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Outline the key differences between crime prevention and community safety and assess to what extent these strategies have proved successful.
Crime prevention is defined as any action taken or technique employed by private individuals or public agencies aimed at the reduction of damage caused by acts defined as criminal by the state (Hughes, G cited in McLaughlin, E and Muncie, J, 2001:63). Crime prevention focuses on reducing crime with strategies such as locking doors, concealing money and re designing buildings to ensure they cannot be broken into (Davies, Croall and Tyrer, 2015). Community safety is defined as an alliance of social organisations such as the local authorities and social services concerned with communities such as victims and at risk groups, as well as attempting to reduce particular types of crime (Crawford, A, 1998). Community safety is similar to crime prevention in regards to the fact that it aims to reduce criminal behaviour, however community safety focuses on smaller communities with high levels of crime (Davies, et al, 2015). Community safety and crime prevention as emphasised by The Crime and Disorder Act (1998) have a collective responsibility between local authorities and the police to cooperate with probation services to enforce a strategy for the reduction of crime and disorder in the area (cited in Case, S et al 2017). Therefore, it is suggested that they work together in focusing on putting strategies in place in order to prevent crime, such as neighbourhood watch (1980) resulting in a safe and stable community. This essay aims to discuss to what extent this statement is true through research and evaluation.
There are various types of crime prevention strategies that have been identified as a combination in the 1980’s, situational and social crime prevention (Home Office, 1997). Situational crime prevention refers to changing situational characteristics in order to make offending more difficult and it easier to detect the offender (Crawford, A, 1998). It is associated with primary crime prevention as this refers to strategies on a more general level that involves socialisation in families and the community to prevent crime. These strategies aim to focus on the offence and not the offender, for example the input of CCTV on buildings in order to deter offenders from committing crime as they are aware they are being watched. In contemporary society, the public are constantly under surveillance on the streets of Britain (Norris and Armstrong, 1991). However, despite there being an excessive amount of CCTV used, there is much debate as to whether crime prevention strategies such as this are actually successful. For example, research into the Kirkholt project in Rochdale showed a range of interventions to prevent burglaries such as the installation of window locks and strengthened doors resulted in repeat victimisation reducing by 80% within seven months and further success was shown by burglaries falling by a quarter in three years (Peas, 2002 cited in Davies et al, 2015). However, it can be argued that despite these strategies being implicated, geographical displacement can occur. For example, in Germany steering locks were introduced to all cars to stop car theft and rates fell drastically, however when this was introduced in Britain it just resulted in the theft being displaced to cars that did not have a steering lock (Newburn, T, 2007). Therefore this supports the suggestion that crime prevention strategies are not always effective as offenders will find means to commit crime if they see it possible. However, further research into the installations of improved street lighting in Dudley, showed that crime declined on the estate it was installed on and one nearby that did not have any lighting (Painter, A and Farrington, D, 1997). This exemplifies the idea that implications of crime prevention strategies are successful in deterring offenders from committing crime in and around the area they have been targeting.
Social crime prevention embodies predisposition assumptions about what causes an individual to commit crime (Crawford, A 1997:104, cited in Newburn, T, 2007). This refers to looking at the social factors that are associated with crime such as poor living conditions, relative deprivation and low income (Davies et al, 2015). Secondary crime prevention is associated with this as it identifies at risk people due to these factors. This view of crime is said to be what creates offenders in the first place rather than the physical environment and therefore social programmes need to be enforced to change offender attitude to the law (Weatheritt, 1986 cited in Newburn, T, 2007). Developmental crime prevention is an important form of social crime prevention as it aims to identify the factors that put young people at the core of crime and try to diffuse these issues (Newburn, T, 2007). Cognitive behavioural interventions have been introduced in the UK in order to encourage young offenders to think of the consequences of their actions. Research has shown that these interventions have been successful in decreasing reconviction rates, however many offenders did not complete the programme (Davies et al, 2015). This supports the suggestion that it is down to individual choice and perception as to whether they commit a crime or not and so focusing on the individual is vital in social crime prevention. Community crime prevention is also an important form of social crime prevention that involves individuals and institutions in a neighbourhood mobilising resources (Davies, et al, 2015). Several community schemes in the UK have been successful in preventing crime. Research into the mentoring plus programme found that there were significant reductions in offending behaviour (Newburn T & Souhami, A, 2005). Again, this reinforces the idea that establishing these strategies do positively influence crime rates.
There are several issues raised with crime prevention strategies, one of which is the fact that situational crime prevention assumes that the solutions and causes of crime are by the community itself and it does not consider social and individual factors that contribute towards becoming an offender, such as deprivation and dysfunctional upbringing (Davies, et al, 2015). Furthermore, it does not look into a broad range of crime, it only looks at crime committed in the community and could look into white collar crime committed in middle class areas and work place crime that often goes undetected, as evident here (Davies, et al, 2015).
Community safety moves forward from crime prevention strategies to the involvement of social agencies that seek participation from all sections of the community (McLaughlin, E & Muncie, J, 2006). The Morgan Report (1990) suggested that ‘crime prevention’ should be replaced with the term ‘community safety’ as crime prevention is narrowly interpreted and with the replacement of this of community safety, a broader view is created giving encouragement of participation from all areas of the community. This means that specific agencies are not relied on solely, such as the police (Davies et al, 2015). In 1997 the Labour Party emphasised this idea and put it into place with multi agency working. A number of agencies collaborated such as the education system, local authorities and social services to ensure the community was a safer place. Crawford (1998) stated that this turn towards community safety created a new hope of a more secure environment to live in. In 1997, research conducted by The Scottish Office into community safety schemes to prevent traffic accidents found that in the areas speed had been dramatically reduced by traffic calming, the safety of cyclists, children and pedestrians increased (Silcock, R, 1999). This suggests that community safety programmes are successful, introducing speed calming tactics reduces the risk of accidents preventing the harm of people.
However, there are many issues raised with community safety, for example the problem of putting in place community based solutions in deprived areas still remains (Crawford, A, 2007). In order to do this, funding is required and therefore middle class areas are more likely to have them due to being of better wealth. Although it is working class areas where the most crime is committed, solutions are being implemented in the wrong place, thus not being successful in reducing crime where it is needed. This creates a dysfunctional community safety network within working class areas and therefore crime becomes rife with offenders believing there is no form of control to prevent or try and deter them from committing crime (Crawford, A, 2007).
In conclusion, it is evident through the research discussed in this essay that crime prevention strategies and community safety collectively work together and without one, the other would not suffice. For example, without the input of crime prevention strategies such as secure locks on doors, it would be easy for a burglary to take place, resulting in an unsafe community. Furthermore, through research discussed, crime prevention strategies enforced to create a safe community have been proved successful to an extent. They both contribute massively to reducing crime rates however, the success of strategies implemented and schemes created are dependent on factors such as geographical location, the social class of the area and also individual differences that are existent. For example, crime prevention strategies will not prevent an offender from committing crime if they have a strong psychological motivation to commit the crime they will, despite the chance of being caught. Despite this, they both continue to consistently tackle crime which will aim to create a secure and stable community, resulting in people lacking fear of being a victim of crime.
- Case, S., Johnson, P., Manlow, D., Smith, R. and Williams, K. (2017) Criminology, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Crawford, A (1998) Crime Prevention and Community Safety, London: Longman
- Davies, M., Croall, H., and Tyrer, J. (2015) Criminal Justice, 5th Edition. Harlow: Pearson
- Home Office (1997) Community Safety Order: Consultation Paper. London: Home Office.
- Hughes, G and Edwards, A (2002) (eds) Crime Control and Community: the new politics of public safety, Cullompton: Willan.
- Mclaughlin, E & Muncie, J (2006). The Sage Dictionary of Criminology. Sage: London.
- Morgan, J. (1991) Safer Communities: The Local Delivery of Crime Prevention Through the Partnership Approach. Home Office, Standing Conference of Crime Prevention, August 1991.
- Newburn, T. (2007) Criminology. Devon: Willian.
- Newburn T, Souhami, A(2005) ‘youth diversion’ in Tilley N (ed). Handbook of Crime prevention. Cullumpton: Willian.
- Painter, K.A, Farrington, D.P (1997) The crime reducing effect of improved street lighting: the Dudley Project’ in Clarke, R.V.G (ed) situational crime prevention: successful case studies. New York: Harrow.
- Silcock, R (1999) community impact of traffic calming schemes [online] available at: https://www2.gov.scot/Publications/1999/10/38560fea-6e19-4098-95cd-37be45958aa8 [ accessed on 02/12/2018].
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