This module is a resource for lecturers


Crime Problem-solving Approaches


Different crime problem-solving approaches (such as SARA, and Ekblom’s 5Is) provide structure to crime prevention planning and problem-solving efforts.

SARA Model: The SARA model is a commonly used problem-solving method linked to problem-oriented policing (developed by Professor Herman Goldstein). It includes the following four elements:

  1. Scanning
  2. Analysis
  3. Response
  4. Assessment

SARA Approach


  • Identifying recurring problems of concern to the public and the police.
  • Identifying the consequences of the problem for the community and the police.
  • Prioritizing those problems.
  • Developing broad goals.
  • Confirming that the problems exist.
  • Determining how frequently the problem occurs and how long it has been taking place.
  • Selecting problems for closer examination.


  • Identifying and understanding the events and conditions that precede and accompany the problem.
  • Identifying relevant data to be collected.
  • Researching what is known about the problem type.
  • Taking inventory of how the problem is currently addressed and the strengths and limitations of the current response.
  • Narrowing the scope of the problem as much as possible.
  • Identifying a variety of resources that may be of assistance in developing a deeper understanding of the problem.
  • Developing a working hypothesis about why the problem is occurring.


  • Brainstorming for new interventions.
  • Searching for what other communities with similar problems have done.
  • Choosing among alternative interventions.
  • Outlining a response plan and identifying responsible parties.
  • Stating the specific objectives for the response plan.
  • Carrying out the planned activities.


  • Determining whether the plan was implemented (a process evaluation).
  • Collecting pre- and post-response qualitative and quantitative data.
  • Determining whether broad goals and specific objectives were attained.
  • Identifying any new strategies needed to augment the original plan.
  • Conducting an ongoing assessment to ensure continued effectiveness.

Source: Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, Arizona State University.

Ekbloms 5Is

Professor Paul Ekblom’s 5Is crime problem-solving methodology is widely used. It covers the following:

  1. Intelligence
  2. Intervention
  3. Implementation
  4. Involvement
  5. Impact

Ekblom’s 5Is

INTELLIGENCE – gathering and analysing information on:
  • crime and disorder problems and their consequences
  • offenders and modus operandi
  • causes of crime and (with longer term, developmental prevention) the ‘risk and protective factors’ in young children’s life circumstances associated with later criminality
INTERVENTION – blocking, disrupting or weakening those causes. The interventions cover the entire field:
  • acting through both civil prevention and traditional justice/law enforcement
  • addressing both situational and offender-oriented causes
  • and tackling causation at different levels – immediate ‘molecular’ causes of criminal events, higher-level causes in communities, networks, markets and criminal careers, and remote ‘upstream’ causes influenced by the manipulation of risk and protective factors in children’ early lives
IMPLEMENTATION – converting the intervention principles into practical methods that are: 
  • customized for the local problem and context
  • targeted for offenders, victims, buildings, places and products, for an individual or collective basis
  • planned, managed, organized and steered
  • monitored and quality assured, with documentation of inputs of human and financial resources, outputs and intermediate outcomes
  • assessed for ethical issues
INVOLVEMENT – mobilizing other agencies, companies and individuals to play their part in implementing the intervention, or acting in partnership, because crime prevention professionals must often work through or with others, rather than directly intervening in the causes of crime. In both cases, specifying:
  • who was involved
  • what broad roles or specific tasks they undertook
  • how they were alerted, motivated, empowered or directed (e.g. by publicity campaigns, financial incentives)
  • how a broadly supportive climate was created in the community and how hostility was reduced
IMPACT - nature of the evaluation (how the project was assessed, by whom; whether this was a reliable, systematic and independent evaluation; and what kind of evaluation design was used)
  • impact results (what worked, how)
  • cost-effectiveness, coverage of crime problem, timescale for implementation and impact
  • process evaluation (what problems/ trade-offs faced in the implementation, how they were resolved at each stage)
  • replicability (which contextual conditions and infrastructure are helpful, or necessary, to successfully replicate this project – or particular elements of it – at each of the 5Is stages)
  • learning points – both positive and negative (what to do, what not to do)

 For a detailed overview of the 5Is, see Ekblom (2011).