The crime problem

The crime problem will only be solved when the government decides to put more police on the streets. What alternatives to crime prevention are there besides increasing police numbers? Are they effective? Crime is an integral part of human civilization. The term 'crime' refers to minor criminal offences, for example vandalism, to major criminal offences such as homicide. The crime problem can be seen through the national crime statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics which reveal, for example, assault as a major crime problem area, with a total of 17,894 cases in 2002, and motor vehicle theft attracting 28,891 cases (www.abs. gov. au).

Fear of crime adversely affects the general community, the Government and "a person's health" (www. ncp. gov. au) which can "impose restrictions on people's lives" (Windlesham, 1998, p. 5). Police form one body which address the crime problem. Over the twentieth century police numbers have increased, currently at their highest level in 100 years (Sarre & Tomaino, 2000, p. 58). Police are an integral part of the criminal justice system, however, Sarre and Tomaino (1999) believe that "crime is, for the most, a phenomenon that exists outside the control of the police" (Sarre & Tomaino, 1999, p. 96).

Crime occurs on the streets, in the home and at the office. More police on the streets would therefore not address community crime problems, but would provide only a band-aid approach. The australian bureau of statistics notes that in 2002, in cases involving "murder, attempted murder, assault and sexual assault, the victim was most likely to have been subjected to the offence in a residential location" (www. abs. gov. au). Crime prevention "strives to develop alternatives to police and other criminal justice interventions" (Goldsmith, 2003, p. 332). Prevention strategies include community policing, the situational approach and education.

Police serve as one body in the broader plan to combat and prevent crime. Sarre and Tomaino (1999) state "most of the variation in crime rates among population aggregations of substantial size can be predicted by factors other than police strength" (Sarre & Tomaino, 1999, p. 96). The Government's decision to put more police on the street would not address all criminal activity, therefore it would not solve the crime problem. Crime Prevention is a relatively new concept that "began to come of age in Australia in the last two decades" (Cameron, Laycock, 1999, p. 313).

There are three forms of prevention: primary, secondary and tertiary. Primary prevention is aimed at preventing the problem before it occurs in practice. This can be done using concepts such as 'community policing' and education programs. Secondary prevention is early detection of a potentially dangerous situation or individual, and providing necessary intervention to avoid the crime actually being committed. This can be achieved through measures such as social and support groups. Tertiary prevention refers to the process of the criminal justice system (Cameron, Laycock, 1999, p. 313-314).

These three areas of crime prevention need to be addressed when looking at efficient and effective measures for combating the crime problem. The crime problem will not be solved when the Government put more police on the streets. The verb 'to police' means 'to control' (Beattie, 2001, p. 53) and was first practiced in England in the early eighteenth century as a synonym for what might be called social administration (Beattie, 2001, p. 77). Since the British settlement, conventional police forces in Australia have played a principal role in crime prevention and law enforcement (Sarre & Tomaino, 2000, p. 57).

Police play a large part in public order, however, they need not be the sole providers of order maintenance (Sarre & Tomaino, 2000, p. 66). Australia currently has both a Federal and State based system of policing services with police taking up the largest proportion of Australian expenditures on the criminal justice system and related safety and security services (Sarre & Tomaino, 2000, p. 54). More police on the streets would not 'solve' the crime problem as Sarre and Prenzler (2000) argue "typically, only about a third of a patrol officer's time will involve responding to incidents that become treated as offences.

The remainder is spent resolving disputes, restoring order, or assisting people with problems such as rowdy parties, prowlers, traffic accidents, or missing persons" (Sarre & Tomaino, 2000, p. 54). Sarre and Prenzler go on to support this statement by proclaiming that "quantifiable performance indicators to police, though highly problematic, suggests that the enormous budget expenditure invested each year by governments in this country is not resulting in significant reduction in crime" (Sarre & Tomaino, 2000, p. 71).

This can be seen in the following statistics where in 2000, forty percent of all released prisoners were re-arrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor by the end of the first year (Lin, 2000, p. 3). The idea of police as the sole, or even the primary, agency responsible for law enforcement and crime prevention is no longer a viable method of crime prevention (Sarre & Tomaino, 2000, p. 54). Other crime prevention areas must be addressed to combat the crime problem, as police are only one segment of the larger criminal justice system.

One way of combating crime, without increasing police numbers is to introduce a method of crime prevention referred to as 'community policing'. Community policing is "a style of policing that encourages police consultation with, and proactivity for, the communities they serve" (Sarre & Tomaino, 1999, p. 93). It refers to when police engage and inspire the community towards greater participation in maintaining order and reducing crime through a process of local consultation (Sarre & Tomaino, 2000, p. 65).

Police often find themselves somewhat removed from the communities they serve due to a number of new technologies, which find police conducting duties from "within motor vehicles, behind tinted windows or armoured cars and from a distance" (Sarre & Tomaino, 1999, p. 95). In 1999 "Experts began to acknowledge that simply injecting more resources into law enforcement had an almost negligible effect upon crime rates" (Sarre & Tomaino, 1999, p. 96). It is now recognized that no amount of police training and knowledge can be replaced by proactive "face-to-face contact with those whom the police served".

Police must involve the community in 'partnership' approaches to solving problems of crime, disorder, and victimisation (Sarre & Tomaino, 2000, p. 65). Central to the notion of 'community policing' is changing the traditional processes of policing away from reactive measures, towards proactive measures after the community has been consulted. There will always be a need for traditional policing strategies in crime prevention, however the notion of communities being involved in this process has taken an "equal profile…

in overall police strategies" (Sarre & Tomaino, 1999, p. 98). In the past, this 'community policing' program has been quite effective. Supporters of this crime prevention approach identify cost benefits and greater community co-operation as well as "reducing the conditions under which deviant behaviour may be encouraged" (Sarre & Tomaino, 1999, p. 99). This concept also focuses on preventative measures, which allows for greater control of the crime problem. Communities' resources and knowledge also assist in allowing for police budgets to stay within practical limits.

This community method of crime prevention is effective in gaining communities awareness of relative crime issues together with police, and addressing crime problems and prevention strategies in a democratic fashion. Focused approaches, often referred to as the 'situational approach', is another crime prevention strategy. The situational crime prevention has its roots in "the early 1980s in the UK" (Sarre & Tomaino, 2000, p. 315) and works to assemble crime problems in residential and other urban developments (Goldsmith et al. , 2003, p. 334).

The situational approach addresses environmental design effects by creating a "means of deterring criminal activity by spatial design" (Sarre & Tomaino, 2000, p. 315). It is aimed at reducing offenders' crime opportunity and locating particular 'crime hot spots'. Once a specific location has been recognized, necessary steps are taken to reduce the chance of crime. The situational crime prevention strategy addresses the 'rational choice theory', which suggests that crime offenders weigh up the impending "gains, risks and costs" (Goldsmith et al., 2003, p. 334).

Offenders' motives for committing crime can be accredited to feelings of rationalisation and convenience. The Situational prevention method has been quite successful in its implementation. Effective measures include increased automatic teller machine (ATM) and station lighting, as well as a widespread introduction of surveillance cameras. However opponents of this preventative strategy argue that crime is purely relocated to other areas, therefore not resulting in decreased crime rates.

Critics also argue its effects can only be measured on a local scale (Goldsmith et al. , 2003, p. 335). However, overall, this crime prevention strategy has been effective in creating feelings of safety and security among the general community, without police being present on the streets. Crime prevention can often be assisted by education strategies, on prevention measure that does not involve Governments increasing police numbers. Education comes in many forms from community awareness, school education and offender re-education.

Education and the media have often and successfully been used to change peoples' values leading to behavioural changes (Goldsmith, 2003, p. 338). For instance, education can be used to successfully change attitudes regarding various ethnic groups, violence and health, through campaigns such as Victoria's "stop the violence" (Goldsmith, 2003, p. 338). Currently Victoria run an education program called Crime Prevention Victoria, which is "responsible for the development and implementation of Safer Streets and Homes" (www. justice.vic. gov. au).

This Crime and Violence Prevention Strategy will be run in Victoria from 2002 – 2005, with new strategies including 'goodbye graffiti'. These Crime and Violence Prevention Strategies are designed in the hope of tackling crime and providing information and support on crime prevention models (www. justice. vic. gov. au). Goldsmith et al. (2003) also note that education programs can also reach a smaller scale audience such as schools and workplaces as a means of combating bullying and harassment (Goldsmith et al,.2003, p. 338).

Drug education is another area in which education in necessary as approximately 90% of criminal cases are a result of drug use. This is where the situational prevention method can be used to remove factors that contribute to criminal action for example restricting access to alcohol at sporting events (Goldsmith, 2003, p. 342). Prison drug education has also occurred within Government bodies as they endeavor to "bring police and correctional services together" (Ellem,1998, p. 12) in combating drugs in prison.

Other areas of education in the future of crime prevention could include anger management and punishments education. Education is a powerful tool that can reach a mass audience. Its effectives range between different individuals with various cultural backgrounds, however, it has shown to be quite successful in its implementation over the past decade, with successful strategies such the TAC campaigns. Crime has existed for many centuries. The number of criminal offences "known to police has been used as a measure of the extent of crime" (Sarre & Tomaino, 2000, p.11).

Reliance on one body to combat the crime problem is not a realistic approach. Murphy (1993) notes that "without a collective effort to radically rethink and restructure policing, we are left with a politically unacceptable and financially unsupportable police service which continues to grow in size, cost and power but not necessarily in efficiency or effectiveness" (Murphy 1993: p. 64, Sarre & Tomaino, 1999, p. 97). The crime problem needs to be addressed using various prevention strategies.

For example, the community policing strategy allows for community involvement and wider use of resources and knowledge. The situational approach to crime prevention seeks to alter environmental factors in order to deter crime offenders. Education is a powerful way to advise and inform the general public in the hope of preventing crime. Modern policing is based upon a mixture of reactive and proactive emphases (Sarre & Tomaino, 1999, p. 94), which is necessary for the crime prevention problem to be addressed.

Increasing police numbers need not be the only initiative to combat crime. The Government should explore other preventative measures in order to best combat and alleviate the crime problem.

Reference List

1. Attorney-General's Department (2004) Australian Institute of Criminology. [internet]. National Crime Prevention Programme. (2001) Policing and Punishment in London 1660-1750: Urban crime and the limits of terror. New York: Oxford University Press. 3. Cameron, M. , Laycock, G (1999) Crime Prevention in Australia. NSW: Allen and Unwin. 4. Commonwealth. (2002) 4510. 0 Recorded Crime Australia. [internet]. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Available from: OpenDocument> [Accessed 13 April, 2004]. 5. Ellem. , Barry. (1998) Drugs in Prison. Victoria: Ellikon Fine Printers.