Crime Prevention Through Social Development

The most common method used to deter crime is the combined efforts of law enforcement agencies and the judiciary. In an ideal situation, these two forces create a deterrent that reduces the number of criminals in the streets and at the same time, creates fear in the hearts and minds of lawbreakers. But through the years it has become clear that conventional methods of crime prevention may not be enough to prevent crime because society failed to deal with the other factors that force people to break the law. Law enforcement agencies and the judiciary can only react to crimes that had been committed but their actions have very little effect when it comes to dealing with social problems that force people to steal, murder, and destroy property. There must be a social component to crime prevention.

The purpose of this essay is to identify the principles of social crime prevention and demonstrate how they can contribute to the development of effective crime prevention practices. The essay will briefly describe the theoretical concepts that involve crime and different types of crime prevention programs, moving further to a deeper analysis of Crime Prevention through Social Development (CPSD).

Crime Prevention

Crime prevention is more practical and more cost-efficient than investigation, litigation, and incarceration. A great deal of resources is expended in dealing with the aftermath of a crime. Consider the impact that is the result of murder, damage to property, robbery, assault, and the emotional toll that these crimes create. Crime prevention is centered on the idea that all efforts must be used to reduce the incidence of crime. By doing so, society is able to reduce its negative impact. From the perspective of various stakeholders, it can be argued that it is better to develop effective crime prevention strategies rather than to focus all the resources on strengthening law enforcement agencies or building more prison facilities.

It is therefore important to differentiate crime prevention from law enforcement activities and the following definition helps distinguish the difference between the two. Crime prevention refers to “The total of all private initiatives and state policies, other than the enforcement of criminal law, aimed at the reduction of damage caused by acts defined as criminal by state” (van Dijk & de Waard, 1991: 483). In another helpful definition, crime prevention is seen as “all pre-emptive interventions into the social and physical world with the intention, at least in part, of altering behavior or the flow of events in a way that reduces the likelihood of crime or its harmful consequences” (Crawford, 2007: 871). It is therefore important to take a serious look at an often-neglected component of crime-fighting strategies.

The importance of crime prevention is not only focused on preventing the act of crime per se but also on the indirect results. According to a report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, crime prevention strategies help promote community safety. Another indirect consequence is that it promotes sustainable development. Imagine a community free from crime and the next image that one can see is a group of people happy to live and work in that particular area. There is no fear and no apprehension when it comes to doing business and moving around in the said community.

It has been mentioned earlier that crime prevention must go beyond the police, the court system, and correctional facilities. The rising criminality and the inability of law enforcement agencies to drastically reduce crime rates all over the world requires a paradigm shift when it comes to fighting crime. There are two types of crime prevention strategies that must be at the forefront of discussion. These are 1) Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) and 2) Crime Prevention through Social Development (CPSD). CPTED is the manipulation of the environment such that criminals are forced to think twice before committing a crime. A survey of the community that has undergone CPTED changes could mean increased risk for the lawbreaker and makes it extremely difficult to benefit from the crime. One example is to improve the lighting facilities in a community to lessen dark areas where crimes can be committed. Another example is community policing wherein volunteers help to watch houses and public areas at night.

CPSD focuses on social development as a primary factor why people are driven to a life of crime. There are three levels of CPSD. The first level is related to a universal and population-based program such as public education and healthcare (Waller, 2004). The secondary level includes programs that specifically target those that are prone to commit crimes such as youths in foster care and youths from poorer sections of the city. Other examples include vulnerable segments of the population like children and women that can fall victims to the sex trade (International Centre for the Prevention of Crime, 2007). Finally, at the tertiary level, the CPSD programs are focused on providing rehabilitation, counseling, and supervision to combat recidivism. Without counseling and guidance, troubled teenagers can start with petty crimes, and by the time they are adults they graduate into more serious crimes.

From a theoretical standpoint, CPSD has the most potential when it comes to developing sustainable strategies that can radically alter the social landscape of a city or a nation, especially when it comes to reducing crime rates and the negative effect of crimes on people. According to a study made in Canada, “it costs tax-payers several times more to achieve a 10% reducing in crime through incarceration, rather than through social development approaches” (Canadian Council on Social Development, 2011: 1).

There is a need to in CSPD. The national and local government officials must come to realize that law enforcement and incarceration can only go so far and it is imperative to deal with the root cause of the problem. Statements like these lead to a general tendency of putting the responsibility of implementing social crime programs on local and national governments rather than the members of a particular community that will directly benefit from CSPD. On the other hand, it must be made clear that the government officials are indeed responsible especially if programs needed relate to public areas or venues where the official authorities are the primary stakeholders for its development. Therefore the government provides public services such as the construction of schools, parks, and stadiums. Nevertheless, part of the burden must be carried by members of the affected community. They must actively seek how they can interact with the government in order to establish an effective partnership to achieve a common objective.

Although it is important that the national government must have active participation in the creation of CSPD related programs, it is equally important to realize that effective crime prevention can only be accomplished at a community level. According to one commentary:

All crime is local. The minimal elements of crime converge locally. The physical and social components of crime are fluid in a day, a week, and a month, posing quite a challenge to crime analysis (Felson, 2010: 81).

It is, therefore, crucial to have a sense of belongingness and a sense of ownership with regard to a particular community. Residents must take a proactive stance. They cannot simply rely on the government to do the work for them. Members of a particular community must unite and share resources to combat a common foe. The best way to begin is to focus on children and youth.

The decision to focus on children and at-risk youth are supported by numerous studies linking the effectiveness of CPSD if done early (Sutton, Cherney, & White, 2008). Effective CPSD focuses on the early or formative stages of life. In a study made in the 1960s, researchers wanted to find out when CPSD principles were applied to infants. In other words, researchers applied crime prevention strategies and at the end of the study, they discovered that crime prevention is possible if done at an early stage of children’s lives (Sutton, Cherney, & White, 2008). Thus, it is not only enough to have a local approach but there is also the need to focus on children and teenagers.

CPSD must be intentional and must not simply follow a generalized policy aim to cover a wide area but not focused enough to create tangible results. A good way to start is to assist teenagers that fall into the category of at-risk youth so that by mentoring them they can finish school. Another specific solution is to help families that have children that are dealing with bullying in school. Another way to use principles of CPSD is to reduce opportunities when it comes to purchasing loose firearms (Waller, 2004).

It is important to start early especially when it comes to at-risk individuals belonging to marginalized groups. It must begin with parenting programs. Once parents are involved it is much easier to include the children. One example of effective CPSD is the use of playgroups or structured activity groups for parents and children as young as toddlers to five-year-old children (Freiberg, Homel, Batchelor, Carr, Hay, Elias, & Teague, 2005). The program must not stop with children and it must be a continuous process even to the point that adult life skill services must be incorporated into these programs (Freiberg, Homel, Batchelor, Carr, Hay, Elias, & Teague, 2005: 149).

The following are some of the strategies highlighted by the United Nations when it comes to dealing with the social component of crimes:

  1. Promoting welfare and health development and progress and by combating all forms of social deprivation;
  2. Promoting communal values and respect for fundamental human rights; and
  3. Promoting civic responsibility and social mediation procedures (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 1999: 1).

In the case of crime prevention programs involving marginalized sectors of society, the most striking discovery is the existence of a ghetto where poor families have no means of breaking free from the cycle of poverty, crime, and violence (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 1999). The children came from poor families therefore there are so many obstacles when it comes to finishing school. They grow up into teenagers having so much time in their hands and without the necessary guidance that would enable them to channel their energies for more meaningful pursuits. As a result, it is very easy for them to be attracted to a life of crime that promises easy money.

Once they participated in a crime such as selling drugs and stealing money from other people it becomes extremely difficult to break the habit and to go back to a normal life. Thus, intervention programs must start early when at-risk youth are still children. They must understand the futility of crime and the destructive path it will lead to. At the same time, intervention programs must also be developed to deal with young adults who may have realized the folly of a life of crime but knows not how to steer clear away from those that can influence them back into drugs and violence.

Children need a guiding hand as well as adults that may have expressed their desire to end their criminal ways to become law-abiding citizens and yet prone to recidivism. It is important to develop not only a sustainable program but also one that has considered all the aspects of the problem regarding at-risk children and youth. The community must realize that no matter how bleak the situation, there is so much that can be done if people work together. An outsider coming in to help the poor may not be enough to turn the tide of corruption but if a hundred families band together, surely they can make an impact.

Another important concept that has to be discussed when it comes to crime prevention is the need to analyze the community’s overreliance on the police department. It must be made clear that the state or the local government cannot afford to simply increase the number of policemen patrolling the streets. Thus, it is time to talk about the idea of community policing. There is a big difference between traditional methods of crime detection and law enforcement when compared to community policing as can be seen from the following statements:

  • Neighbourhoods or small communities serve as primary foci of police organization and operations;
  • Communities have unique and distinctive policing problems that conventional police organizations and responses have not traditionally addressed;
  • Community consensus and structures should guide police response to the community’s crime and security problems; and
  • Police discretion should be used positively to maximize community confidence (Brogden & Nijhar, 2005: 24).

Crime prevention must include all sectors of society and not just law enforcement agencies. The UK government has deemed it necessary to incorporate social studies in the fight against crime. This idea is not unique to the UK. In a report to the United States Congress by the US National Institute of Justice the members of the said agency concluded that in order to develop effective crime prevention strategies it is of critical importance to include seven institutions listed as follows: 1) communities; 2) families; 3) schools; 4) Labor Markets; 5) a specific location; 6) police; and 7) criminal justice (Sherman, Gottfredson, MacKenzie, Eck, Reuter, & Bushway, 2011:4). Most of the time the focus is on the last two items on this list.

A community is the interaction of individuals creating informal organizations that facilitate effective communication. Family members are easily influenced by the head of the family or the parents. The school system can also become a starting point for information dissemination. The labor marlaborre of crucial importance so that people have jobs to help minimize the temptation to commit crimes. Finally, it is important to develop strategies based on the needs of a specific location.

Discussion

The proponent of this study wanted to define crime and crime prevention. There can be many definitions of crime; however, despite the variation in definition, the Most Important thing to consider is crime prevention. In this regard, it is important to point out that crime prevention must not be the sole responsibility of law enforcement agencies. It is also important to look into other aspects of criminology and this includes social factors. It has been pointed out that the actions of criminals are the result of numerous social factors such as high crime rates in the area, poverty, lack of jobs, and ineffective law enforcement agencies. All of these things work together to improve crime prevention and at the same time create a community struggling with the effects of crime.

One way to deal with the problem of crime is to develop strategies like the CPSD. The CPSD is a powerful tool but it must be used in conjunction with other resources available to the community. It is easy to be caught up with the abstract aspect of social factors that need to be dealt with in order to prevent crime. It is also important to remember that transforming the environment so that it is harder for criminals to operate can be a significant contribution to the fight against crime. Nevertheless, crime prevention can only be radically achieved if at-risk children and youth find it easier to follow the rule of law. In places where crimes are rampant children and teenagers who are attracted to a life of crime are resigned to the fact that they have no other alternative but to steal, kill and destroy. It is time to change their wrong perception of the world.

It is of crucial importance to include the seven institutions but the focus must be on the community. There is continuity of government agencies and other non-government organizations partner with leaders of a particular community. Crime prevention advocates must be aware of the sociological factors that are involved in crime. If they simply inform people about their programs, it is possible that community members may simply ignore them without the participation of influential leaders of the community. These are simple steps but can help ensure crime prevention programs.

Conclusion

It has been made clear that it is more cost-efficient to prevent crimes rather than to deal with the aftermath of crime. No amount of police work can help bring back the life of an innocent person shot to death armed criminals. One of the best ways to reduce the incidence of crime is to use CPSD principles. However, those who will initiate projects related to CPSD must realise that it requires the participation of the target community to make it work. In addition, a high success rate is ensured if the programme targets children and teenagers.

References

Brogden, M., & Nijhar, P. 2005. Community policing: national and international models and approaches. UK: Willan Publishing.

Canadian Council on Social Development. 2011. Children and youth crime prevention through social development. Canadian Council on Social Development. Web.

Crawford, A. 2007. Crime prevention and community safety. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Felson, M. 2010. Crime and everyday life. CA: Sage Publications.

Freiberg, K., Homel, R., Batchelor, S., Carr, A., Hay, I., Elias, G., & Teague, R. 2005.

Creating pathways to participation: a community-based developmental prevention project in Australia. Children & Society, 19, pp. 144-157.

International Centre for the Prevention of Crime. 2007. Strategies and best practices in crime prevention in particular relation to urban areas and youth at risk. Montreal: International Centre for the Prevention of Crime.

Sherman, L., Gottfredson, D., MacKenzie, D., Eck, J., Reuter, P., & Bushway, S. 2011. Preventing crime: what works, what doesn’t, what’s promising. National Institute of Justice. Web.

Sutton, A., Cherney, A., & White, R. 2008. Crime prevention: principles, perspectives and practices. UK: Cambridge University Press.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. 1999. Economic and social council. United Nations. Web.

van Dijk, J., & de Waard, J. 1991. A two dimensional typology of crime prevention projects: with a bibliography. Criminal Justice Abstracts, 23, pp. 483-503.

Waller, I. 2004. Cutting crime significantly: investing in effective prevention. Canadian Council on Crime Prevention.Web.