This module is a resource for lecturers




Crime prevention is a broad topic that encompasses many programmes and initiatives. A great diversity of crimes can be the target of crime prevention and different approaches to crime prevention target different factors contributing to crime. Consequently, a diversity of actors will frequently be engaged in efforts to prevent crime. This includes national crime prevention bodies, crime prevention initiatives at the regional level, and work conducted by international agencies such as the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC). It is important to recognize that government, civil society, academia, youth, the media, private sector and individual citizens can, and do, play a key role in crime prevention activities.

Preventing crime produces many positive outcomes. The prevention or non-occurrence of future incidents of crime reduces the human costs to victims of crime. Lives can be saved, physical harm can be prevented, and financial loss can be minimized. For these reasons, crime prevention holds great appeal for many governments and civil society groups, and crime prevention is often recognized as an important area of policy and practice.

Crime prevention, however, is not without problems. Governments and private entities can, in the name of crime prevention, seek to control and monitor citizens; crime prevention can become a commodity and be sold to those who can afford it, leaving those with fewer resources in an even more insecure position. Efforts to prevent crime can stigmatize people and communities; and victims can be (erroneously) blamed for contributing to their own victimization. It is important, therefore, that all crime prevention efforts include an analysis of the potential for negative or unintended consequences.

It is also necessary to acknowledge that there are significant legal, cultural and political differences across regional and local contexts that influence how crime prevention is considered and practiced. The term ‘crime prevention’ is used differently, if at all, in various regions of the world. Furthermore, the body of knowledge on crime prevention often comes from a small number of countries and regions, which is highly problematic, as certain approaches might work well in one context but have negative impacts in another. Consequently, it is important that lecturers modify the materials provided in this Module to ensure that these are relevant to their local context.

While efforts in the field of crime prevention have largely been focused on conventional forms of crime (especially street crime), specific programmes targeting organized crime are largely scattered and do not seem to follow a homogenous theoretical framework. Nonetheless, prevention strategies specifically targeting organized crime present particular challenges. For decades, many countries across the globe have left the responsibility of preventing organized crime entirely to the police or have considered prevention in terms of the deterrent aspects of the law or the imprisonment of offenders. While it is important to recognize the decisive role that law enforcement and other governmental agencies can play in the prevention of organized crime, preventing and countering this phenomenon is not just a government job, but one that needs the engagement of communities, civil society organizations as well as the private sector.  

Organized crime is a truly global phenomenon that affects the everyday life of all of us. It is more concealed then other crimes, as organized criminal groups make targeted efforts at keeping their crimes and organization under the radar of law enforcement authorities. It is also harder to eradicate, as it often insinuates the culture and even the way of living of populations around the world. As such, it can be effectively tackled only if people have the necessary knowledge to understand it and are empowered to stand up against it. Education and awareness-raising on this topic are therefore crucial. To facilitate efforts in this sense and with a view to presenting the existing theoretical body of knowledge in these fields, this Module considers both general crime prevention typologies and specific approaches to the prevention of organized crime.

Learning outcomes

  • Understand the definition of crime prevention used by the United Nations.

  • Distinguish between key terms used in crime prevention and community safety contexts.

  • Describe different crime prevention typologies.

  • Apply different crime problem-solving approaches to common crime problems.

  • Critically analyse ‘what works’ in crime prevention (including what constitutes evidence and the transferability of this evidence) and identify relevant clearinghouses of such information.

  • Understand approaches targeted specifically at the prevention of organized crime.