Situational Crime Prevention - A Philosophy of Crime Reduction
Situational Crime Prevention - A Philosophy of Crime Reduction

The ultimate purpose of any security system is to counter threats against assets and strengthen associated vulnerabilities. — Joseph Barry and Patrick Finnegan

Law enforcement and criminal justice practitioners who create crime prevention programs
usually are concerned with a set of defined priorities. These include community crime
mitigation programs, juvenile deviance, and coordination with prosecutors and the courts,
as well as police staffing and environmental and technological strategies. By contrast,
persons concerned with security operations management for a corporation or institution
have little short-term control over many environmental and circumstantial factors. These
include where the facility is located, policies and programs related to juvenile offenders,
the responsiveness and leadership of local criminal justice programs, and how well local
police do their job. These differences have influenced the ways in which law enforcement
and private security firms tend to view the causes of crime and disorder. The difference
historically have been substantial.

Writers largely fail to consider why a few individuals in a particular social, ethnic, political, economic, and even familial situation commit crimes.

Over the years, legions of criminologists and social critics have written on supposed
“root causes” of crime, and the social disorganization and individualism that perpetuates
deviance. These same writers largely fail to consider why a few individuals in a particular
social, ethnic, political, economic, and even familial situation commit crimes while
most do not. In the end, the manager concerned with reducing losses does not speculate
on what is neither quantified nor provable, but rather concentrates on what can be
accomplished in security programs based on the results of accepted research activities.
In part, this means deterring or suppressing crime rather than focusing on apprehending
and prosecuting violators.

For example, a facility can be designed to make it less amenable to loss. In many
circumstances, however, the manager faces situations in which changing the facility
design—using architecture and engineering methods to create spaces that are less
amenable to crime, loss, or injury—is not an option. Instead, personnel, procedures,
physical measures, and technology must be altered to prevent or mitigate losses.
The clear trend in recent years is for security executives generally to become involved
early in the design considerations of a new facility. This allows their insights into loss
control to be implemented at the earliest stages. (This process is discussed near the
end of this chapter.) Several architectural and engineering firms have loss-prevention
specialists who stay abreast of protective and life safety measures so that such
advances may be designed into new facilities. Other specialized consultants offer
services that lower property risks to existing sites through better security planning
and design.

In the 1970s, the architect Oscar Newman studied public housing in New York City
and elsewhere and determined that crime rates vary according to territoriality, surveillance,
image, and environment. “Territoriality” refers to the sense of possession by residents
or workers of an environment and the tendency of people to defend this territory
against those who would commit criminal acts within or near the area. “Surveillance”
relates to the ability of people within buildings to view people outside their immediate
environment. “Image” refers to the general reputation of a place. And finally, “environment” refers to the nearby area that renders the zone safe or unsafe.

San Diego Crime Rate (1950-2011)
San Diego Crime Rate (1950-2011)

Defensible space, therefore, defines an area where surveillance is extensive, the
image is positive, and the nearby environment is safe and protective of residents and
visitors. Newman’s theory produced a design strategy called Crime Prevention
Through Environmental Design (CPTED), discussed in Table below. Defensible-space
theory concludes that crime may be reduced by improving surveillance of public areas,
demarcating private versus public space, and improving the image and environment of
an area.

Research on defensible space concepts sometimes concludes that the concepts are
not always successful at reducing crime because they fail to take into consideration the CPTED argues that changing the environment through design can make certain types of crime less likely to occur. Antisocial and criminal behavior will not disappear, but the frequency will decline because the environment is less hospitable to potential offenders. This is because the area seems better protected by its owners and thus the would-be criminal is deterred from offending due to being more likely to be detected and arrested. The principle is based initially on research involving residential buildings, although the same concepts relate equally to commercial and institutional property. CPTED posits that private and semiprivate spaces are better cared for and, therefore, are safer than those for which responsibility is diffuse or public. CPTED is based on four principles:

CPTED is based on four principles
CPTED is based on four principles

Patricia and Paul Brantingham analyzed crime rates by occupation and economic specialization and have determined that crimes like murder and assault occur in areas of economic decline and neglect, whereas white-collar crimes occur in areas in which a high number of potential victims exist. Research has also found that certain environmental changes increase public use and decrease fear. More recently, CPTED has evolved to include the concept of situational crime prevention, which argues that crime may be reduced in a particular area when aspects of the environment are changed, often involving little cost or effort. For example, making it harder to commit a crime by modifying the environment—by installing better lighting, broader surveillance through visible patrols, CCTV, and alarms that will call police to the scene quickly—can decrease crime in an area.