanding of social action – how and why people make certain choices – is important for an understanding of criminal behaviour. It also focuses our attention on crime as a rational process.

    • A cost-benefit analysis of offending fits neatly with a common sense understanding of criminal behaviour. It also underpins a range of contemporary crime theories – such as RCT, Broken Windows and Routine Activities – that can be generally characterised as Right Realist. It has, however, serious limitations related to how offenders receive and process information, particularly in time-limited situations.

    • An alternative and, according to Simon (1956), more realistic way to understand the behaviour of offenders, is to see it in terms of a bounded rationality. Interview evidence, for example, suggests burglars evaluate alternative forms of behaviour within what Walters (2015) calls “the limits of their knowledge and abilities”. Offenders, in this respect, seem to make “rational enough” decisions based on a range of “rule-of-thumb” beliefs and experiences.

    • If a cost-benefit model of criminal decision-making is invalid, this has important ramifications for both crime-control theories and situational crime prevention techniques and strategies. More specifically it suggests that if offenders do not rationally weigh likely benefits against potential costs any attempt to lower the former and raise the latter will have only a limited long-term effect on crime.

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    Stealing to Offer: A Market Reduction Approach

    Thursday, October 25th, 2018

    While Situational Crime Prevention (SCP) strategies come in many forms, the majority focus on identifying and developing ways to stop an offence taking place.

    Market Reduction Approaches, however, while sharing a similar crime reduction / elimination objective, are a little different because their focus is on preventing offenders profiting from various forms of economic crime, such as theft, by reducing the markets for stolen goods.

    While this may seem a little counter-intuitive – how effective is a “crime prevention approach” that says little or nothing about actually preventing crime? – there is evidence to suggest (Sutton, 2008) that preventing offenders liquidating stolen assets is an effective form of crime prevention and control.

    In general, ideas about Situational Crime Prevention fall into two main categories:

    1. Reducing the potential benefits offenders get from their crimes.

    2. Increasing the potential costs offenders face when deciding whether or not to commit a crime.

    Most situational crime prevention initiatives have generally given greater attention to the latter, while less interest has been shown in the former. Although there may be a number of reasons for this, one possibility is the belief that increasing costs reduces crime and therefore obviates the need to address the “benefit reduction problem”: reducing levels of crime by increasing costs, so this argument goes, effectively takes the “benefit problem” out of the equation.

    However, the idea that increasing the costs of crime actually reduces crime – as opposed, for example, to displacing it – is one that has come to be increasingly questioned, partly because it doesn’t address an offender’s underlying motivations for crime.

    If, for example, one motive is to commit a crime, such as theft, in order to sell stolen goods for cash to buy drugs, making it harder and riskier to steal simply ups-the-ante for the offender, rather than necessarily preventing a crime from taking place.

    A Market Reduction Approach (MRA) to crime takes the opposite view: rather than controlling crime by making the act itself more difficult and riskier, it argues that making it more difficult or, ideally, impossible, for offenders to benefit from their crimes – by restricting or eliminating their ability to convert stolen goods into cash for example – is a highly-effective form of crime prevention.

    What’s their value if you can’t sell them?

    In this respect, MRA suggests the costs of crime shouldn’t be treated as being separate from and unconnected to its potential benefits. Rather, such costs are, in effect, rolled-up into “a lack of benefit”, such as an inability to sell the goods you have stolen.

    The logic here is that if you can’t convert what you’ve stolen – such as a mobile phone or computer – into cash, it takes away the incentive and motivation to steal them in the first place. This follows for two reasons:

    1. There’s little point in taking the risk of stealing something if it is worthless to you (unless, of course, you particularly like hoarding mobile phones, computers, various electrical goods and the like)

    2. You are left to store a range of worthless goods that, if discovered, may lead to jail time.

    Sutton argues here that an effective MRA involves reducing:

    • the number of offers of stolen goods made by thieves to potential buyers
    • the outlets for stolen goods
    • the number of thieves and handlers by encouraging them to explore non-criminal alternatives, rather than just alternative crimes.

    The logic here is one that reduces the need to increasingly “raise the costs of crime” (with all its attendant private and public expenditure, inconvenience and so forth) by focusing police and public attention on reducing the benefits of crime. If an offender knows they will gain no benefit – because they can’t convert their crimes into cash – this removes most of, if not all, their motivation for crime.

    This has the additional social benefit of both reducing the costs of dealing with offenders (through arrests, prosecutions, prisons and so forth) and reducing the risk of offending / re-offending; if a potential offender is demotivated by a sound knowledge of a lack of perceived benefit, there is little reason to suppose they will continue to offend.

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    Rational Choice Theory | 1

    Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

    This first of two posts on Rational Choice Theory (RCT) provides an overview of a key New Right theory whose central argument about criminal rationality underpins a range of later Right Realist explanations for crime.

    Rational Choice Theory (RCT) is one of a group of theories – including Broken Windows and Routine Activities Theory – that applies ideas developed to explain economic behaviour – in particular the idea individuals are rational and self-interested – to the explanation of criminal behaviour. The theory reflects, as Wilson (1983) puts it, the idea that “some scholars, especially economists, believe that the decision to become a criminal can be explained in much the same way as we explain the decision to become a carpenter or to buy a car”.

    Gary Becker

    While ideas about individual self-interest and rational choices in economic behaviour are well-established, their application to crime and criminal motivations, initially through the work of economists such as Becker (1968), gives them a contemporary twist that can be outlined in the following way:

    1. Offenders are not qualitatively different to non-offenders

    There’s nothing in the sociological or psychological background of offenders that either causes or explains their offending. To take a simple example: while many poor, deprived, individuals commit crimes, many more from the same social background do not.

    A key concept here is agency: the idea people make choices about their behaviour that are neither determined nor necessarily influenced by their social and / or psychological backgrounds. Rather, choices are made in the context of particular situations – particularly the opportunities that are available for the commission of crimes.

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    Restorative Justice: An Educational Dimension

    Thursday, January 4th, 2018

    You may – or as is probably more likely, may not – recall a post a while back that outlined some ideas on Braithwaite and Restorative Justice  as they relate to crime and criminal behaviour – a fact I mention only because I came across an interesting short video on how a school in Colorado (and no-doubt others in America) have introduced a form of restorative justice as an alternative to the more-traditional forms of punishment generally meted-out in such schools.

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    SCP and the Craving for Hot Products

    Saturday, July 8th, 2017

    An important dimension of Routine Activities Theory is the element of target suitability and selection. Even in situations where a motivated offender is somewhere that lacks active guardians, how and why they select one target rather than another is an important question in relation to situational crime prevention.

    This was directly addressed by Felson and Cohen (1979), for example, in their “VIVA” mnemonic (Value, Inertia, Visibility, Accessibility) but Clarke (1999) has taken these general ideas further by arguing that some potential targets have what he calls “choice structuring properties”.

    That is, rather than thinking about crime conventionally in terms of an offender setting out to commit a criminal act, arriving in a place where the act can be committed and then selecting a suitable target some targets – what Clarke terms “Hot Products” – have characteristics that may:

  • Suggest the idea of theft to potential offenders and
  • Encourage them to seek out settings where desired products may be found.

  • In other words, the existence of “hot products” contributes to various forms of both opportunistic and carefully-planned crime and if we understand the characteristics of these products – the things that make them desirable objects (in both the manifest sense of their value and the latent sense of motivating individuals to possess them) – this will contribute towards an understanding of the situational controls that need to be developed around such targets.

    Clarke, in this respect, developed the mnemonic CRAVED to define the characteristics of hot products and I’ve developed two PowerPoint Presentations identifying each element in the mnemonic.

    This version simply displays the mnemonic as a self-running presentation – you can use this version if you simply want to present these ideas to students.

    This version offers the same information but can be used if you want to involve your students a little more. The presentation displays the CRAVED mnemonic but in order to display the meaning of each letter it has to be clicked. If you wanted to see if your students could work-out the characteristics of a hot product (such as a mobile / cell phone) this is the version to use.

    If you want to look in more detail at either the CRAVED mnemonic or Clarke’s ideas about hot products you can download his 1999 chapter “Hot Products: understanding, anticipating and reducing demand for stolen goods”.

    Visualising Routine Activities Theory

    Friday, July 7th, 2017

    Routine Activities Theory has been described (by me, just now) as one of the key theoretical contributions to the development of Situational Crime Prevention strategies and techniques. In broad terms it sees crime as the outcome of both “opportunity” (Mayhew, 1976; Clarke, 1988) and “routine activities” (Cohen and Felson 1979) and represents, for Felson and Boba (2010), “A theory of how crime changes in response to larger shifts in society”.

    While the general theory can appear quite complex to students – and contains numerous developments and qualifications – at root it offers a fairly simple outline of the relationship between, on the one hand, potential offenders and, on the other, the social controls that may exist to deter offending.

    The objective of this PowerPoint Presentation, therefore, is to provide a visual representation of the factors that contribute to both offending and crime prevention, within the context of routine activities theory.

    Categorising SCP: Techniques and Examples

    Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

    The first post in this short series outlined what Cornish and Clarke (2003) called 5 Situational Crime Prevention strategies and this PowerPoint Presentation develops this to include what they argued were “25 crime prevention techniques” associated with these strategies. In the presentation each technique is both briefly explained and illustrated.

    This material is presented as a PowerPoint because this format allows you to control how much – or how little – information to give your students.

    It may be that for some purposes it’s enough for students just to understand that grouping Situational Crime Prevention into 5 broad strategy categories (from Increasing the Effort to Reducing the Reward) will help them organise their thoughts about this general area.

    For others it might be helpful to illustrate each strategy with 5 crime prevention techniques and, if necessary, further illustrate each technique with examples.