- What is Crime Prevention?
- Why have a Community Crime Prevention Action Plan?
- Develop a Community Crime Prevention Action Plan
- How to Evaluate
- Sources of Support
- Promising and Effective Practices
Community Crime Prevention Guide
Printable Version (PDF/1.4MB)
What is Crime Prevention?
- Definition of Crime
- Crime Prevention and Crime Reduction
- Definition of Crime Prevention
- Definition of Crime Reduction
- Overlap between Crime Prevention and Reduction
- Types of Crime Prevention
- Crime Prevention through Social Development (CPSD)
- Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED)
- Situational Crime Prevention
- Types of Crime Reduction
Crime is an act or omission that violates the law and is punishable upon conviction. It includes Criminal Code offences against a person or property, drug offences, motor vehicle offences and other provincial or federal statute offences. Disorderly behaviour such as aggressive panhandling, public urination and sleeping in the street are not necessarily criminal acts, but they do affect communities by a gradual erosion of the quality of life. The Community Crime Prevention Guide can be used to address both crime and disorderly behaviour.
Crime typically occurs when three things happen at the same time and in the same space:
- A motivated offender is present.
- A suitable target is available.
- There is either something or someone present which encourages the crime, or nothing or no-one to discourage it.
A slightly different way to look at this is to say that crime is about people, places and situations. Crime prevention and reduction strategies try to work on all these elements.
Crime prevention is a concept that has been used for a long time. A more recent concept is "crime reduction." The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, which can be confusing. What follows are descriptions of how the terms are typically used, and how they are used in this Guide.
The major difference between crime prevention and crime reduction is one of perspective.
In its purest form crime prevention looks at people (usually babies, children and young teens) who are not involved in criminal activity and asks, "What can we do to make sure they never come into conflict with the law?"
Crime prevention also looks at places and situations which are not yet troubled by much criminal activity and asks, "How can we make sure crime never becomes a significant problem here?" For example, in the early 1980s, a new mining community was being built in north-eastern British Columbia – Tumbler Ridge. The designers of the town followed principles which ensured a good flow of foot traffic through all parts of the town, and an easy view of areas where crime might occur, thus discouraging criminal activity. Because this was a brand new town, Tumbler Ridge was a classic example of pure crime prevention.
The perspective or starting point for crime reduction is people, places or situations already known for criminal activity. This can be a group of offenders who have racked up a long record of assaults and robbery. It might be a residential neighbourhood that has been plagued by break-ins. Or it could be a situation, such as out-of-control house parties where the peace is disturbed and underage drinking and sexual exploitation may take place. Crime reduction starts with assessing the current problem and developing strategies to decrease the amount of criminal activity, or minimize the harm it causes.
Crime reduction and crime prevention activities can often amount to the same thing. If a couple of assaults have taken place on a street at night, and better lighting is installed, this will both prevent future assaults and reduce the rate of assault on that street. It is not often that an entirely new community can be built from scratch, as in Tumbler Ridge, so most crime prevention takes place in the context of an existing community where there is some level of crime already. Therefore, many things done to deal with crime can either be called crime prevention (preventing future occurrences) or crime reduction (reducing an established crime problem), depending on your perspective. One form of crime prevention is called "tertiary crime prevention" and it deals specifically with preventing people already involved in crime from doing more crime. Some believe this is really crime reduction, but it is an established concept you will see in the crime prevention literature.
In this guide, we use "crime prevention" when talking about people not involved in crime now, but who may be at risk of criminal activity in the future. And when looking at places or situations, where the crime is not at a saturation or crisis point because it is difficult to find many that are completely untouched by crime, we use "crime prevention".
For the purposes of this guide, the term "crime reduction" is reserved for people already engaged in criminal activity, and places or situations where crime is an acute problem. When reading material found elsewhere, please bear in the mind that the terms may be used interchangeably.
Crime prevention can be broken down into people-, place- and situation-oriented strategies. The latter is often a blend of people and place-oriented strategies. The people-oriented strategy is usually known as "crime prevention through social development," or CPSD. Place-oriented strategies are known as "crime prevention through environmental design" or CPTED. When combined with situational approaches, these strategies form a holistic and effective crime prevention package.
Crime Prevention through Social Development (CPSD) involves long-term, integrated actions that deal with the root causes of crime. Its aim is to reduce risk factors that start people, particularly children and youth, on the road to crime, and to build protective factors that may mitigate those risks. The risk factors associated with criminal involvement are also related to many other social problems, such as child abuse and neglect, drug and alcohol misuse, school failure, teenage pregnancy, and unemployment. So when people and organizations work to prevent crime they are also working to make our communities healthy, safe and sustainable in many respects.
Research shows that certain conditions and experiences may influence whether a person turns to crime. For example, poor pre-natal care (bad diet, lack of health care and alcohol abuse by the mother) can lead to low birth weight, fetal alcohol syndrome and other conditions that can affect a child's physical and mental growth. If children have cognitive problems and have lacked warm, nurturing care in their early years, they are more susceptible to risky behaviour, including criminal activity.
CPSD works at making people healthy, responsible and resilient. In a free society, there will always be opportunities and temptations to do wrong – to take advantage of another person or a situation for our own benefit. CPSD promotes community values about non violence and respect for other people and their property, and helps young people resist peer pressure and make good decisions.
CPSD programming can occur at three levels:
- At the primary level, crime prevention refers to universal, population-based programs such as public education and healthcare.
- At the secondary level, crime prevention refers to programs that target those at higher risk for criminal activity. This level would include programs for youth at risk of leaving school and parenting programs for high-risk parents.
- At the tertiary level, crime prevention refers to rehabilitative and supervision programs for offenders to reduce re-offending.
Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) is about the places and things, the "built environment," which can be either targets of criminal activity or the location where crime takes place. The proper design, effective use and maintenance of the built environment can lead to a reduction in the incidence and fear of crime, and an improvement in quality of life.
CPTED is complementary to, and inter-related with, CPSD strategies as people live in the built environment and the built environment influences how people behave.
CPTED is based on the premise that much crime is opportunistic and contextual. Inadvertently, nuisance and criminal behaviour can be facilitated by poorly planned and designed space, leading to actual opportunities for crime, as well as increased levels of fear.
Through the effective use of CPTED principles, crime, nuisance behaviour and the fear of crime can be reduced. Application of CPTED principles to new developments prevents future problems; and using CPTED enhances problem-solving capability for existing developments.
There are four key CPTED design principles:
- Natural access control – design that directs and influences the flow of people to naturally maximize control and surveillance (e.g., exterior and interior design of a building, landscaping, lighting, and traffic calming).
- Natural surveillance – design to maximize visibility and ensure legitimate users can observe and monitor activities around them in a formal or casual manner (e.g., office or apartment windows with unimpeded sightlines to parking areas or other areas where crime is likely to occur).
- Territoriality – design of the physical environment to extend a perceived sense of influence or territory. People taking ownership of their surroundings makes it more difficult for offenders to carry out crimes or disorder.
- Maintenance – enhancement, maintenance and management of the built environment encourages the users of the area to respect their surroundings (e.g., removing graffiti and litter, avoiding overgrowth of hedges, fixing inoperative lighting, installing good locks).
Situational crime prevention looks at particular circumstances in which people interact with one another and with the built environment, identifies particularly risky combinations, and looks for solutions specific to those situations. Solutions may include:
- Increasing the effort required to commit a crime, making it less attractive.
- Increasing the risk of being caught.
- Reducing the potential rewards of crime.
- Reducing provocations and temptations.
- Removing excuses for committing crime.
Some of these solutions involve a combination of people-oriented and place-oriented strategies that overlap with crime prevention through social development or environmental design.
An example of situational crime prevention might address problems associated with intoxicated people leaving bars at closing time, such as fights and impaired driving. Situational solutions include education of bar staff and patrons about responsible drinking; regulations addressing the number, size and location of bars and their closing times; police presence at closing times; and availability of public transport.
Problems with credit cards might be addressed by increased security features on the cards themselves, business practices which require verification that the person presenting the card is the owner, bank procedures to rapidly cancel stolen cards, to limit the profit the thieves can make, and police action which targets known credit card thieves.
As with crime prevention, crime reduction activities can focus on people, places or situations.
Because crime reduction is focussed on existing criminals, crime locations and situations, it relies heavily on information or intelligence which describes those people, places and situations in great deal. What are the characteristics of the offenders, and the factors that support their criminal activity? What are the patterns of criminal activity – the frequency, times, locations, targets, and circumstances of the activity? In crafting a response that will reduce the activity, a number of partners are typically involved, and the timeliness and integration of the response is important. Examples of crime reduction include:
- Prolific offender management is a people-oriented strategy that focuses on offenders who are seen as the generators of the most offences. Generally, about 10 per cent of offenders are believed responsible for about 50 per cent of crime. Prolific offender management projects bring together resources from enforcement agencies (police, corrections and Crown), as well as health and social services to provide services to offenders. The goal is to address factors in offenders' lives that can increase their likelihood of offending, such as drug or alcohol use, and ensure an effective response when they re-offend or relapse.
- Targeting crime "hot spots" or geographic areas where there are high levels of crime, is primarily a place-oriented strategy. This could include increasing police presence or applying CPTED principles, such as changing traffic patterns. Hot spot strategies can align with people-oriented strategies. For example offenders who have court-ordered restrictions on where they can be, when they can be out, and who they can associate with, may be checked by police more frequently in hot spots, thus discouraging attendance.
- Managing major public gatherings that have a history of problems such as public intoxication, accidents and fights, is a situational strategy. Careful planning of the event from a crime reduction perspective would involve event organizers, police, municipal officials, first aid providers and others to ensure opportunities for crime are minimized, supervision and deterrence is maximized and rapid response to emergencies is available.