The Crime Reduction Initiative Criminology Essay

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/The crime reduction initiative this essay will be reporting on is Operation Flood which was carried out with the intention of reducing the significant increase in burglary in South Manchester during 2005/2006. Students in particular were identified as vulnerable targets to dwelling burglaries. The initiative was lead by the Manchester police force and the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership and commenced on 1st September 2006 (Home Office, 2007).

Scanning and research highlighted that the South Manchester Division suffers a disproportion number of burglaries with burglary dwelling accounting for 25% of all acquisitive crime. One area in particular, named C3, was greatly affected by burglary offences accounting for 51% of the whole division during a 12 month period. It also saw a 31% rise between May 2005 and April 2006 compared to the same period in 2004/2005 (Home Office, 2007).

Analysis of three years of Greater Manchester Police crime data showed that the main victims of burglaries in the hotspot were university students. This is partly due to young people being more likely to be victims than other age groups; the premises are likely to be vacant for long periods of time, they are inexperienced tenants who are less likely to be security conscious and there is a high population density (Home Office, 2007). Analysis also showed the majority of offenders to be male youths aged between 14 and 18; the main method was to break a window and the main product target was laptop computers. The offences were seasonally influenced, for example high crime rates in September mirrored the start of a new academic year. Also many streets and victims were subject to repeat burglary (Home Office, 2007).

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One of Operation Flood's responses was to prevent and disrupt crime by deploying highly visible patrols as well as non-uniformed covert presence on foot or in unmarked cars to different priority zones. The post-operation assessment showed that the operation had successfully met its objectives; the zoned area witnessed a 58% reduction in offences and a further reduction of 46% across the entire C3 area. Burglaries within the zone area had significantly decreased with a 275 reduction in reported offences and the operation had proved cost effective, saving the local community an estimated £382,500 (Home Office, 2007).

The operation also reduced targets and opportunities by providing an effective crime prevention message to the student community. Additional security in the area was also provided such as fencing and alley-gating to increase the difficulty of the offenders escaping. Figures showed a significant in burglaries through insecurity compared to last years figures (Home Office, 2007).

The operation provided temporary solutions, such as increased patrols, and more permanent ones, such as fencing and stronger working partnerships in the area. The operation managed to significantly reduce burglary dwelling by achieving an effective tactical and strategic response that was sustainable, replicable and cost effective. The operation will also continue to implement further work toward target hardening and progressing positive lines of enquiry (Home Office, 2007).

Operation Flood can be considered primary situational prevention as much of its procedures fit into this type of crime prevention. Primary situational prevention, sometimes referred to as situational crime prevention, is a dominant method of crime prevention in the UK and aims to remove or reduce the opportunity for crime by focusing on locations and targets of crime. It aims to intervene in the causes that the offenders encounter or seeks out during the criminal event (Ekblom, 2006). The recent history of the development of situational crime prevention theory begins with work undertaken by the Home Office Research and Planning Unit in the 1970s which showed how opportunities for offending can be manipulated in ways that could reduce crime (Newburn, 2007).

The theory adopts the classicist perception of offenders as rational actors and that criminal acts are committed through human choice. However, its belief that deterrence is most effective when punishment differs from the classicist approach that sees severe punishments as the dominant factor in deterrence (Newburn, 2007).

The view of crime as a rational choice interlinks with situational crime preventions emphasis on crime as an opportunity perpetrated by a rational, motivated offender. The prevention mainly works by increasing the perceived effort and risk whilst reducing the perceived reward but also works by reducing provocation and removing excuses for crime (Clarke, 2003). Clarke a leading advocate of this type of prevention defined it as;

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"…comprising measures directed at highly specific forms of crime that involve the management, design, or manipulation of the immediate environment in as systematic and permanent a way as possible so as to reduce the opportunities for crime and increase its risks as perceived by a wide range of offenders" (Clarke, 1983: 225).

Situational crime prevention differs from other types of prevention by placing less focus on the offender in favour of concentrating on the offence itself and controlling crime through changing the physical environment. Manipulating environmental factors should increase the perceived effort of the criminal act for the offender, thus acting as deterrence (Burke, 2005).

The routine activity theory, originally developed by Cohen and Felson in 1979, is a key theory that underpins situational crime prevention. The main point proposed by this theory is that attention should be focused on the situation in which the criminal act takes place rather than on the offender. The theory argues that cultural changes in the post-war period are providing opportunities for crime which did not previously exist (Newburn, 2007). It goes on to say that structural changes in routine activity patterns influence crime rates when three elements; a motivated offender, a suitable target such as vulnerable people or property and an absence of capable guardians come together in time and space. The lack of any of these elements is potentially sufficient to prevent a successful predatory crime (Newburn, 2007).

Newman's defensible space study also supports situational crime prevention. It focused on manipulating situations and reducing opportunity through design. Defensible space illustrates that a sense of 'ownership' of spaces is important for social control to prevail. This can be achieved by designing buildings in such a way that observation of territorial space is made easy and designing them in ways that avoid the suggestion of vulnerability (Newburn, 2007).

The idea that crime can be most effectively prevented by reducing opportunities and increasing risk meets some controversy. Many see this as oversimplified mechanistic outlook of human behaviour and as a pessimistic view of human nature (Clarke, 2003).

A second potential problem for situational crime prevention is that it makes assumptions that areas that suggest vulnerability essential result in high crime rates when it could just be that such areas are a receptor of the crime and a product of the socio-economic situation of the area (Clarke, 2003).

Operation flood identified students as vulnerable targets to burglary and used many situational crime prevention techniques in its aim to significantly reduce burglary dwelling. Its tactical response to the problem involved controlling crime through geographically specific measures. For example, area security was improved with the prioritisation of target hardening by upgrading security at burgled properties, an alley-gating scheme to restrict offenders movement was put in place and rubbish or bricks that could potentially be used to smash windows and assist entry were removed (Home Office, 2007). This additional security increased the perceived effort for the offender. The risk of the offence was also increased due to the operation through methods such as assisting natural surveillance by repairing defective lighting which in turn encourages informal control from the community. Also the risk was increased by strengthening formal surveillance by making police presence more visible. This was done by strategically positioning marked police vehicles along with a police pod and by deploying high profile uniformed police whose tasks included identifying insecurities and giving preventative advice (Home Office, 2007). Offender motivation was further reduced by removing provocation. For example, rubbish and boxes indicating the purchase of new equipment seen as hot products for criminals were removed from alleyways and outside people's houses. Also 'to let' signs were removed from outside student's properties as they were seen by offenders as indicative of student housing and the signs made them easily identifiable (Home Office, 2007). These techniques used by operation flood have put in to practice the focal situational crime prevention theories that increasing effort and risk for the offender and reducing rewards and provocations will significantly reduce crime rates.

The crime and disorder reducing initiative proved a moderate success in the South Manchester Division. The four neighbourhoods, divided into C1-C4, suffered from a disproportionately high number of burglaries; however C3 was the only area that burglary offences had increased over a three year period and the area accounted for 51% of all burglaries across the Division (Home Office, 2007). Solutions were generated by developing strong partnerships with key players to tackle the underlying problems in the hotspot area. The operation educated the student community on crime reduction techniques and reduced opportunity through target hardening. It set up a student Home Watch group which will be repeated in further years (Home Office, 2007). The targeting of persistent offenders coupled with the prioritisation of gathering forensic evidence from the scenes of burglaries lead to the arrest of prolific hotspot burglars (Home Office, 2007). Further benefits include the environmental improvements, like the repairing of defective lighting and placing of fences, which provided some long term additional security (Home Office, 2007). The assessment of the operation showed that it reduced hotspot burglaries by 58% and a further reduction of 46% across the entire C3 area showing the operation had met it's aims (Home Office, 2007).

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However, a potentially negative effect of operation flood is that it although the crime preventative measures may be effective at reducing burglary in that area it may merely displace the risk of crime onto another area. The fact that the temporary procedures put in place at the beginning of the operation, like the utilisation of mounted police and police helicopters in prioritised areas, may only result in the offenders waiting to commit crimes at a later date. The offenders may change targets, prioritising other households over the student housing and may even move on to different types and variations of crime such as robbery in response to the prioritising of certain crimes (Newburn, 2007).

Also the emphasis the operation places on situational controls and rigorous surveillance limits the basic freedoms of the local people. Even though it may prove effective on the prevention of burglaries in the area it can also have a negative affect to the overall quality of life and the relationship between the local community and the police (Newburn, 2007).

Operation Flood effectively utilised situational crime prevention to tackle the growing concern of burglaries in the South Manchester Division. The operation still continued to have a positive effect after its achieved its primary aim. In April 2007 the division benefited from an additional thirty-eight police community support officers (Home Office, 2007). Statistics from the Home Office (2007) show that burglary offences were briefly disrupted through the implementation of situational crime prevention thus providing some degree of credibility to the theory. However, a wider evaluation could have being carried out to measure the effects after the operation to assess whether there were any detrimental effects on other geographical areas or other areas of crime.