This module is a resource for lecturers


Key Crime Prevention Typologies


There are different ways of categorizing crime prevention efforts. Two will be considered here. The first adopts a public health approach and distinguishes between primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. The second, proposed by Tonry and Farrington (1995), distinguishes between law enforcement, developmental, community, and situational prevention.

Public Health Model

The public health model focuses on preventing ill health. Positive health outcomes have been associated with the implementation of strategies to encourage healthy lifestyles, rather than waiting for illness and the subsequent provision of treatment. This logic has been applied to other social policy settings. The potential economic benefits of investing funds early to save costs later, are particularly attractive to policymakers, including in the area of crime prevention.

Brantingham and Faust (1976) advocate for a distinction between primary, secondary, and tertiary crime prevention activities:

Primary crime prevention identifies conditions of the physical and social environment that provide opportunities for or precipitate criminal acts. Here the objective of intervention is to alter those conditions so that crimes cannot occur. Secondary crime prevention engages in the early identification of potential offenders and seeks to intervene in their lives in such a way that they never commit a criminal violation. Tertiary crime prevention deals with actual offenders and involves an intervention in their lives in such a way that they will not commit further offences (1976, p. 290).

Tonry and Farrington’s Typology

Tonry and Farrington (1995) distinguish between law enforcement, developmental, community, and situational prevention.






A form of early intervention, developmental crime prevention seeks to address the early causes of criminality. This involves reducing community and individual risk factors and increasing protective factors, to help prevent crime later in life.

The most celebrated examples of developmental crime prevention include parenting programmes, school enrichment initiatives like skills training, pre-school regimes, and improvements in transition to school arrangements.

Community / Social

Strengthening neighbourhoods helps to prevent crime. Local communities that have strong bonds and where people know each other are generally less prone to experience crime. Enhancing ‘social capital’ or the relationships between people can be beneficial in protecting people from crime.

Community-building activities, provision of welfare services and increasing community support groups all help to enhance the sense of community and can contribute to the prevention of crime.


Stopping the opportunities for crime is an effective way of preventing crime. Increasing the risks of detection, reducing the rewards for offending and increasing the difficulty of offending are all ways to prevent crime.

Situational crime prevention can be as simple as installing locks and alarms, increasing surveillance through lighting and making buildings harder to enter, damage, or hide near.

Law Enforcement/ Criminal Justice

This form of crime prevention is associated with the criminal justice system - police, courts, and prisons – and is the most commonly understood form of crime prevention.

Problem-oriented policing can help prevent recurring problems requiring a policing response through a detailed analysis of crime problems and inter-agency responses; community-oriented policing is a strategy for encouraging the public to act as partners for the police in preventing and managing crime; treatment programmes offered through court processes can address causes of crime; rehabilitation programmes in prison can prevent re-offending.


The models outlined above suggest a more rigid demarcation than is true in practice. Various models overlap and have similarities (for example, community and developmental crime prevention). Literature that focuses on one particular approach can leave an impression that the different approaches operate in isolation. This is generally not the case in practice. In any given setting, it is likely that various forms of crime prevention will be operating simultaneously. Security measures may be in place to prevent motor vehicle theft (situational prevention), while community-based organizations work with at-risk young people to encourage their attendance at school. Concurrently, programmes may be on offer to help new parents develop the confidence and skills necessary to raise healthy children, and, of course, it is likely that various policing activities will seek to combat local and regional crime problems.

A further complication to a singular conceptualization of crime prevention is the broad array of crimes that can be committed, and therefore prevented. While ‘regular’ crime types such as assault, burglary, robbery and vandalism, for example, provide few conceptual challenges to the existing crime prevention literature, the prevention of economic crime and corruption, trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, cybercrime, money-laundering, drug production and trafficking, terrorism prevention, and numerous other emerging and/or complex interjurisdictional crime types est the explanatory powers of definitions of crime prevention and its typologies.

This Module will consider specific strategies adopted in the prevention of organized crime in a separate section. For the time being, it is sufficient to highlight that, in practice, approaches to crime prevention operate simultaneously and that there are real challenges in conceptualizing the breadth of what is covered by the term crime prevention.

Detailed Explanation of Tonry and Farrington’s Typology

This section provides a detailed explanation of the crime prevention approaches included in Tonry and Farrington’s typology. By covering each in more detail, important theories and concepts will be introduced and some of the challenges of implementing each type of crime prevention will be explored.

Developmental Crime Prevention

Developmental crime prevention focuses on an early intervention through the reduction of risk factors associated with later criminality and the strengthening of protective factors (France and Homel, 2007; Farrington and Welsh, 2007). There is growing evidence of the success of developmental crime prevention and early intervention:

Findings of neuroscience, behavioural research, and economics show a “striking convergence on a set of common principles that account for the potent effects of early environment on the capacity of human skill development”, which affirms the need for greater investments in disadvantaged children in the early years of the life course (Knudsen et al., 2006 as cited in Welsh et al., 2010, p. 115).

An Australian expert on developmental criminology, Professor Ross Homel (and his co-author Lisa Thomsen), note:

Developmental prevention involves the use of scientific research to guide the provision of resources for individuals, families, schools or communities to address the conditions that give rise to anti-social behaviour and crime before these problems arise, or before they become entrenched … Doing something about crime early, preferably before the damage is too hard to repair, strikes most people as a logical approach to crime prevention. The twin challenges, of course, are to identify exactly what it is in individuals, families, schools and communities that increases the odds of involvement in crime and then to do something useful about the identified conditions as early as possible (Homel and Thomsen, 2017, p. 57).

However, assessing who is at risk of future offending, isolating the reasons for this increased risk and then effectively intervening to prevent a future act of criminality are difficult tasks. Farrington and Welsh (2007) help guide our understanding of some of the critical risk factors associated with later offending and the types of interventions which appear to be most effective, through the following:

Risk Factors

Evidence-Based Interventions

Individual Risk Factors:

  • Low intelligence and attainment
  • Personality and temperament
  • Empathy
  • Impulsiveness


  • Pre-school intellectual enrichment
  • Child skills training

Family Risk Factors:

  • Criminal or anti-social parents
  • Large family size
  • Poor parental supervision
  • Parental conflict
  • Disrupted families


  • Parent education plus day care services
  • Parent management training programmes
  • Home visiting programmes

Environmental Risk Factors:

  • Growing up in a low socio-economic status household
  • Associating with delinquent peers
  • Attending high delinquency rate schools
  • Living in deprived areas


  • After school (involving a heavy dose of social competency skill development) and community-based mentoring appear promising
  • School based interventions – school and discipline management, classroom or instructional management, re-organization of grades or classes, increasing self-control or social competency with cognitive behavioural or behaviour instructional methods


While this information provided by Farrington and Welsh (2007) is particularly helpful in understanding critical risk factors and forms of intervention, it does not necessarily help with the difficult tasks associated with designing and implementing a developmental crime prevention programme. These tasks can be especially challenging. Ensuring the right groups and individuals participate in the programme; ensuring that the mechanisms for change are well understood and addressed through the intervention; having appropriately trained programme staff and closely monitoring the impact of the intervention are just some of the challenges of implementing developmental crime prevention programmes.

In addition to these challenges, programmes and interventions can operate at different levels, including the following: 

  • Universal – general population 
  • Selected – directed at groups judged to be at increased risk
  • Indicated – directed at individuals already manifesting a problem such as disruptive behaviour (Homel, 2005)

This means that crime prevention initiatives require that decisions be made about the target population of a programme or intervention, with implications in terms of cost, recruitment of participants, potential problems with stigmatizing communities, families or individuals. These factors bear significant influence on the strategies required to ensure an effective delivery of appropriate programmes for specific populations.

Moreover, it is important to acknowledge that the isolation or identification of risk factors, such as those listed above, are the subject of criticism. Concerns have been raised about the stigmatizing potential of identifying that growing up in a low socio-economic status household, for example, is a risk factor for crime. For some, this equates to stigmatizing the poor and diverts attention from the structural factors contributing to poverty while focusing on the individual victims of these structural disadvantages.

The following table provides helpful guidance on various aspects of programme development and implementation.

Think Developmentally

Do Good Science

  1. Emphasize universal, non-stigmatizing programmes
  2. Focus on life transitions and related developmental issues
  3. Use a multi contextual approach with programmes located within the major spheres that influence children’s development
  4. Focus on building connections between key developmental contexts
  5. Use a strength-based orientation – build on families’ personal and cultural assets
  1. Develop evidence-based interventions (based both on research and effective practice)
  2. Focus on preventive interventions
  3. Commit to the achievement of measurable goals
  4. Use both quantitative and qualitative evaluation methods
  5. Focus on outcomes – avoid the usual drift to outputs
  6. Generate new knowledge – how were the outcomes achieved?

Understand Community Needs

Engage in Community Development

  1. The needs of the community take precedence over the interests of the partner organizations
  2. Use multiple methods to understand local needs and resources:
  • Risk factor analyses
  • Qualitative surveys
  • Local histories (including oral)
  • Focus groups
  • Build on knowledge of community workers
  1. Empower individuals and the community
  2. Employ local people and train them
  3. Involve the community in planning activities
  4. Support existing programmes and services
  5. Build partnerships between services, researchers, local institutions and the community
  6. Facilitate access to services by culturally diverse groups
  7. Demonstrate commitment to the community
  8. Communities cannot do it all: use external expertise
  9. Work for sustainability: changes in institutional practices

Source: Batchelor et al. (2006), p. 2.

Community Crime Prevention

Hope (1995, p. 21) suggests that “community crime prevention refers to actions intended to change the social conditions that are believed to sustain crime in residential communities. It concentrates usually on the ability of local social institutions to reduce crime in residential neighbourhoods”.

In this context, “the structure and organisation of a community affects the crime it experiences over and above the individual characteristics of its residents” (Hope and Shaw 1988 as cited in Hogg and Brown, 1998, p. 190). This means that the community (however community might be defined) is greater than merely the sum of its residents — there are effects arising from the way residents interact, the opportunities that they have available to them, the services provided to them, and the relationships between them – both collectively and with relevant service providers and agencies.

Hence, this approach focuses on residential communities and neighbourhoods, and seeks to change the social conditions associated with crime. However, identifying what social conditions should be changed and finding ways to do this are not straightforward tasks.

This approach to crime prevention has its roots, in part, in the Chicago School and the focus on social disorganization. Sampson and Groves note:

In general terms, social disorganisation refers to the inability of a community structure to realise the common values of its residents and maintain effective social controls. Empirically, the structural dimensions of community social disorganisation can be measured in terms of the prevalence and interdependence of social networks in a community – both informal (e.g. friendship ties) and formal (e.g. organisational participation) – and in the span of collective supervision that the community directs toward local problems ... structural barriers impede development of the formal and informal ties that promote the ability to solve common problems (see diagram on the following page). Social organisation and disorganisation are thus seen as different ends of the same continuum with respect to systematic networks of community social control (1989. p. 777).

The structural barriers that can impede the development of formal and informal ties identified by the Chicago School (in particular Shaw and McKay, cited in Sampson and Groves, 1989), are demonstrated in the following diagram. This diagram shows how broad, structural issues like socio-economic status, residential mobility, and how people and families settle in communities and build connections with neighbours and peers, can contribute to incidents of crime in cases where there are low levels of informal social control and collective efficacy.


Source: Causal model of extended version of Shaw and McKay’s theory of community systemic structure and rates of crime and delinquency, cited in (Sampson and Groves, 1989, p. 783).

Generally speaking, elevated levels of informal social control and collective efficacy in local communities result in lower crime. The following provides an insight into the nature of these constructs:

Sampson and his co-authors then introduced the term ‘collective efficacy’, which is defined in terms of the neighbourhood’s ability to maintain order in public spaces such as streets, sidewalks, and parks. Collective efficacy is implemented when neighbourhood residents take over actions to maintain public order, such as by complaining to the authorities or by organizing neighbourhood watch programs. The authors argued that residents take such actions only when ‘cohesion and mutual trust’ in the neighbourhood is linked to ‘shared expectations for intervening in support of neighbourhood social control’. If either the mutual trust or the shared expectations are absent, then residents will be unlikely to act when disorder invades public space (Vold et al., 2002, p. 131-132).

Thus, the focus of community crime prevention is on strengthening communities through the provision of services that build connections between community members and connect them to external resources and services that can help them combat crime (including the police, health agencies, civil society and non-government organizations). This multi-sectoral context requires agencies to work together, which is not always straight forward. Effective inter-agency crime prevention requires: the sharing of data to help understand the nature of the crime problem(s); the development of coordinated plans for service delivery; the maintenance of regular communication; and joint assessment of the impact of intervention(s).

Situational Crime Prevention

One of the most significant proponents of situational crime prevention, Professor Ron Clarke, offers the following description of situational crime prevention:

Situational crime prevention comprises opportunity-reducing measures that are (1) directed at highly specific forms of crime, (2) that involve the management, design or manipulation of the immediate environment in as specific and permanent way as possible, (3) so as to increase the effort and risk of crime and reduce the rewards as perceived by a wide range of offenders (1997. p. 4).

This model of crime prevention assumes that many offenders are rational and respond to available opportunities for offending. If offending is difficult, then there will be a reduced propensity to offend; where offending is left unchecked, then offending will escalate. It is assumed that an offender weighs up the benefits derived from offending, the potential risks of being apprehended and the associated costs of apprehension. The results of this calculation will determine if an offence is committed.

This model also builds on the routine activities theory. Felson and Cohen suggest that:

... any successfully completed violation requires at a minimum an offender with both criminal inclinations and the ability to carry out those inclinations, a person or object providing a suitable target for the offender, and the absence of capable guardians capable of preventing the violation (1980, p. 392).

This can be demonstrated by the crime triangle below:

                                            Motivated Offender


Suitable Target/Victim                                                           Absence of Capable Guardian

Addressing these three elements of crime can help to prevent crime.

During the same period (the late 1970s/early 1980s) that Felson and Cohen were developing the Routine Activities Theory, the Brantinghams were analysing spatial and temporal crime trends (see Brantingham and Brantingham, 1978; 1981; 1982). From their research, they concluded that:

Crimes do not occur randomly or uniformly in time or space or society. Crimes do not occur randomly or uniformly across neighbourhoods, or social groups, or during an individual’s daily activities or during an individual’s lifetime ... There are hot spots and cold spots; there are high repeat offenders and high repeat victims. In fact, the two groups are frequently linked. While the numbers will continue to be debated depending on the definition and population being tested, a very small proportion of people commit most of the known crimes and also account for a large proportion of victimisations (2008, p. 79).

Echoing Felson and Cohen (1980), the Brantinghams drew attention to routine activities. They suggested that individuals undertake a range of regular activities in different nodes (home, work, school, shopping, entertainment). These activity nodes are connected by paths and people tend to routinely travel along the same paths in going about their daily routines. Consequently, individuals incidentally observe and learn about potential opportunities for crime. When a potential offender intersects with a potential target or victim, the latter will become an actual target when the potential offender’s willingness to commit a crime has been triggered. These patterns of daily activities and routines help to explain why particular locations experience elevated rates of crime – a phenomenon known as ‘crime pattern theory’.

The Brantinghams suggest that it is possible to predict crime hot spots based on an understanding of these dynamics. By analysing specific locations and considering the convergence of the key elements of crime pattern theory, it is possible to predict where crime will be concentrated and occur.

Together the rational choice offender approach, the routine activities theory and the crime pattern theory reveal how opportunities for crime arise in particular locations at particular times. They promote an understanding of the dynamics of offending, including important spatial and temporal trends. They operate on the basis that offending is a rational, purposive act that occurs when a sufficiently motivated person encounters a suitable target or victim in the absence of a capable guardianship. These approaches also encourage a deeper analysis of the specific decisions associated with offending and how they are impacted by the availability of opportunities for crime.

In response to these explanations for crime, the following can be instituted to prevent offending:

  • Increase the effort
  • Increase the risks
  • Reduce the rewards
  • Reduce provocations
  • Remove the excuses

Cornish and Clarke (2003) have expanded these to 25 opportunity reducing techniques.


Source: Cornish and Clarke (2003). 

While there is strong evidence that various forms of situational crime prevention are very effective at reducing crime, critics often argue that crime prevention efforts merely displace crime (move it from one area to another location). Despite these claims, it has been generally established that displacement of crime does not accompany all crime prevention interventions and even where there is evidence of displacement, not all crime moves. For example, one study by Hesseling (1994) found “no evidence of displacement in 22 of the studies he examined; in the remaining 33 studies, he found some evidence of displacement, but in no case was there as much crime displaced as prevented” (this study is cited in Clarke, 2008, p. 188). In contrast, there is increasing evidence that rather than displacing crime, preventive measures might result in a ‘diffusion of benefits’, which is the reduction in crime beyond the immediate focus on measures introduced. In this context, the net crime benefits are greater than might have been anticipated by a particular intervention because not only is crime prevented in the target area, but is also prevented in adjacent areas (for a reflection on situational crime prevention and crime displacement in the context of cybercrime, please see Module 9 of the UNODC Teaching Module Series on Cybercrime).

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design

According to Crowe, Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) is based on the notion that the:

physical environment can be manipulated to produce behavioural effects that will reduce the incidence and fear of crime, thereby improving the quality of life. These behavioural effects can be accomplished by reducing the propensity of the physical environment to support criminal behaviour (Crowe, 2000, p. 34–5).

Blocking opportunities for crime through creating obstacles or barriers to targets; eliminating places for concealment of would-be offenders; restricting escape routes; and increasing the surveillance of would-be offenders (Rosenbaum, Lurigio and Davis, 1998, p. 125–6) are all ways that the physical environment can be managed to prevent crime.

More specifically, CPTED now commonly includes a series of design techniques, which Cozens et al (2005) list as:

  • Surveillance: natural and technical surveillance increases the risks for would-be offenders. Surveillance can be achieved through promoting ‘eyes on the street’, as advocated by Jane Jacobs, through land use to maximize the presence of pedestrians throughout the day and during the night, or technical surveillance using closed circuit television (CCTV). A concrete example of design that facilitates natural surveillance, is ensuring that trees and shrubs do not interfere with street lighting. Further examples of design that achieve natural surveillance are available on the interactive website Secured by Design;

  • Access control: blocking access to venues and items reduces the opportunities for crime. This might be in the form of fencing, landscaping, and video and telephone activated entry to residential areas;

  • Territoriality: designing in a sense of ownership over a space promotes territoriality. Owners of a space will often intervene if there is anti-social behaviour. Design can influence the likelihood of such action being taken or not;

  • Activity support: public spaces can be activated using music or performances which draw people into a space. The presence of people will often make an area feel safer;

  • Image/maintenance: maintaining an area helps to send cues about capable guardianship. An area that appears not to be maintained or cared for might invite illicit activity. The removal of rubbish from parks, and the maintenance of public infrastructure such as bus shelters and public toilets are examples of the investment in maintenance that can assist with crime prevention. Conversely, an area that suggests high levels of capable guardianship will be less likely to attract illicit activity; and

  • Target hardening: hardening targets makes them less attractive to would-be offenders. This might include installing security devices to make items less likely to be stolen. Another example is the installation of concrete bollards to prevent vehicle attacks on physical property or entry into pedestrian zones.

CPTED and situational prevention belong to a ‘family’ of similar preventive approaches. Situational prevention seeks to eliminate existing problems, whereas CPTED seeks to “eliminate anticipated problems in new designs on the basis of past experience with similar designs” (Clarke, 2008, p. 182). Thus, Clarke suggests that CPTED is more forward looking than situational prevention.

CPTED has gained widespread interest in recent decades and is now practiced in numerous ways. Many police and local authority staff these days receive CPTED training; in some jurisdictions, rating systems for some forms of built environment quantify safety and security (for example, the Secured by Design accreditation process in the United Kingdom (UK)); CPTED practitioner professional associations have emerged (for example, the International CPTED Association); and many planning regimes now routinely incorporate CPTED design principles.

Useful resources on CPTED include:

Law Enforcement / Criminal Justice Crime Prevention

Criminal justice crime prevention refers to the activities of the criminal justice system that seek to reduce the incidence and severity of crime. Consequently, criminal justice crime prevention includes a diverse range of initiatives, such as various police activities through to post-release support programmes for people leaving prison. Comprehensive coverage of all possible criminal justice crime prevention interventions is beyond the scope of this Module. Relevant information is contained in the following Modules:

  • Module 5 Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice University Module Series: Police Accountability, Integrity and Oversight
  • Module 6 Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice University Module Series: Prison Reform
  • Module 7 Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice University Module Series: Alternatives to Imprisonment
  • Module 8 Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice University Module Series: Restorative Justice

With reference to organized crime specifically, this topic is considered in another section of this Module (Organized Crime Approaches).

The following definition of criminal justice crime prevention gives some sense of the diversity of activities captured by this approach:

Criminal justice crime prevention deals with offending after it has happened, and involves intervention in the lives of known offenders in such a fashion that they will not commit further offences. In so far as it is preventative, it operates through incapacitation and individual deterrence, and perhaps offers the opportunity of treatment in prisons or through other sentencing options (Cameron and Laycock, 2002, p. 314).

This definition highlights the importance of courts and corrections (including prisons and community corrections) in forestalling or preventing future offending. It speaks to fundamental criminological and criminal law concepts, such as incapacitation, deterrence, rehabilitation, and restoration.


The police seek to prevent crime in various ways. Different models of policing focus on different tactics and approaches to prevent or reduce crime. Three common forms of policing that potentially result in quite different approaches to crime prevention include:

  • Community-based policing: this approach recognizes that the police are of the people and for the people. Without community support, the police are not very effective because a considerable amount of crime is cleared due to reports from community members. Community-based policing favours tactics which connect the police to local communities. This might be through police involvement in community events; the creation of police-community committees to establish local policing priorities; and the creation of community-based roles to help the police connect with hard-to-reach groups such as those from minority communities.

  • Problem-oriented policing: this approach, developed by Professor Herman Goldstein, seeks to ensure a more responsive policing. Rather than just responding to calls for service, Goldstein suggested that problems should be defined with much greater specificity; that effort needs to be invested in researching the problem; that alternative solutions should be considered (including physical and technical changes, changes in the provision of government services, developing new community resources, increased use of city ordinances, and improved use of zoning); and that implementation should be carefully managed (Goldstein, 1979, p. 244–58). This approach utilizes the SARA model which will be explained in detail in the next section of this Module.

  • Pulling levers of focused deterrence policing: this approach, developed by Professor David Kennedy and his colleagues, seeks to prevent crime through: a detailed analysis of pressing crime problems; communicating with high risk offenders; providing swift policing resources if these high risk offenders continue to offend, while also extending opportunities to exit crime through engaging with relevant support services; and mobilizing local community voices to condemn ongoing criminal (especially violent) activity. This approach relies on the coordination of various services, including the police, probation and parole, prosecutors, welfare services, youth workers, local community members impacted by crime, and other agencies. Effectiveness rests on both the swift delivery of a policing and criminal justice response if offending persists, and the provision of opportunities to cease offending.

A more detailed commentary about approaches and specific case studies of policing urban space can be found in the Introductory Handbook on Policing of Urban Space developed by UNODC and UN-HABITAT (2011).


Courts seek to contribute to the prevention of crime in various ways. General and specific deterrence are goals of sentencing and court processes. By appearing in court and being sentenced, it is expected that offenders will be deterred from committing further crime. This might be due to the shame associated of appearing in court; the recognition of wrongdoing through the court process; or the services that might be accessed to assist rehabilitation. In many jurisdictions, courts have, in recent years, sought to develop more creative ways to reduce re-offending. Drug and other specialist courts seek to provide appropriate assessment and treatment for offenders with demonstrable drug or other problems. In this way, courts become more closely linked to treatment that will help to reduce the risk factors associated with ongoing offending.

Prison and Post-Release Support

In theory, at least, prison provides opportunities for rehabilitation. This might come in multiple forms, including through education and employment programmes, therapeutic interventions, work release, and individual counselling and/or casework. These interventions might seek to address risk factors associated with offending, prepare prisoners for return to the community, or provide them with the qualifications and skills to seek gainful employment.

Post-release support has been recognized as being critical to helping ex-prisoners return to the community and to overcome post-release risks (which include homelessness, overdose, suicide and re-offending). Post-release support can take various forms and include the provision of accommodation, ongoing counselling or case management, assistance gaining work, and more controlling measures such as electronic monitoring and urinalysis.

Together, these interventions have the potential to reduce the risks of recidivism, an important facet of crime prevention.