Social Issues / Discuss The Advantages And Disadvantages Of The Current Emphasis Placed Upon Scientific Evaluation Of What Works In Crime Prevention For Both Policy Makers And Criminologists

Discuss The Advantages And Disadvantages Of The Current Emphasis Placed Upon Scientific Evaluation Of What Works In Crime Prevention For Both Policy Makers And Criminologists

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Autor:  anton  29 October 2010
Tags:  Discuss,  Advantages,  Disadvantages,  Current,  Emphasis,  Placed
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Within this assignment I will attempt to discuss the advantages and the disadvantages of the current emphasis which is placed upon the scientific evaluation of crime prevention.

I will explore the many different ways in which crime prevention is addressed. The first part of this assignment is looking into the emergence of crime prevention and community safety and why it is required in today’s society.

Within the last decades of the twentieth Century, nation-states have been unable to meet their core responsibility to provide communities with security, especially when it comes to physical security from criminal attacks. This has lead to a ‘fear of crime’ within today’s society.

(Hughes 2002 P3)

Punishment did not appear to work and the prison’s were bulging with convicted criminals, who time after time re-offended. There were also problems and issues with the costs and the influences of the traditional criminal justice system.

(Huges and Lewis, 1998: Clarke et al, 2000)

Martinson 1974 cited in Tilley 2002 summed it up by saying, “Nothing Works”.

The major influence for the Government was money. They had to limit expenditure, and containment was not an option as this was very expensive. The only possible way forward was prevention.

This lead the Government to rethink their idea’s, which saw a shift from the pursuit of the criminal to the prevention of crime

(Stevenson 2000b cited in Hughes 2002 p3)

Since 1980 crime prevention has become a significant concern for any Government.

For example the Conservative Government’s policy on their commitment to “Safer Communities” And their campaign on the “War on Crime and Disorder”

(Tim Hope 2000, p.xiii cited in Hughes 2002 p2)

Crime prevention finally became centre stage as a result of rising crime figures. Crime was on average rising 5.7% per annum.

(Tilley 2002 p15)

Although it has been argued that some of the Conservative Partys economic polices were liable to have the unintended effects on the raising crime rates, through unemployment and reducing the perceived prospects for young people and producing greater relative deprivation.

(Field, 1990; Sampson and Laub, 1993 cited in Tilley 2002 p15)

Since the 1980’s there has been a rise in neo -liberal modes of Governance and the moving away from “social” strategies of collective risk management and inclusive modes of social control. New modes include “Responsiblization” a more restricted and “Prudentialist” notion of risk management.

Crime prevention can be placed in to a criminological Paradigm. With Primary, Secondary and Tertiary sections being identified.

The Primary section identifies the area’s that through better education and design can help prevent crime. For example the design of new buildings and the introduction of burglar alarms.

“It costs nothing to make crime one of the factors which is routinely considered when, say, new policies for the delivery of social services are planned, or new housing estates are built . . .”


Secondary seeks to target potential offenders through early identification. The majority of all crime prevention initiatives fall into the Secondary sections, for example schemes run in under privilege areas like the Kirkolt Project.

The kirkholt project focused on repeat victims of burglaries. This was done by the targeting of victims and the surrounding houses with preventative measures. Thus reducing the number of burglaries.

The success of the Kikholt project saw other initiatives being implemented these targeted the victims of racial attacks, domestic violence, commercial burglary, school vandalism and others.

Tertiary deals with offenders and the crime prevention interventions which can be put into place to make sure they do not re-offend. These include reform, rehabilitation and Incapacitation.

(Brantingham and Faust 1976 p290)

The head of the Research and Planning Unit (RPU) Ron Clarke expressed concerns with what he felt was a ’dispositional’ approach to criminality. Instead he wanted to focus more on the situational cues to crime commission, with the emphasis on opportunity reduction.

This approach gave the Government the chance to embrace crime prevention without being seen as being ’soft’ towards offenders. And to show that offenders were still responsible for their own acts.

Within Clarke’s work he was uncritical of the many aspects of the Conservative’s Policies that could create more problems of criminality within the social structure. His approach was strictly and without any doubt situational. He outlined three main area’s that attention should be paid to;

Crime reduction, this would be the identifying modifiable features of the situation for offending

One solution does not fit all .

to test the consequences of crime reduction measures. Do they really work or are we just moving the problem around, displacement?

(Tilley 2002 p16)

In 1983 the Crime Prevention Unit was established at the Home Office. This was headed by Kevin Heal, and his first Principal Research Office Gloria Laycock. The idea behind this was to promote,

“…..activities and gave advice about many varied styles of crime prevention practised by many and varied groups and institutions.”

(Ibid 2002 p17)

The unit established inter-agency working with other important agencies that have a vested interest in crime prevention. For example education, environment, health etc.

During 1983 -1987 there were a number of crime prevention initiatives introduced, like the neighbourhood watch schemes and the ‘five town’s’ project.

The only problem that emerged from the ‘Five Town’s’ Initiative was that no actual research evaluation was included. So in theory how would we know whether or not it had been a success?

(Crawford 1998 p78)

And then in 1988 the first report into the highly influential “Kirkholt Burglary Prevention project” was published.

This provided important research into repeat victimisation. And played a very important part in the “developing of routine crime prevention”.

(Farrell et al 2000 cited in Tilley 2002, p21)

‘Safer Cities’ was launched in March 1988 by the Home Office as its contribution to the ‘Action for Cities’ Programme. The Steering groups were set up consisting of the Police, Local Authorities, probation and representatives from the Voluntary and Private sectors. They were given Ј250,000 towards setting up the projects. The steering committee's terms of reference were:

to reduce crime

To lessen the fear of crime

to create safer cities in which economic and community life would flourish.

‘Safer Cities’ programme was initiated, this led to 20 cities with high crime rates being included in the scheme.

But with Safer Cities, Crack Crime and Crime Concern all starting within a few months of each other the only success that this showed was

“…..the success of a group of entrepreneurial Government researchers in taking advantage of opportunities thrown up by the new Parliament.”

(Tilley 2002, p19)

The second stage which was aptly named ‘breaking in’ saw the transition from experimentation opportunism to institutionalised practice.

(Ibid P19)

The concept of ‘community safety’ was introduced by the Morgan Report August 1991, which emphasised that crime reduction should be ‘holistic’ covering both situational and social approaches. Crime reduction became a peripheral issue for major agencies and a core activity of none of them (Home Office 1991: 3) It also advocated the development of multi-agency crime prevention co-ordinated by local authorities. Through the Morgan Report six elements were identified which would be crucial to multi-agency crime reduction work, :these were structure, leadership, information, identity, durability and resources.


By the end of the year 2000 there had been over 130 crime reduction papers published by the Home Office. And from the Ј250 million Crime Reduction Programme which was running from April 1999 for 3 Years 10 per cent of that budget was now to be set aside for the research and evaluation of how successful the initiatives were.

This is argued by Crawford 1998 p78, who states that only 2 per cent of Home Office money is set aside for crime prevention research.

To assess the effectiveness of these initiatives a Home Office crime Prevention Performance Indicator was devised.

(Tilley p21)

Although it can be argued that the Performance Indicators can be manipulated by the organisations. They may only focus on what is being measured and more often than not, they do not look at the wider picture of crime prevention.

The Performance Indicators do not take into account any outside factors that may contribute to the final outcome. Unfortunately this mean’s that the Performance Indicators can sometimes be misleading, even though initiative numbers can be high, the problem area’s may still be unaffected. For example Neighbour Hood watch schemes were mainly established in area’s where crime reduction needs were low, like in middle class area’s, thus not reducing the crime statistics.

(Ibid p24)

This is backed up by using the Maryland Scale of scientific methods.

“Neighbourhood watch programmes organised with police fail to reduce burglary or other target crimes, especially in higher crime area’s where voluntary participation often fails.”

(Sherman et al 2000 p25)

Bureaucratic Organisations tend to have a minimal financial allocation thus causing huge restrictions when it comes to crime prevention. It is usually “what can we afford?” rather than “what will work?”

Bureaucratic Organisations are also unable to adapt to the changing conditions, with new practices being established in relation to crime reduction, crime prevention and community safety.

‘Professionalisation’ is the second route to the institutionalisation of new practices, although it is less established , this is due to the emergency of ‘experts’ through education.

(Tilley 2002 p25)

There is also the emergence of the experts who can provide knowledge and advice in the field of Community safety. Such as Paul Ekbolm who’s recent work explained how we are attempting to adopt to the changing face of crime prevention, always attempting to stay ahead of the offenders.

“…technological changes that create new crime and preventative opportunities.”

(Ibid p25)

The Government has placed in relation to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 the requirement on agencies, which work in partnership, under Section 17 which states that local agencies are required to take crime and disorder into account whilst producing their policies and procedures. Failure to comply can lead to litigation.

(Ibid p26)

Partnership working is not new and the concept has been developed over a number of years.

“The proposals set out in this paper are not about requiring local government to deliver a major new service, or to take on substantial new burdens. Their aim is to give the vital work of preventing and reducing crime a new focus across a very wide range of local services, including . . . those provided by local authorities. It is a matter of putting crime and disorder considerations at the heart of decision making, where they have always belonged.”


If Community Crime prevention was classed as a cumulative science then we would be able to see how successful we were by how close we are to a utopia crime free society.

Residents should come together to create and/or support each other when it comes to dealing with the problems of crime that they may face. A ‘Communitarian Society’ as described by Braithwaite 1989.

It is a well know that residents of such communities which have a high number of social housing, and high levels of poverty are frequently victims of crime. Ethnographic research has proved that high crime area’s adopt interpersonal strategies and affiliations to protect themselves from crime.

(Suttles 1968; Kornhauser 1978: Merry 1981: Anderson 1990: Furstenberg 1993’ cited in Hope 1995 p69)

Although Baumgartner 1988 saw a problem in this approach due to the fact that the people tend not to pass information around about other residents for fear of being called a “grass” and/or reprisals. So very little knowledge can extracted and exploited.

Baumgarter argued that ‘Moral Minimalism’ would work better because people prefer privacy rather than ‘Communalism’. This in turn would prevent any conflicts.

The Audit Commission has found that crime reduction can be poorly planned, implemented and evaluated.

(Tilley 2002 P26)

Within the inter-agency partnerships they have a tendency to not see things from the point of view that the community may have.

“Scientific Knowledge is provisional because the accuracy of generalisations to all programmes drawn from one or even several tests of specific programmes is always uncertain”.

(Sherman 2002 p19)

This is due to the fact that no conclusion is permanent as most theories can be disproved or revised by new theories.

The advantages can be seen by the bringing together of many different agencies to form the multi-agency partnerships. This can bring together the many different angles that crime prevention covers.

According to Crawford ,1998, p78 we lack evaluation within crime prevention and community safety. With the majority of information being passed by politicians and practitioners being based on evidence which is formed from weak ‘methodological’ foundations. This statement was backed up by the Morgan Working Group 1988.

Scientific evaluations are rules of science that provide a consistent and reasonably objective way to draw conclusions about cause and effect.

To evaluate crime prevention we can use many tried and tested measures, each one has it advantages and disadvantages. The Quasi-experimental method is based on positive assumption about knowledge and involves pre-test measurements on a target group. It is this model which is referred to by Pawson and Tilley 1994 as the ’OXO’ model. The disadvantages being that no researcher can have full control of the conditions in the field. Society is something that no man can control.

How can we measure the outcome? Evaluators can measure the rates of crime at different times, but then all evaluations are then assumptions based on the results.

Victimisation surveys can be used to correlate important data for police statistics. The advantage of using surveys is that they can collect data on the increase/decrease of victims within a specific area without having to rely on police records. They can assess the public’s quality of life, engage public support for interventions and get first hand knowledge on how effective the interventions were from the General Public.

(Crawford 1998,p200)

Pawson and Tilley 1994, 1997 ;Tilley 1993c cited in Crawford 1998;204 promote a move away from quasi-experimental approaches to a ’scientific model’ They argued that the quasi-experimental evaluations ignore the social and physical contexts. And that it is method driven rather than informed by theory.

(Ibid p205)

The ’scientific realist’ approach is not without it’s disadvantages. This is due to the fact that it is only concern with the mechanisms which are ’outcome-oriented.’ There is no relationship between the mechanisms and contexts. For example when the community is involved in initiatives to help prevent crime in their area.

Most initiatives are replicated across the Country, what is the point in re-inventing the wheel. The problem with evaluating success is that different area’s will produce different statistics, due to the varying needs of the community. Issues like the local economy, and the history of intra-organisational relations can effect the outcome.

(Ibid P209)

There is the issue of displacement, for example, when initiatives are in place do they actually prevent crime or are we simply moving it to another area where no initiatives are currently active. If we take the Kikholt project, the number of burglaries may have drop on that estate, but did evaluate the surrounding area’s, did the crime rates increase elsewhere?

There will always be a need to evaluate what we as practitioners are doing in regards to crime prevention and community safety, which ever method we choose there will be advantages and disadvantages.


Brantingham, P and Faust, F. “A Conceptual model of Crime Prevention”. Crime and Delinquency, vol. 22, no.3, July 1976, pp.284-96

Clarke, R and Homel, R. “A Revised Classification of Situational Crime Prevention Techniques.” Chapter 2 in Lab, S.P. (ed.) (2000) Crime Prevention at a Crossroads, Cincinnati, OH, Anderson Publishing, and Highland Heights, KY, Academy of Criminal Justice

Crawford, A. “Evaluating Crime Prevention and Community Safety” Chapter 6 in Crawford, A (1998) Crime Prevention and Community Safety; Politics and Practices, London and New York, Longman.

Hope, T. “Community Crime Prevention”, pp 66-89 in Tonry, M. And Farrington, D.P. (eds) (1995) Building a Safer Society: Strategic Approaches to Crime Prevention / Tonry, M. (ed.) Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, vol 19 Chicago, IL and London, The University of Chicago Press.

Huges, G et al (2002), “Crime Prevention and Community Safety, New Directions.” Sage, London.

Sherman, L et al. “Preventing Crime: what works and what doesn’t, what’s promising”. Chapter 2 in Hope T. (ed.) (2000) Perspectives in Crime Reduction, Aldershot, Ashgate Dartmouth

Wilson, J. “Crime and the Criminologists”. Commentary, vol 58, no.1, July 1974, pp. 47-53

Standing Conference on crime Prevention, Safer Communities: The Local Delievry of Crime Prevention Through the Partnership Approach (August 1991), London, Home Office. 28.12.04 Word Count: 2450

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