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Outline the Positives and Negatives of Using Situational Crime Prevention Techniques

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Crime is a continuous obstacle in everyday life. We see it everywhere we go, whether it be on our way to work or from the window in our homes. We may even never see it, but it is always there. Academic Tim Newburn defines crime as an infraction of the criminal law (Newburn, 2017, p. 8). In march 2020, 122 crimes were recorded per 1000 population in Newcastle Upon Tyne. This raises the question of how and if we can design out crime. It can be argued that to make a city safer, it relies on good design (UTS Design Innovation research centre, 2019). Author Jane Jacobs states We must have eyes on the street(Jacobs,1961:36). This means we must put forward an idea that allows us to see everything deviant that is happening around us e.g, shopping districts close early meaning those streets are quiet and at risk of being subjected to crime. This introduces the idea of Situational Crime Prevention which I am going to be evaluating in this essay. I will begin by looking into Clarkes theory of crime prevention followed by evaluating the positives and negatives of this theory using criticisms from other criminologists and my own creative thought. I will conclude by stating whether I think these methods are efficient and if not, then what needs to be included.

Criminologist Ronald Clarke claims that crime is opportunistic. This means that the more opportunities we see, the more likely we are to commit an offence. He believes that to prevent crime, we need Situational Crime Prevention (SCP) to minimise these opportunities. He defines this as involving the management, design or manipulation of the immediate environmentto reduce the opportunities of crime” (Clarke, 1983: 225). An example of this could be CCTV. This crime prevention strategy is useful as it detects crime and captures offenders. Results of a meta-analysis on the effects of CCTV showed a 16% decrease in crime in these areas. It was also found that CCTV had a huge impact on preventing car park deviance with a decrease of 51% (Welsh and Farrington, 2009). This demonstrates a positive of using SCP as these results support the theory of crime being opportunistic. CCTV provides an increase in risk for the offenders making it less likely for them to commit as well as provide help to the criminal justice system to prosecute these offenders. Although CCTV is proven to be effective, it carries some issues. To keep files for longer, camera quality is reduced making it easier for offenders to hide from being identified. Blindspots also raise an issue as not all areas are covered by CCTV. In Maidstone town centre, a CCTV blindspot is now labelled as an out of control hotspot for crimes such as drug dealing and violence (Downs mail,2021). Another example of an SCP technique used in society is target-hardening which increases the effort to commit crimes. For example, window shutters and the installation of alarms. This Is supported by data that found 6% of burglaries occur with no protection compared to 1% where basic or advanced security is seen (Security, 2013). Although target-hardening reduces the efforts of crime, modernist sociologists may argue that the SCP strategies are risky and thrill-seeking. This conflicts with the idea of crime being opportunistic and more about the people themselves who commit these crimes. These methods of prevention are full of effort and risk giving offenders a sense of thrill known as the idea of edgework (Laurendeau and Lyng, 2006). Overall, Clarke's idea of SCP is considerably effective using the likes of designs and target-hardening. The opportunities for crime are proven to decline after measures are put in place. However, a criticism of this concept is the view that SCP has negative effects on disadvantaged groups in society. For example, people living in poverty are less likely to be able to afford security for their homes such as alarm systems and upgraded locks. This tells us that Clarke ignores the likes of disadvantaged groups and favours and protects the wealthier who can afford these measures. In Clark's book on the Seven Misconceptions of Situational Crime Prevention’, he responds to critics by stating SCP “provides as much protection to the poor as to the rich” (Clarke, 2005). In other words, stating these techniques are not too expensive.

A negative of situational crime prevention ignites the debate that SCP puts too much significance on crime being opportunistic. Criminologists may argue that it ignores important factors such as poverty, discrimination and upbringing etc. Poverty can be an initial cause of crime due to desperation to provide for their families which could generate robberies. Lack of education could also result in gangs as it gives those unable to attend school, a form of belonging. Mental illnesses being left untreated are more common in poverty-stricken areas and severe mental illness which increases the risk of an individual committing a crime (Gaille, 2016). Not only do poverty areas have more crime offenders but also include a higher number of victims. It was found the lowest income families were 62% more likely to experience personal crime and 73% violent crime (Cuthbertson, 2018). Another structural factor that has an increase in crime is discrimination. Hate crimes against religious groups, ethnic minorities or the LGBTQ community still exist in modern society and still show to be a significant form of crime. In 201819, police recorded 103,379 hate crimes throughout England and Wales which are 10% higher than 201718 offences (Home Office, 2019). We can try to prevent crimes like this from continuing by the use of media and education on hate crimes in schools. Upbringings can influence the levels of crime, for example, an abusive household may be far more likely to raise violent children. Abused children are more likely to be arrested as both juveniles and as adultsâ (Picker, 2007). This negative view on SCP shows that fundamental changes to political and economical society would be a solution to preventing crime. SCP does not go into the root problems of crime and only looks at crime at the overview of crime. However, it can be argued that we still need to factor in crime as opportunistic as the majority of these criminologists also use target hardening. For example, these criminologists will use crime prevention methods such as locking their doors when leaving or avoid walking through quiet areas alone. This raises the question of whether it is hypocrisy and whether we still need to consider Clarke’s view.

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Looking at positive aspects of situational crime prevention we can take into account the benefits of designing. The benefits may include the decrease in wasting police time and also our increase in safety as vulnerable members of society. For example, bus stops have been designed with very thin seating. This could be to avoid the homeless from sleeping there. This has benefits on us as we feel safer to enjoy our everyday lives but also stops the need for police to constantly patrol these areas. This is important as time can be spent on more important cases of crime. A second example could be the use of spikes or gaps in seating to deter skateboarders. Therefore, it increases the safety of the public as there is no risk of being injured by a passing skateboard. This also stops police from having to patrol all aspects of town and stopping possible pointless arrests which distract away from serious crimes being committed elsewhere. However, designs can cause harm as without a clear risk assessment can result in failed designs. This is wasting resources and money. This has been labelled as the dark side of design (Cozens, 2018). A third example of SCP designs could be more street lights, especially in rural areas. Quiet streets are typically avoided due to the danger it holds compared to well-lit streets. More street lights can provide safety to people especially those who are vulnerable. This can also link to poverty as less financially stable families may not be able to afford a form of transport and therefore walking alone at night may be their only solution. A criticism of this view on situational crime prevention is the theory of displacement. These designs may have been put around communities however crime levels will not decrease and offenders may just find another way to commit the crime. This brings upon the overall theory that crime is inevitable.

The displacement of crime theory highlights that SCP does not stop crime but causes the displacement of crime (Displacement theory, 2002). There are five types of displacement. The first is Temporal displacement. This is the idea that if we take away the opportunity for crime, it will just move to another time where freedom is still there. An example of this would be not paying for a metro ticket in the North East. After a certain time, metro barriers may rise and not contain security guards, allowing us to be able to ride the metro without paying. The second form of displacement is Spatial displacement (moving to another place where there are no obstacles). An example of this would be the homeless moving from areas with spikes to places like national parks or playgrounds. The third displacement is Target displacement which involves the switching of crime focus from one target to another target. For example, thieves may want to rob a shop but decide to rob a shop they know has no CCTV instead. This can also be applied to people as criminals may want to target the vulnerable elderly compared to middle-aged men. The fourth displacement is Tactical displacement. Offenders may use another tactic to carry out a crime such as if the software becomes shut down, hackers may upgrade to new software as a way to hack. The final displacement is Functional displacement (committing a different type of crime from the crime initially intended). Offenders may be able to carry out a robbery to buy drugs, so they turn to mug a vulnerable member of the public. However, a criticism of the five displacements would be that SCP would still put a stop to these issues. For example, CCTV and alarm systems would still stop Spatial displacement as we can still see all other areas of society they move to.

In conclusion, situational crime prevention is an effective way of deterring crime. This is supported as methods such as target hardening like alarm systems and CCTV have been proven effective. CCTV is everywhere from streets to car parks. This increases the fear of crime from offenders and therefore deters crime from taking place. However, it was found these methods are not always effective as CCTV has cons such as low-quality images and blindspots making it possible for criminals to get away with crime and deviance. The designs introduced into society such as spikes and more street lights shows that SCP is effective as it would be inconvenient for crime to take place in such places. However, Lyng (2006), argues this could be thrilling for offenders as they may like the challenge and therefore, will not fully prevent crime in these areas. The lack of attention towards other important factors such as poverty and hate crimes shows SCP is not all that effective. Statistics demonstrated a huge link between these factors and everyday crime. This proves that more needs to be done to tackle crime such as more media coverage on these minority groups and education to the younger generation on ways to help stop the crime. This could indicate that both SCP and other individual factors should be brought together. The five displacements also point out the ways in which SCP can be avoided and tricked. Target displacement, in particular, shows that areas of low SCP are more likely to be victims of crime. This links to the idea of disadvantaged areas having a higher chance of being victimised to these crimes. Overall, I think situational crime prevention is an effective way to partially prevent crime in certain areas, however, factors such as minority groups of people who are more likely to commit or be victims of crime need to be factored into the SCP methods as a way to cause a significant decline in crime.

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Outline the Positives and Negatives of Using Situational Crime Prevention Techniques. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 3, 2023, from
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