Preventable? Within government circles the concept is not prevention but reduction and detection, which leads to different types of thought processes to achieve results. Public officials fear actions led by quantitative data may be publicly deemed repressive and interfering with human rights of groups it is aimed at, thereby losing votes from constituencies. Yet when it comes to the public or businesses the concept is dominated by the term crime prevention. This is matched by giving major credence to primary prevention methods utilising CPTED (Crime Prevention through Environmental Design) to create a defensible space that projects positive premise personality. In addition personal security awareness of primary and secondary job functions of staff and security personnel can assist in giving this positive impression. Is this preventing crime? There are differing opinions as to whether it is prevention or deflection of crime, which are very different concepts. Reasoning criminals resist temptations to carry out intrusive attacks on premises where reasonable target hardening actions to deter, delay and detect have been taken. This in no way minimises the potential criminal’s motives of achieving a criminal success and making a monetary gain. What is hoped to have been achieved is deflection of the criminal to another less protected neighbouring premise. However a belief exists in relation to crime deflection that criminals, may engage in even more serious crime against premises or persons at another time. There is no evidence to support such a general view, unless crime comparison is on a like for like basis. As an example a ‘professional’ burglar would look to gain entry at night. If he were unsuccessful due to preventive measures taken, it would not be expected, that he would engage in violence during the day to achieve the same result achievable quietly and most importantly without detection. Do these primary prevention methods work in isolation? I would say initially they will
deflect specific crime but not prevent them. This therefore draws us back to the original question, is crime preventable? Are there other methods? Additional methods, such as secondary or social crime prevention programmes, are used by governmental projects to reduce crime. Many engage local communities, police and security companies in a partnership model with other external agencies on an equal footing. Their purpose is to improve living environments, employment, social activities, education and recreational activities and the overall fabric of the locality. Such community partnership programmes may include restorative justice, community initiatives, community policing and sentencing. If established through consultation and effectively run with mutual respect and defined service level agreements they may succeed where other systems failed. Anecdotal evidence suggests these initiatives may work best by providing crime prevention services through private public partnership models, especially relating to public financing issues. They may however have differing levels of value in areas being reviewed. Primary and secondary prevention can be connected to tertiary or judicial preventive methods which is mainly legislative enforcement, detention and potentially incarceration. This exists to stop criminal behaviour where other methods failed. The main problems with these initiates from a crime prevention perspective are a lack of committed will, lack of financial commitment and inconsistency in deliverables. The question still remains, is crime preventable? Would other initiatives help prevent crime? Perhaps the use of collated and targeted strategic intelligence, gathered both locally and nationally, to direct limited resources. This requires trust levels between community and state agencies, which at present are not fully there.
One area mentioned is sub cultural (gang) initiatives which aim to ‘reform’ gang culture by provision of leisure facilities and legitimate opportunities, particularly jobs. The problem I would suggest is that security and policing organisations must also apply this sub cultural theory to their guardianship of protected groups, products or areas. This applies to development of linear primary methodologies in formulating crime prevention plans. This requires major change in understanding crime, offenders and calculable values of their selected crime prevention methods developed in opposition to crime. When viewed against the ‘precautionary principle’ which is often used as the sole means of structuring a prevention programme, a need exists to reform our ‘gang culture’ to change our expectations of prevention programmes. In exploring the question of crime and its preventability, I would say that crime has always existed and will always exist. Taken in its entirety, even with threats of draconian punishments, it is not preventable. I do however believe that crime is very much deflectable. We, as practitioners in the security and risk management discipline, must seek to expand our knowledge of our discipline to deflect those crimes. We must embrace new and innovative ways of using academic theories in realistic ways with operational practice, to deliver crime free and safer environments to communities, private sectors and public agencies. We must alter our existing mind scripts to acknowledge that ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ and fill those gaps with new learning. We as capable guardians must devise new initiatives to counter crime and its many consequences. Only then will it be possible to alter society’s often unrealistic expectations of crime prevention methodologies in providing safe defensible spaces with limited crime intrusion.
risk manager magazine spring 2011