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Principles of Social Crime Prevention Practices

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 3447 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This essay shall evaluate the impact of Social Crime Prevention Principles on the Development of Effective Crime Prevention Practices. However, it has been suggested that the underlying Principles of Social philosophy of Crime Prevention have little to offer either towards the Development of Effective Crime Prevention Strategies or the actual Prevention of Crimes. There have been various arguments on this matter however, this essay will re-evaluate various and valid theories to establish the above argument while focusing on such effects on Youth Offending in the UK.

“…………Crime is an act or omission that violates the law and is punishable upon conviction. It includes Criminal Code offences against a person or property, drug offences, motor vehicle offences and other provincial or federal statute offences”.

This definition has also been buttressed by the definition from Oxford dictionary as.

“…………An action or omission which constitutes an offence and its punishable by law or an action or activity considered to be evil, shameful or wrong:”

(Online Oxford English Dictionary, 2010:n.p.).

However it has been further explained in the Criminal Justice Reform of British Columbia that not every act could be classed as Criminal act. For instance,

“………………Disorderly behaviour such as aggressive panhandling, public urination and sleeping in the street are not necessarily criminal acts, but they do affect communities by a gradual erosion of the quality of life”. (Criminal Justice Reform, 2010:n.p.).

Therefore, it will be important to mention here that some factors have to be present in order to establish weather a Crime has been committed or not. These factors are; suitable target, motivational offender and non availability of capable guardian.

(Clark & Eck, 2003).

Meanwhile, Social Crime Prevention is a Crime Prevention strategy that could adapt to the changing Social environment rather then the physical environment. This strategy involves engaging the offending age in various community based activities which invariably bring together children, youths and some marginalised groups in the community. The term ‘Social Crime Prevention’ can simply implies the introduction of any program which endeavour to change patterns of behaviour, social conditions, self-discipline or values in order to reduce the possibility of offending.

One could argue that amongst some of the viable social crime prevention initiatives are parental support programs, early childhood training such as personal discipline and self respect, publicity programs to change male thoughts about the use

of violence in resolving domestic disputes, supports for disadvantaged families and provision of good, relevant education such as inclusion of black history month and extra curriculum support for the children.

Social Crime Prevention can be categorised into the following areas;

1. Prevention which focuses on institutions such as schools and employers rather than on individuals.

2. Preventative Diversion programs for ‘at risk’ groups.

3. Community Development approaches.

4. Media and other publicity aimed at changing Social Values.

5. Early childhood or Developmental Prevention.

The aim of Social Crime Prevention is to support community relationships by increasing the levels of informal Social Control, and consequently deterring determined or potential offenders. Social Crime Prevention could centre on making those who are at risk of offending feel more reckon with in the community. For instance, a Youth ‘Social club’ and activity group. On the other hand a scheme such as Neighbourhood Watch could be designed to strengthening unofficial protection in the community as a way to fight Youth Crime in which community members are keeping an ‘eye out’ for one another, increasing surveillance. Social Crime Prevention measures also have significant benefit in areas other than Youth Crime. For instance, in encouraging young people to stay at school which reduces truancy, in setting up support networks for people which addresses issues of loneliness and safety.

“…………Neighbourhood watch is generally understood to be a community-based activity supported by local police that is directed towards crime prevention. It involves residents becoming more responsive to the risk of crime and taking action to protect their own and their neighbours’ property”.

(Heal et al, 1988).

“…………Youth offending is not just a question of rational choice by young people, it is also the result of lack of structural opportunities for young people in terms of education, employment, housing, adequate income and construction of leisure opportunities”. (Barry & McNeill, 2009).

Considering various strategies to control Youth offending, Community-focused Prevention programmes could be classified as follows:

i) Community organisation – This typically build community based associations, and linkages to local schools, churches, etc. which however can provide effective socialisation for young people, to include local adults as positive role models.

(Hope, 1995).

ii) Community defence – This approach is targeted at preventing victimisation by deterring of offending by the people who are not members of the community. For example, this may include housing authorities cordoning and restricting access to

problematic estates to residence only. Other crime prevention strategies could be brought to bear through environmental design (CPTED), defensible space measures, and the purposeful organising of community close watch through Neighbourhood Watch;

iii) Theory of ‘broken windows’ which could also be called ‘zero tolerance’ seeks to control both physical disorder like graffiti, litter, vandalism; rowdy street behaviour and threatening neighbours.

iv) Risk based programmes are relatively recent approaches that seek to identify risk factors amid the entire community populations, to identify those most at risk, and to deliver preventive resources specifically for them. However, the pattern and believe behind this concept is that changes in community can be brought about by changing individuals rather than vice versa. This is contrarily to the earlier crime prevention strategies.

These strategies include approaches targeted on victimisation, e.g., strategies aimed at the protection of victims and the deterrence of repeat victimisation and those aimed at the improvement. (Home Office Research Study 187, 1998).

Structural change has a similar concept to ‘community development’. These ‘strategies’ see the core changes in society with the utmost consequences for crime diminution as stemming principally from the operation of more overall level policies

in economic improvement, employment, housing markets, education, health provision, and the delivery of welfare, benefits and other social services. In this view, much of the space for action against community level social dislocation to include crime depends on the interaction of social policies which even though experienced locally may not be agreeable to amend at the local level. (Home Office research, 1998).

Crime Prevention through Social Development or Social Crime Prevention as contained in the UN Guidelines 2002 could be;

“…………promote the well-being of people and encourage pro-social behaviour through social, economic, health and educational measures, with a particular emphasis on children and youth, and focus on the risk and protective factors associated with crime and victimization.”

(Para, 6a).

It is progressively more known that modernization and adaptation of initiatives are essential rather than modification, if they are to be relevant to solving problems faced in developing contexts, the resources available, and the capacity of the local state or civil society.

“……………International organizations in particular have stressed the scale of the challenges presented for developing countries. Young populations, rapid socio-economic changes, lack of education and/or sufficiently good quality and relevant

training, inequality of opportunity, poverty and social exclusion, rapid urbanization and globalization, have all contributed to high rates of offending among young people, and on a scale beyond that experienced in the North”.

(Shaw & Travers, Ed. 2007).

The nature of interventions that can be integrated into social and educational crime prevention may include those that are of general programmes, or those targeted specifically to areas or individuals, long or short term programmes, one-off events such as education or training programmes, and could also be targeted on family, community or schools or institution-based. However, many early-intervention schemes have afterwards been introduced in other countries e.g. Nurse Family Partnerships in the US, the Netherlands (Every opportunity for every child-youth and family programme 2007-2011); and the UK (Pilot schemes were extended to 20 sites in 2008); The Healthy Families programme in the USA, Canada; Switzerland; Germany and the Czech Republic. (Crime Prevention Strategy 2008-11).

“…………It is believed that children who are given clear standards of behaviour and have positive social bonding with adults are less likely to get involved in crime”.

(Crawford A, 2007).

Sports, cultural and learning have long been integrated into crime prevention strategies. International organizations such as UNESCO, UNODC and UN-HABITAT have all sustained such initiatives in recent years. The use of youth sports and leisure

activities in the prevention of crime has a long history, and that it has sometimes been criticized or dismissed as unsuccessful or that is limited when considering the long-term value it has in preventing offending. Much of the criticism was as a result of failure to evaluate programmes, and simple assumptions that ‘playing basketball at midnight’ will by some means keep young people out of violence.

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It has been observed in a recent study of sports and leisure industry in the UK, that most councils and local agencies have commissioned sport and leisure activities targeted to at risk groups, rather than providing universal activities. (Audit Commission, 2009). The review stressed the need for coordinated long-term national and local funding of such activities in areas of high deprivation, and for young people to be consulted in the planning of activities to ensure that they are accessible and relevant, as well as attention to evaluation (only 27% of the schemes could be evaluated).

Beyond their objective of diverting youth from the temptation of committing a crime, sports and cultural activities are seen to encourage self expression and esteem, life skills and social skills, and education, as well as providing diversionary activities to reduce opportunities for offending, or exposure to risks of offending. Examples included programmes developed by local authorities or services, which aim to reduce the risk of street gang recruitment Projet Les Couleurs de la Justice,Montreal, Canada.(National Crime Prevention Strategy, Public Security Ministry, Quebec).

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In Brazil, young people have themselves set up innovative initiatives, such as the AfroReggae Cultural Group, Brazil. This group seeks to improve relations between police and young people in disadvantaged areas, teaching the police about reggae, drumming, break dancing and graffiti art. The results have been positive, and have led this group to work in partnerships with other countries such as Haiti and the UK to develop similar projects (e.g. Afro Reggae Partnership, UK). (http://www.favelarising.com/about-afroreggae.html). There is considerable diversity in the aims and provision of sports and cultural projects.

In any way, causes of Youth Offending “motivational factors” shall also be looked into in this context. Quantitatively, there is no single cause of youth crime that can be pointed out. However, researches in a number of countries have consistently identified factors in childhood, adolescence and early adulthood that could increase the risk of a young person offending. These risk factors can be categorised under the following sub-categories;


When the parents are involved in criminal activities;

Or poor parental supervision and control;

Neglect from parents and those acting in the capacity of guardianship,

Exposure to erratic discipline or being treated harshly

Low family income or partial isolation from the community;

Family conflict and domestic violence;


Lack of motivation and commitment to go to school

Truancy in school without the knowledge of parents

Disruptive behaviour at school (including bullying)

Low achievers as role models

Expulsion from school due to attitude or behaviours


Lack of unity amongst the dwellers in the community

Conspicuous opportunities for crime

Easy access to drugs and weapons

High children population densities


Their personality

Lack of sense of belonging in matters that concerns or affects the society

Early participation in irrational behaviour

Associating with peers that are involved in anti-social behaviour

Exposure to hanging out with friends unsupervised.

Early adulthood

They have no academic or vocational qualifications

They have no work experience or any tangible skill

Unemployment or on a low income

They receive no advice or support or lack of mentoring

Homelessness, or are threatened with homelessness

However, is worth mentioning here that the list is far more comprehensive that this but have limited the extract to just a few for the purpose of this essay.

(Bienhart et al, 2002).

Effective monitoring of the youth justice system is necessary for a successful delivery of the aim of preventing offending by children and young people. It is very essential to understand the patterns of youth crime, its causes and the success of different strategies of intervention in preventing further offending which can help in planning youth justice services, target resources and inform sentencing decisions. Amongst the duties of Youth Justice Board is monitoring the function of the youth justice system and the work of youth offending teams across England and Wales. Local monitoring and the sharing of monitoring information locally are also important. Local agencies need to have an accurate measure of local youth crime and the related risk factors. The basic test must be “are we reducing youth crime” (Home Office document, 1998).

There are various Youth crime prevention strategies which are backed by government and organisations. However, Government plans to build on and support existing initiatives such as Grants for Education Support and Training which was aimed at providing £1.5 million to support drug education and crime prevention programmes between 1997-1998. There is Home Office-sponsored Safer Cities programmes and Crime Concern’s, Youth Crime Prevention work, including Youth Action Groups which entails using young people to tackle problems such as bullying, graffiti, vandalism and drug misuse. Crime Concern’s work is partly funded by an annual Government grant of £750,000. However, work with the National Neighbourhood Watch Association and the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders to encourage young people to be part of the solution to crime, not part of the problem. (Audit Commission, 1996. ISBN 1862400075).

It was considered by the government that it will be necessary to reform the criminal justice system in England and Wales to enable them have more constructive outcomes with young offenders. Its proposals for reform build on ideology underlying the concept of restorative justice which is restoration, reintegration and responsibility;

Restoration involves young offenders apologising to their victims and making amends for the damage they have done while Reintegration is all about young offenders paying their debt to society, putting their crime behind them and integrating into the law abiding community. The responsibility of the consequences of their offending behaviours lies in their hand and their parents who need to ensure that further offending is prevented.

Meanwhile, the new approach is intends to ensure that the most serious offenders continue to be dealt with in a criminal court to provide punishment, protect the public and prevent re-offending. Also, provide an opportunity for less serious offending to be dealt with in a new non-criminal panel, enforced by a criminal court. It aims at allowing young people to be actively and effectively involved in decisions about themselves by encouraging them to admit their faults and face the consequences of their behaviour in whatever way it comes. This also involves the victim in proceedings, but only with their active permission; and Concentrate on preventing offending. (Mirrlees-Black et al, 1993).

Television and movies have made popular the “cult of heroes”, which promotes justice through the physical eradication of enemies. Many researchers have concluded

that “young people who watch violence behaviours or acts tend to behave more aggressively or violently”, principally when annoyed. This is mainly characteristic of 8- to 12-year-old boys, who are more susceptible to such influences. Individuals are brought into violence by the Media in three ways. First, movies that show violent acts which excite viewers and the belligerent energy can then be transferred to everyday life, causing an individual to be involved in physical doings on the streets. This type of influence is momentary, which could last from several hours to several days.

Secondly, television can portray ordinary daily violence committed by parents or colleagues or peers. It is very common nowadays to find television shows that do portray such patterns of violence, because viewer endorsement of this type of programming has ensured its continuation. As a result, children are repeatedly exposed to the use of violence in different circumstances and the number of violent acts on television appears to be ever-increasing. And lastly, violence depicted in the media is illusory and has a surrealistic quality but the real pain and agony resulting from violent actions are very hardly ever shown. The penalties of violent behaviour often seem negligible. Over time, television causes a shift in the system of human values and indirectly leads children believe and think violence as a desirable and even courageous way of re-establishing justice. It has been concluded by The American Psychological Association that television violence accounts for about 10 per cent of violent behaviours among children. (APA Commission on Violence and Youth, Washington, D.C., 1993).

In conclusion, it appears there are disparities among the theoretical nuances uttered through the various Social and developmental based programmes propounded by the academics with vested political enterprise such as the succession of theories provided by the home office intelligentsia and the perpetual re-offending by some Youths especially in deprived Communities. Although vast sums of tax payer’s money have been thrown on such initiatives without much to show for it in terms of impeding the tide to re-offending it appears therefore especially in recessionary times such as this when the government is concerned more about savings than anything else, one could perhaps take solace on Lord Judge the Lord Chief Justice contentions that re-offenders should be brought to justice without considering the costs which could undermine the rule of law.


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