What is Situational Crime Prevention

Crime prevention

The understanding of the meaning of crime prevention is not only important, but prerequisite as well, in order to successfully pore over the various categorizations of the term. Experts agree that the notion of crime prevention is complicated; the perplexity of the notion of crime prevention created a problem of definition, rendering crime prevention itself ill-defined. (Brantingham and Faust, 1976; Edelman and Rowe, 1983; Tilley, 2009).  Numerous definitions have been offered by various theorists, the majority of which regard crime prevention as a series of policies towards the goal of reducing and/or eliminating criminal activity (Edelman and Rowe, 1983, Morgan, 1991; Sherman, Farrington, Welsh and MacKenzie, 2002).

Situational and social crime prevention

One of the most prevalent and influential classifications of crime prevention is that between situational and social crime prevention (Gilling, 1997; Crawford, 2007), which classifies crime prevention according to the techniques used to reduce deviant behaviour. Social crime prevention rejects classicism and biological positivism, denying the concept of human free will and that of the born criminal and stress that offenders are the product of the unique socioeconomic fermentations that they experience during their development stages (Gilling, 1997). Social crime prevention can be subdivided into developmental crime prevention and community crime prevention

The theory of situational crime prevention

During the early 1980s Ronald Clarke established the theory of situational crime prevention. According to Clarke’s definition, crucial elements of situational crime prevention are location and opportunity (Clarke, 1997; Crawford, 2007; Clarke, 2009; Tilley, 2009). Situational crime prevention is based on the finding that the spatial distribution of crime is not random; contrariwise the existence of ‘hot spots’, places where a large number of crimes are being recorded, has been acknowledged and extensively studied (Herbert and Hyde, 1985; Farrell, 2009). Moreover the pure meaning of situational prevention is that crime happens because an opportunity exists; therefore, by removing that opportunity, crime would not happen; that is why situational crime prevention is being also referred by Gilling as ‘opportunity reduction’ (Gilling, 1997).

Situational crime prevention and rational choice theory

The reasoning behind situational crime prevention is rooted in a number of theories, but mainly in rational choice theory. Rational choice theory presumes that a potential offender balances the costs and benefits before committing a crime (Laycock, 2009); therefore situational crime preventive methods may play the role of obstacles and hinder a rational thinking potential offender from committing a crime.

Situational crime prevention and routine activity theory

According to routine activity theory and the problem analysis triangle people deviate when three conditions are being fulfilled simultaneously: the presence of a suitable target, the absence of a capable guardian and a motivated offender; situational crime preventive measures act as ‘capable guardians’, which obstruct the motivated offender to interact with the suitable target (Cohen and Felson, 1979).

Situational crime prevention and crime pattern theory

Finally according to crime pattern theory the two important factors for criminal activity is location and timing; which are the factors that situational crime prevention attempts to control (Laycock, 2009).

Brantingham, P. and Faust, F. (1976) ‘A Conceptual Model of Crime Prevention’ Crime & Delinquency, 22 (3): 284 – 296

Clarke, R. (1997) Situational Crime Prevention: Successful Case Studies, New York: Harrow and Heston Publishers (2nd ed)

Clarke, R. V., Field, S. and McGrath, G. (1991) ‘Target hardening of banks in Australia and displacement of robberies’ Security Journal 2 (1): 84 – 90

Cohen, L. E. and Felson, M. (1979) ‘Social Change and Crime Rate Trends: A Routine Activity Approach’ American Sociological Review 44 (4): 588 – 608

Crawford, A. (2007) Crime Prevention and Community Safety in M. Maguire, R. Morgan and R. Reiner (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, New York: Oxford University Press, 866 – 909 (4th ed)

Edelman, S. and Rowe, W. (1983) ‘Crime Prevention from the Justice System Perspective: a Conceptual and Planning Model’ Canadian Journal of Criminology 25 (4): 391 – 398

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Gilling, D. (1997) Crime Prevention: Theory, policy and politics, London: UCL Press

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Hypotheses’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 10 (2): 259-274

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Morgan, J. (1991) Safer Communities: The Local Delivery of Crime Prevention Through the Partnership Approach, Report of Working Party to Home Office Standing Conference of Crime Prevention, London: Home Office

Sherman, L., Farrington, D., Welsh, B. and MacKenzie, D. L. (2002) Evidence – Based Crime Prevention, U.S.A. and Canada: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group

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