Crime Prevention Strategies: Plain Language Summaries

Although keeping up-to-date with the latest research is something that should happen in an ideal world, the reality is that few of us have either the time or inclination to:

a. Find and read a whole bunch of often-obscure research publications.

b. Summarise this meta-analysis in a pithy, student-friendly, way.

c. Present the information so that students might be tempted to read it.

This last one is, of course, optional. And probably wildly over-optimistic.

The obvious solution to this dilemma is to get someone else to do all the work.

  • On the plus side, Campbell Collaboration “an international, voluntary, non-profit research network that publishes systematic reviews” has done just that.
  • On the down side, the Crime and Deviance summaries are focused on an empirical evaluation of the effectiveness of crime prevention strategies.
  • Having said that, if you teach or study crime and deviance, crime prevention is likely to feature on the course and having some ready-made summaries and critiques of strategies such as zero-tolerance policing could well be useful.

    If you prefer to root through the Campbell Collaboration documents that’s not a problem, but in case you don’t I’ve selected what I think are the most relevant for A-level / High School Sociology. By way of explanation, I’ve listed the research title, author/s and year, followed by a textbook-friendly conclusion about the strategy’s effectiveness in reducing crime and a link to the Plain Language Summary – a two-page overview of the research.


    “Disorder policing to reduce crime”: Braga et al, 2019

    Disorderly conditions are seen as a precursor to more serious crime, fear of crime, and neighbourhood decline. Policing disorder is associated with reductions in crime, but only when community and problem-solving tactics are used. Aggressive, order maintenance based approaches (“Zero-tolerance policing”) are not effective. Plain Language Summary

    “Body-worn cameras’ effects on police officers and citizen behavior”: Lum et al. 2020

    Body-worn cameras do not have clear or consistent effects on most officer or citizen behaviors. Plain Language Summary

    “Red light camera interventions for reducing traffic violations and traffic crashes”: Cohn et al. 2020

    Red light cameras photograph violators at traffic signals. They can reduce red light running, total injury crashes, and right angle crashes. However, they may also increase the risk of rear end crashes. The impact of red light cameras on other types of crashes, including total crashes overall, is unclear. Plain Language Summary

    “Problemoriented policing for reducing crime and disorder”: Hinkle et al, 2020

    Problem-oriented policing (POP) is associated with statistically significant reductions in crime and disorder. Place-based POP programs are more likely to produce a diffusion of benefits into areas adjacent to targeted locations than to lead to crime displacement. Plain Language Summary

    “Focused deterrence strategies effects on crime”: Braga et al, 2019

    A relatively small number of groups and persons are responsible for a disproportionate share of crime. Focused deterrence strategies attempt to reduce offending behaviour for specific types of crime. These strategies are associated with moderate overall reductions in crime. Crime is not displaced to other areas, rather it is more likely that there is a diffusion of crime control benefits to adjacent areas and similar people and groups. Plain Language Summary

    “Hot spots policing of small geographic areas effects on crime”: Braga et al, 2019

    Hot spots policing is associated with small but meaningful reductions in crime at locations where criminal activities are most concentrated. Focusing police efforts at high activity crime places is more likely to produce a diffusion of crime prevention benefits into areas adjacent to targeted hot spots than crime displacement. Plain Language Summary

    “Factors associated with youth gang membership in low- and middle-income countries”: Higginson et al, 2018

    Youth gang membership is associated with delinquency, violent crime and trafficking. A range of individual, peer, family, school and community factors can predict the likelihood of youths getting involved with gangs. Knowledge of these factors can be helpful for reducing gang membership. Plain Language Summary

    “Juvenile curfew effects on criminal behavior and victimization”: Wilson et al, 2016

    The evidence suggests that juvenile curfews do not reduce crime or victimization. Plain Language Summary

    “The effects on re-offending of custodial vs non-custodial sanctions”: Villettaz et al, 2015

    Custodial sentences, such as prison, are no better than non-custodial sentences in reducing re-offending. Plain Language Summary

    “Corporate crime deterrence”: Simpson et al, 2014

    Laws have a modest effect on preventing non-compliance among firms and for the geographic unit governed by the law, but not on individuals. Regulatory policy deters non-compliance among individuals but not companies. Using more than one intervention at the same time was found to have a small and consistent deterrent effect both on individuals and corporations. Plain Language Summary

    “Restorative justice conferencing (RJC) using face-to-face meetings of offenders and victims: effects on offender recidivism and victim satisfaction”: Strang et al, 2013

    Face-to-face restorative justice conferences (RJCs) between offenders and victims have a modest but highly cost-effective impact on reoffending. Victims’ satisfaction with the handling of their cases is consistently higher among those who attend RJCs, compared to those dealt with solely by standard criminal justice processes, usually the courts. Plain Language Summary

    “‘Scared straight’ and other juvenile awareness programs for preventing juvenile delinquency”: Petrosino et al, 2013

    Scared straight awareness programs aim to deter crime and criminal behaviour by providing first-hand experience of prison life and interaction with adult inmate to juvenile delinquents or children at risk of becoming delinquent. Contrary to their purpose, scared straight programs fail to deter crime, leading to more offending behaviour not less. Plain Language Summary

    “Legitimacy in policing”: Mazerolle et al, 2013

    Effective policing requires voluntary public cooperation. Citizens are more likely to cooperate when they view the police as legitimate. This review assesses the direct and indirect benefits of interventions to enhance police legitimacy. These interventions increase public satisfaction with and confidence in the police and reduce reoffending. Plain Language Summary

    “Effects of closed circuit television surveillance on crime”: Welsh and Farrington, 2008

    CCTV surveillance has a modest effect on personal property crime but not on levels of violent crime. CCTV can be effective in reducing crime in car parks. Plain Language Summary

    “Effects of improved street lighting on crime”: Welsh and Farrington, 2008

    There is an alternative to increased surveillance as a means of preventing crime in public space. The solution is closer than we think: improved street lighting. A new Cambell systematic review shows that improved street lighting reduces crimes by 21 percent. Furthermore, improved street lighting even reduces daytime crime. Researchers believe the improvement in crime rates happens because better lighting is a sign of an orderly neighbourhood; a neighbourhood where people call the police if they see a crime. Plain Language Summary

    “Effects of cognitive-behavioral programs for criminal offenders”: Lipsey et al, 2007

    Cognitive-behavioural therapy can prevent criminal offenders from continuing their criminal careers. However, some treatment programmes work better than others. A new Campbell review shows that a small number of factors make the difference. It is particularly important for the programmes to be stringently implemented, by well-trained providers. No significant differences were found in the effectiveness of the different types of programmes or “brand names”. Whether the treatment is implemented in prison or in the community has no influence on the outcome. Plain Language Summary

    “Effects of correctional boot camps on offending”: Wilson et al, 2005

    Boot camps are disciplinary institutions where young criminals are placed under militaristic conditions in the belief that a stay at a boot camp can help reduce the risk of the young people relapsing into crime. The method is especially common in the USA, but in other countries there is also debate as to whether the controversial boot camps should be tested. However, a new international Campbell review of the best research findings establishes that the method does not have a positive effect compared to other traditional forms of correctional practice when it comes to reducing criminal behaviour. Plain Language Summary

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