Analyse the effectiveness of situational and social crime prevention techniques in reducing criminal activity. Crime prevention refers to the range of strategies that are implemented by individuals, communities, businesses, non-government organisations and all levels of government to target the various social and environmental factors that increase the risk of crime, disorder and victimisation. The two prevention techniques, situational and social, are effective in reducing criminal activity although it probably could be better.
Situational crime prevention is based upon the premise that crime is often opportunistic and aims to modify contextual factors to limit the opportunities for offenders to engage in criminal behaviour. Situational prevention comprises a range of measures that highlight the importance of targeting very specific forms of crime in certain circumstances. This involves identifying, manipulating and controlling the situational or environmental factors associated with certain types of crime. It is also based upon assumptions regarding the nature of offending and of offenders.
By gaining an understanding of these circumstances, mechanisms are then introduced to change the relevant environments with the aim of reducing the opportunities for particular crimes. Thus, situational crime prevention focuses on crime prevention rather than the punishment or detection of criminals and its intention is to make criminal activities less appealing to offenders. There is considerable evidence of the effectiveness of situational crime prevention in reducing crime, both in Australia and overseas.
A review of the evidence by Eck (2006a) showed opportunity reduction measures can reduce crime in many circumstances with little evidence of displacement. An evaluation of the UK Reducing Residential Burglary Initiative found that areas where more money had been invested in situational prevention rather than offender-focused prevention and those that were flexible in their delivery were generally more successful in reducing residential burglary.
While there is insufficient evidence to determine the most cost-effective approach in modifying environmental conditions to prevent crime, there is sufficient evidence that situational crime prevention is an economically efficient strategy in reducing crime. Although this strategy will not always prevent crimes from being committed, people may be deterred from committing a crime when there are more opportunities for them to be caught. Rather than ocusing on the physical environment, social crime prevention is most commonly directed at trying to influence the underlying social and economic causes of crime, as well as offender motivation. This approach tends to include crime prevention measures that take some time to produce the intended results. This may include action to improve housing, health and educational achievement, as well as improved community cohesion through community development measures.
The government spends millions of dollars in different areas to try and combat social problems including: poor home environment and parenting, social and economic disadvantages, poor school attendance, and early contact with the police and other authorities. If such early crime prevention programs can change the course that a potential offender is on, it might prevent them from ever being in a situation where they feel encouraged to commit an offence.
That is why this prevention technique is such an effective tool in the prevention of crime. Evidence from a small (but growing) number of comprehensive evaluation studies has demonstrated the long term effectiveness of early intervention in achieving significant reductions in participant’s involvement in crime, as well as improvements in areas such as educational performance, child maltreatment, workforce participation, child and youth behaviour, income and substance abuse.
In addition to the obvious social benefits, these outcomes are also associated with significant financial savings, both for the community and the participant. The savings produced by early intervention programs include reductions in welfare assistance, decreased need for special education, increases in income tax revenue from the higher wages of participants (due to improved educational attainment), reduced operational costs to the criminal justice system and reduced costs to victims.
Crime prevention has entered a new, more robust phase of research activity and holds greater relevance to policy and practice today than ever before. It stands as an important component of an overall strategy to reduce crime. These strategies have evolved from the widely held view of the need to strike a greater balance between prevention and punishment. Social and situational crime prevention seem well poised to help change the rate of criminal activity and make a major contribution to crime reduction in this country.