‘Crime prevention’ encompasses a broad range of initiatives spanning sectors as diverse as early childhood education, urban planning and architectural design, public policy development, research and evaluation, and the domains more readily associated with crime prevention: policing, courts, and other criminal justice mechanisms. The Module commences with a discussion about the complexity of defining crime prevention and differentiates between various terms that are relevant to crime prevention work (crime control, crime reduction, and community safety). Having established that the phenomenon of crime prevention has both theoretical and practical dimensions, the Module proceeds to elucidate the primary tenets of various crime prevention typologies through examples from various regions of the world. Typologies examined closely include developmental crime prevention – which is exemplified through the positive impacts associated with the provision of quality early childhood education - and situational crime prevention, which canvasses classic criminological theories of the rational actor and routine activities theory. The Module also examines the role that the police and the criminal justice system play in crime prevention, providing innovative examples from various regions of the world of crime problem-solving approaches, including problem-oriented policing.
While the Module identifies that the prevention of crime has multiple positive outcomes, including the safeguarding of human life, improved well-being over the life course, improved social cohesion, and the preservation of property and resources, it is important to note that crime prevention is not without problems. Accordingly, the Module identifies the risks of unintended consequences from crime prevention efforts, including displacement and diffusion effects. The Module also identifies the need for care when identifying factors that are thought to increase the risk of crime, to ensure that individuals and communities are not stigmatized or caught within a widened net of pre-crime monitoring or control.
Furthermore, the Module considers approaches that are specific to the prevention of organized crime. It takes into account the most significant ‘non-traditional’ or administrative approaches to organized crime prevention, in particular: community approaches; regulatory, disruption and non-justice system approaches; and private sector involvement. This typology is not analytical in character but is simply a kind of ‘natural history’ classification of broad intervention methods, each of which may work in different context and in various combinations. In addition to this, the Module looks beyond the administrative approaches and considers two other broad categories of intervention: law enforcement/criminal justice prevention; and international and domestic cooperation.
Ultimately, the breath of typologies and examples presented in this Module illustrate that crime prevention in general, and organize crime prevention in particular, are neither singular nor universal. There are significant legal, cultural and political differences across regional and local contexts that influence how crime prevention is considered and practiced. Crime prevention practice is most effective when it is sensitive to the needs and rights of individuals in specific contexts, and when the needs and rights of the most vulnerable members of communities are recognized. In the sections that follow, the Module provides an array of case studies, summary reports, and video resources that will assist lecturers in adapting their teaching to suit the specificities of their local and regional context.