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Crime Prevention And Its Proactive Responses Criminology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 2659 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Crime prevention, in whatever form it may take, is the proactive response to criminal activity with the primary goal being to address and prohibit the act before it takes place. From a critical perspective, whilst there are numerous types of crime prevention strategies employed by both government and private organisations', most of these can be classified under two broad categories: situational crime prevention and social crime prevention. The difference in reasoning and methodology of these crime prevention techniques has been the source of much debate amongst the criminology and security community. Many see them as separate entities dealing with different issues and standing on opposite sides to the psychological evaluation of criminals. Others believe that to implement the most successful crime prevention measure requires the cooperation of both. Whilst this is undoubtedly true- two methods of crime reduction measures are always going to be more successful than one - the underlying "end game" for most corporations may make employing both impractical from a cost benefit stand point.

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This essay will examine the core concepts of both social and situational crime prevention and then, by looking examples of these methods, both individually and when used in unison decide whether a successful security policy requires both to be present. It will further look at whether social prevention techniques are more the responsibility of the public sector rather than something that should be undertaken at a corporate level.

Social crime prevention is, in its most simplistic form, preventing crime before it happens by influencing the social environment of the offender. Bright states that social crime prevention aims to 'prevent people drifting into crime by improving social conditions, strengthen community institutions and enhancing recreational, educational and employment opportunities' (Bright, 1992:62) At their heart, practitioners of social crime prevention believe that criminals are not born that way but are in fact products of a poor social environment. The hope is that by providing intervention and improvement programmes at a community level. In his paper on globalisation and social development, Midgley suggests that:

The social development perspective insists on the integration of economic and social policy and gives expressions to two axioms; first it requires that economic development should be inclusive, integrated and sustainable and bring benefits to all; and secondly, it proposes that social welfare should be investment orientated, seeking to enhance human capacities to participate in the productive economy. (Midgley, 2007:22)

It is the final point which holds most value to social crime prevention techniques. By encouraging potential criminals to be part of the productive economy the need to commit criminal acts diminishes. At a public sector level, examples of crime prevention through social development programmes include such things as building youth and leisure centres to give would be offenders other outlets for their spare time and also encourage team building and enhance the community. Also government schemes including regeneration of run down areas, slum clearances and such like are all programmes that benefit a social crime prevention strategy. As a corporate strategy, social crime prevention is less appealing, as will be shown later. That said, many corporation do, albeit perhaps inadvertently provide crime prevention initiatives that come under the social bracket. An example of this would be a large supermarket building a store in an area of low social development. This would, in theory, lead to jobs being provided for many of the local community and in investing in the community in this way is meeting both Bright and Midgley's conditions for social crime prevention mentioned earlier.

Whilst social crime prevention methods attempt to influence crime at the very fabric of its existence, tackling what causes crime, situational crime prevention presents a more pragmatic approach. The United Nations describes situational crime prevention as the methods that 'prevent the occurrence of crimes by reducing opportunities, increasing risk of being apprehended and minimising benefits…' (United Nations, 2002:3). By accepting that the criminal has a choice in committing the criminal act, situational crime prevention aims to deter the criminal by making the target less attractive. In essence this approach forces the criminal to conduct his own risk analysis in deciding whether the potential risk of being caught outweighs the potential reward. Situational crime prevention can be viewed as being a rather selfish methodology in that it concerns itself with deterring the criminal act at a specific location rather than generically tackling the problem of criminal occurrence. Traditionalists in criminology argue that the situational approach to crime prevention merely blocks crime at one a specific locations and therefore 'encourages potential offenders to seek out more conducive locations. Thus, critics contend, situational prevention may displace crime but will not prevent it.'(Wortley, 2004:6). Despite this, situational crime prevention remains a popular method of reducing crime in specified sites, particularly in the private sector. In the public domain situational crime prevention methods include increases in police presence in high risk areas and the use of CCTV in town centres. At a corporate level, overt security systems, bars on windows and other such visible deterrents all constitute methods of situational crime prevention.

Although as can be seen with the brief descriptions above, social and situational crime prevention methods are different ends of the crime prevention spectrum in regards to the theories and methodologies employed. Although the strategies used can be viewed as different, with social prevention attempting to tackle not only the root causes of criminal behaviour whilst situational prevention does not concern itself with the psychology of why the act is being committed merely aiming to prevent it from happening to a particular location; there are occasions when the implementation of both a situational and social preventative strategy can be employed to provide greater protection against crime. A good, if not somewhat ironic, example of this can be seen within the prison reform system. The stated aims of Her Majesty's Prison Service is to protect the public by holding prisoners securely, reducing the risk of prisoners re-offending and providing safe and well ordered establishments…' (HMPS Statement of Purpose, 2010). Looking at each of these statements of purpose it can be viewed that each fall into the category of either situational or social crime prevention methods. By holding convicted criminals in a secure and confined environment is in effect removing the opportunity to commit to criminal acts. This incarceration of the person is a form of situational crime prevention in itself. Further to this, the monitoring of prisoners via guards and surveillance equipment as well as the preventative measure employed to stop inmates from conducting criminal activity whilst imprisoned all constitute forms of situational crime prevention. With its high walls, guards, observation towers and razor wire, for exponents of the social route of crime prevention prison is the epitome of situational crime prevention in action. Situational prevention theory has been disparagingly equated to prison like conditions (Weiss, 1987:121).

Whilst the implementations of situational crime prevention methods work well to reduce and stop crime in within the prison environment, when operated on their own, they will do little to prevent re-offence once the prisoner is released. This is where social development and crime prevention plays a significant role. Wortley writes that the potential offender who leaves '…a "crime proofed" situation without offending will continue to be susceptible to situational conditions when he/she enters a new criminogenic situation.' (Wortley, 2004:4). To combat this "urge" to re-offend, comprehensive rehabilitation programmes are in place in a great number of penal facilities worldwide. In 2005, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger pushed through the name change of the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency to become The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. When talking about the rehabilitation of prison in mates, he commented that 'We have to heal them. We have to get them ready to go out so they can get a job; connect with society and never commit a crime again.' (LA Times, 2009). Success full rehabilitation of former criminals epitomises crime prevention by social development. By implementing in prison programmes such as anger management, counselling and assertion training as well as life skills training and education, inmates are being given the skills and training to be able to contribute productively to their community and society as a whole. This social "training" can also continue after leaving prison with some being offered resettlement schemes as well as parole officers and such like. Research has shown that whilst not all rehabilitation programmes are successful in significantly reducing re-offence, some can be and the potential benefits are such that they cannot be cast aside. Murray suggests that as offending is, at source, an individual choice, the most effective sort of rehabilitation must be conducted at the individual level. Furthermore, helping people make better choices rather than making them feel better is what helps prevent crime. Therefore training people to make better choices helps to prevent offences. (Murray, 2002:2)

Despite their differences, it can be seen that, when used in unison social and situational crime prevention methods can be employed jointly to great effect. Whilst this may be the case in the public sector where there are more resources and it can be argued more financial support, in the world of private and corporate security, practitioners are less enthused and welcoming to the implementation of social prevention methods - especially when it is at their expense. Gill comments that

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The commercial sector has not yet been sold the merits of community crime prevention. A frequent lament I hear at meetings of business people is that they are often approached for finance on the assumption that the feel good factor or the publicity given to the fact they are helping will be sufficient return for them. (Gill, 1996:13)

Of course, in the world of business, the goal is always going to be to primarily protect one's own interests first. Miller and Brown state that

Projects that address social causes of crime have more difficulty in gaining corporate support because their benefits are often vague, difficult to measure and long term. This does not fit easily with corporate cultures that are grounded in firm targets and visible solutions . (Miller and Brown, n.d:438)

The lack of visible and identifiable benefits for many corporations. Situational crime prevention benefits are far easier and cheaper to statistically analyse than its social counterparts. 'The positive evaluation of situational prevention has probably contributed greatly to its popularity among commercial security managers. Unfortunately, it is not possible to follow a similar procedure when assessing methods of social prevention.' (Department of Criminology, 2007:13). The very fact that the long term benefits are, by their very definition, long term mean that for sole and small business situational crime prevention is the more affordable and cost effective method of deterring criminal activity against them.

Another reason for businesses and corporate security management to shy away from getting involved in pursuing social crime prevention strategies could be the perceived lack of ownership of government and local authorities to make these sort of initiatives higher priority rather than relying on large business intervention. It is in fact a legal obligation for local authorities and police forces to work together in order to develop and subsequently implement crime and disorder prevention strategies in their areas (Dept of Criminology, 2007:29). This begs the question that even if a business or corporation is an advocate of social prevention methods and is willing to fund such interventions is it actually their responsibility or is it indeed something that belongs in the strategic policy and governing of local authorities and the government rather than board of directors of businesses? Social crime prevention can be seen as representing a small section of what should be an overall social development agenda. Programmes to improve the social environment of a community and the individual encompass a wide range of schemes including better living standards, higher education levels and poverty reduction must be viewed as the priority directive with the potential reduction in crime a resultant benefit of the schemes. By not carefully implementing schemes that benefit the entire social development of the individual or area there is the potential risk that social crime prevention schemes become versions of theoretical situational prevention methods. What is meant by this is that by "altering" the immediate surroundings for example improved housing conditions and better leisure facilities is the potential offenders "mind set" being permanently altered or, if he is removed from that specifically improved environment will he still have the propensity to commit the act. This in itself forms the very fabric and structure of the reduction of crime my social improvements argument, and likewise those that argue against its value. Is a criminal a product of his environment or is it a psychological pre condition?

The question of whether the two forms of crime prevention can coexist and cooperate to a mutually beneficial conclusion can be in no doubt. The integration of social development programmes has far reaching benefits beyond those of merely crime prevention. The United Nations consider social development as one of three key components that define overall development (UN, 2010). By conducting united efforts to both socially enhance areas whilst also using various methods of potential target "hardening" both the desire and opportunity to commit criminal acts can be decreased. As to whether there is a need for both to be present in order to form a successful security and crime prevention strategy is debatable. Certainly in the public sector the presence of both would appear to be more relevant and practical in the long term. For the good of both local communities and a countries social growth, a successful social development programme, including methods decreasing criminal activity is necessary. These however generally post long term goals and so to provide shorter term and more publicly visible and quantifiable results in tackling crime, proactive and effective situational prevention methods must also be included in any planning. For the private sector, although the benefits of implementing socially preventative schemes can often be envisaged, without the statistical evidence and some may cynically say, benefits to their bottom line that the use of situational methodology undeniably brings, it would seem that many businesses are unlikely to practice extensive social crime prevention methods over traditional situational approaches and therefore will base their quantifiable and results driven strategy around this in order to present a successful crime prevention plan rather than spending money on something which, at its heart, many still perceive to be the job of the state.


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