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It’s probably safe to say that a key driver of crime policy in countries like Britain and America over the past 50 or so years has been the notion of situational crime control. The idea, in a nutshell, that there can be no “solution to the problem of crime”, as such. The best we can do, both individually and as a society, is to limit its extent and impact.

To this end we’ve seen a wide range of theoretical (Routine Activities, Broken Windows…) and practical (from strategies to techniques) ideas and initiatives designed to reduce crime by making it harder to commit and a recent (2014) Scottish Government review of “what works” (and by extension, “what doesn’t work”) in relation to reducing crime and offending – What Works to Reduce Crime?: A Summary of the Evidence – looked at the evidence across three areas of crime control:

  • Targeting the underlying causes of crime.
  • Deterring potential offenders by making the cost of offending greater than the benefits.
  • Increasing the difficulty of offending by reducing opportunities to commit crime.
  • This, as you might expect, is a comprehensive review that covers an awful lot of ground. It runs to nearly 70 pages of text (plus extensive bibliography) lightened only by 4 simple (but nonetheless useful) PowerPoint graphics and, for reasons known only to the authors, a single, forlorn, table on page 24 dealing with “Trajectories of criminal convictions”. And if you’re wondering why this particular topic merited such special treatment, you may want to think about getting out a bit more.

    With the best will in the world, the Report isn’t something that’s likely to be read in full by many – if any – of your students because it’s so densely-packed with all-kinds of information, both statistical and otherwise. It is, however, a document you can mine for all kinds of information about situational crime prevention that can then be condensed and passed-on to your students in a format they’re more-likely to appreciate.

    Or not.

    You never can tell.

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