A research proposal to mitigate domestic burglary in Birchley Estate

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A research proposal to mitigate domestic burglary in Birchley Estate.

Domestic burglary comprises one of the existing crimes that defined under law, constitutes an individual(s) illegal breaking and entry into another person’s private residence with the intent of committing a crime. This may be mostly during the night, or even daytime, being an offence against both human habitation and possession of stolen property (Cromwell and James, 2003). Thus, the law elements of such an offence with time-necessitated modification of various influences are essential in tackling such activity (White, 1990). As researchers suggest, it is mostly carried out (but not exclusively) by male individuals, with such crimes being experienced in a repetitive pattern. As provided in different laws, burglary is categorized into various elements depending on the severity of the offence (Thomas, 2003).

With this in mind, different property crimes require different crime prevention approaches. Criminologists have devised numerous theories to explain and combat these types of domestic crimes. Rational Choice, Routine Activities, Control and Strain Theories; to name just a few, is some of the theories that explains the reason why crime occur (Clarke and Felson, 1993; Hirschi, 1969; Murphy and Robinson, 2008). The formulation of these criminological theories assisted some governments and criminologists to apply the recommendations of these theories in crime reduction initiatives. These crime reduction initiatives led to the development of Situational Crime Prevention (Clarke, 1995). Schneider (2010: 45) describes Situational Crime Prevention as ‘…measures that involve managing, designing, or manipulating the physical environment or by influencing legitimate users of a space to reduce the opportunities for crime to occur’.

Situational Crime Prevention responses works through two main avenues: the reduction of access to peoples’ property; and the symmetrical increase of security by way of increasing the risk of detection (Clarke, 1995). By increasing the effort to commit crime and reducing access to people’s property by means of target hardening, access control and deflection of offenders have proven in previous studies to not only reduce crime but also the fear of crime (Schneider, 2010). Increasing natural surveillance in and around high crime areas has also proven in previous studies to reduce crime in certain circumstances. Burglars perceive the risk of being spotted by other people as a bigger risk than the actual repercussions of being arrested and convicted (Ratcliffe, 2001).

Although Situational Crime prevention methods were successfully implemented in numerous crime prevention campaigns around the world, some researchers have found a number of shortcomings on this form of crime prevention. One of these is crime displacement, where it is argued that situational crime prevention does not treat the root causes of crime but merely displaces the crime to another area, time or place and could create other forms of crime to emerge (Innes, 2003). Another shortcoming can be viewed as the poor analysis and implementation of some crime prevention initiatives. This relates to situational crime prevention measures being implemented without a thorough analysis and understanding of the social aspects of the area under investigation. These failures have actually led to the increase of crime within these areas as a form social deviance towards crime prevention initiatives (Innes, 2003).

The research is based on tackling the spate of reported domestic burglaries, which have been on the increase over the last year. Funding provided can only cater for one strategy. One of the strategies provided is the installation of gates on each of the existing alleyway entrances and the subsequent provision of keys for each of the households present. The other provision is to conduct a crime prevention campaign, which advises the concerned residents on how to improve their overall security. This would be in addition to fitting locks to the windows and doors for a subsidized fee of only £10 per household.

The aims of the study are to find the best strategy to mitigate the increase in domestic burglaries in relation to the various contributions gained from the residents and subsequently, the student body. For either of the two crime prevention strategies to be approved, there is a need for confirmation or the disapproval of what the residents’ meeting provided as information, ideas or solutions. This would pertain to the examination of the various cases of burglaries reported, as well as which strategy would be most suitable for the residents. In conducting this study, it is proposed to have direct engagement with both the resident property owners and student body with the aim of gaining further insight, as well as potential issues, perspectives and solutions. Through this, it will be easy to understand the influence of various elements on the overall safety and security of the area.

Research Design

The evaluation methodology to be utilized about the issue at hand will be in the form of three strands: a literature review; the analysis of the existing burglary data to be provided by the police; and a house-to-house survey of the residents in Berchley estate.

The literature review will consider relevant criminological theories that accentuate crime prevention initiatives. Previous studies of crime prevention initiatives in domestic burglary cases will also be examined to find similarities on the current issues within the estate. From these similarities, a better understanding can be gained about the success or failures of previous crime prevention initiatives. Ultimately, the broad range of criminological theories and previous research will assist in better understanding what crime prevention campaigns might be effective in this context.

In conducting this research, both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies will be utilized. Quantitatively, data will be gained from the existing records of reported burglaries within the last two years, logistical experiences, the property reported stolen, as well as the various escape routes utilized by burglars. The following quantitative research question will be addressed by evaluating the local Police burglary data: (1) Did the rise in burglary cases occur during the periods where the number of university students increased? (2) What evidence, if any, is there that such a rise in burglary cases was/is affecting the resident student population more than the residential property owners? (3) How would such a rise in reported burglary cases be related to the offenders’ choice of escape routes?

Qualitatively both targeted and spatial sampling of concerned parties within the area will be used (Bell, 20120). Specifically, a house-to-house survey that includes both ‘open-ended’ and closed questions will be conducted. Such a combination of questions is explained by the fact that some questions will be generalized as having an impact on all residents while others will be more pertinent to victims of the crime. In this regard, open-ended questions will be prime avenues through which affected individuals will provide crucial information, as well as subsequent solutions they deem fit for tackling the crime problem.

Closed questions will be put forth with the assumption that the crime problem does affect not only the owners and residents but also the students residing within the area. Quantitatively, available data portrays the number of burglaries reported within the two-year period, from January 2005 until December 2006. From it, it is necessary to determine whether various aspects in the form of research questions influence these statistics. Both students and residents sampled will be required to provide information that could be able to provide pertinent solutions.

The validity of the findings can reasonably be relied upon, as the quantitative data will be derived from official Police reports. It is important to note that some statistical errors can occur if the police wrongly captured the addresses and occupant description. The data can be viewed as reliable as the Police collect all relevant information on each case and minimal bias from this data can be expected. All qualitative data will comprise of the extraction of data from the residents questionnaires. The aim of the questionnaires will be to obtain a personal response from as many residents as possible. The data derived from the questionnaires can therefore be relied upon to represent the majority of the resident’s personal experiences and requirements, therefore the extracted data will not be viewed as a random sample of the residents.

Ethical and Safety Consideration

The research above has been designed in compliance with the British Society of Criminology’s ethical guidelines and the safety protocols advised by the Social Research Association. Therefore, respecting the rights and freedoms of individuals to either participate or not. All participants will be informed of the aim of the survey and will furthermore be assured of the anonymity of the survey.

The survey team will comprise of one male and one female Police Officer to ensure the residents feel at ease to allow the interviewers to enter their residences and to protect the Police Officers from any harassment claims. If at any stage the residence cannot be visited due to safety concerns like the presence of guard dog signs or unsafe houses, a note will be left for the resident to contact the survey team to setup an appointment for the survey to be conducted. Should the residents not wish to be interviewed inside their homes an alternative appointment will be made to interview the resident in a public place or community hall.

Quantitative Data Analysis

To answer the question of whether or not the number of burglaries increased when student occupation levels were high, it is necessary to compare the reported burglary cases during the time that the student occupancy levels were lower. An example would be that during the periods when the student resident population was high; in terms of the number of houses occupied, there seemed to be a correlation with a general increase in burglary cases reported. The total burglary cases reported in 2005 totalled 80 cases and the subsequent year 2006, burglary cases increased to 110. If compared quarter on quarter, the first two quarters of 2006 student occupation of houses was high, co-relating with increased burglary cases.

Another comparison is that during the last two quarters of 2006 student occupation levels were high, while the crime rate remained constant if compared to the previous year when student occupation levels were lower. It is therefore difficult to conclude that the increase of burglary cases coincided with the increase in student occupation levels. The possibility that other factors influenced the rise in burglaries must also be taken into consideration. These variables could include university holidays, returning offenders and the influence of crime syndicates operating within the neighbourhood.

To evaluate whether or not the rise in burglary cases was affecting the students more than the residential property owners, it will be necessary to compare the number of burglary cases that occurred at the student’s residences against burglary cases reported from the residential property owners. By comparing the burglary cases against the occupation levels of both students and owner residents there seems to be evidence that the rise in burglary cases were affecting the student resident’s more than the owner residents. This assumption can be derived from the burglary data indicating that in 2005, 45 of the 80 reported burglary cases were directed at the residential students. In the subsequent year 2006, the burglary cases directed at the student residents increased from 45 to 74 of the 110 reported burglary cases. This represents a 55% and 68% increase against the burglary cases reported at residential owner-occupiers.

It therefore seems that the majority of the burglary cases are directed at residences where students are residing. The reason for this can be that the burglars are targeting the student’s residences because there are more items that can be illegally appropriated at the same time. Taking inconsideration these findings, it can then be assumed that the rise in the average value of goods stolen from 2005 to 2006 can be as a result of more items being stolen during a single burglary event. The resident owners also brought up this assumption during the neighbourhood meeting with the police.

In terms of escape routes, there was a co-relational aspect, similar with the aforementioned patterns, where the number of times, which burglars escaped by way of the various existing alleyways, actually decreased in 2006 compared to 2005 when student occupation levels were lower. In 2005 the total times the burglars escaped through the alleyways was 62 out of the 80 burglaries reported. In 2006 the total times the burglars escaped through the alleyways was 57 out of the 110 burglaries reported. From this data, it is possible to uncover the relational aspect between university student occupation rates, and the increase in burglary cases reported.

It can therefore be assumed that the reduction in the usage of the alleyways, as a primary escape route, could be attributed to the number of items being stolen in a single event. This can be explained by the perception that one or two burglars cannot carry a large number of stolen items while escaping through the alleyways. It will therefore require the burglars to use some form of vehicle to transport the stolen items away from the area. As the vehicles cannot enter the alleyways the burglars most probably, hides the stolen items within the neighbourhood before the items are transported away from the area. From this understanding, it could be argued that the burglars could be residents of the neighbourhood and could therefore be known to the rest of the residents.

Qualitative Questions to be raised in this survey include:

  1. Are you a residential property owner, non-owner resident or university student resident?

Rational 1: This question is designed to calculate the exact number of the three

categories of residence. The data will assist in understanding the demographics

of the neighbourhood.

  1. As a resident of this area, have you been affected by the varying cases of burglaries reported within this area?

Rational 2: This question is designed to calculate the number of burglaries that occurred at each of the three categories of residents. This will assist in determining the validity of the burglary data and to ensure that all burglaries have been reported. Previous studies have shown that not all attempted burglaries are reported to the police.

  1. If so, what type of entry or attempted entry method was uses to enter your property?

Rational 3: This question is designed to capture the different entry methods used

by burglars. This will assist in determining which preventative measures to be

taken.

  1. Do you think that the rise in reported cases can be as a result of increased student residency in the area?

Rational 4: This question is designed to confirm or disprove what the residents brought forward as the main reason for the increase in burglary cases.

  1. If not, what would you think the primary reason(s) are for the increase?

Rational 5: This question is very open-ended and is designed to capture any other reason that the residents feel could be the cause of the increase in burglaries. These reasons can assist in deciding what prevention approach would be most suitable for the area.

  1. Have you taken any additional preventative security measures in the last year?

Rational 6: This question is very open-ended and is designed to capture any

preventative measures undertaking by the resident. This information will assist in

determining the willingness of residents to secure their residences on their own

and with their own money. Previous studies have shown that residents are

reluctant to spend money on security, as they believe the crime problem must be

solved by the police.

  1. Do you think that there is the need to control access to the affected residential areas by means of installing lockable gates leading to the alleyways?

Rational 7: This question is designed to capture the requirements of the residents. The data derived from this will determine the type of preventative measures to be taken.

  1. With the permission of the owner, would you be willing to pay a fee of £10 for the fitment of locks on doors and windows in your residence?

Rational 8: This question is designed to capture the requirements of the residents. The data derived from this will determine the type of preventative measures to be taken.

  1. In terms of community policing, are you willing to become part of a Neighbourhood Watch?

Rational 9: This question is designed to capture whether or not the resident will be willing to become part of a neighbourhood watch scheme. Previous studies have shown that only a small number of residents in a community actively take part in these types of schemes. The data derived from this will assist in determining the type of preventative measures to be taken.

  1. Will you be willing to attend a crime prevention training session organized by the police?

Rational 10: This question is designed to capture whether or not the resident will be willing to take part in a crime prevention campaign. The data derived from this will assist in determining the type of preventative measures to be taken.

  1. Is there anything that you would propose the Police should do to make you feel safer from burglaries?

Rational 11: This question is very open-ended and is designed to capture any other information that the residents would like to have implemented by the police. Previous studies have shown that most residents proposed that more visible patrols by uniformed police officers would make them feel safer.

  1. What other aspects would you, as a resident provide as the best measures to be taken to reduce the number of burglaries within the local community?

Rational 12: This question is very open-ended and is designed to capture any other information that the previous questions might have missed.

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