Crime prevention is certainly better than investigating and dealing with a criminal act once it has happened. Police officers who are ‘out and about’, travelling on trains, walking around shopping centres and patrolling the streets make life more difficult for criminals. Communities, too, are becoming more active in preventing crime. For example, eliminating laneways and ‘dark’ areas in large public housing estates is an effective way of reducing crime.
Public awareness campaigns also make people more aware of ways to prevent crime. For example, signs in car parks remind people to lock their cars and take their valuables with them.
Situational crime prevention
Situational crime prevention involves making it difficult for criminals to commit criminal acts by increasing the risk of being caught, making the crime more difficult to perpetrate or making the crime less rewarding. Such prevention is often referred to as ‘opportunity reduction’.
Use of situational crime prevention is increasing, particularly in commercial settings. For example, many shops now make use of surveillance cameras and security guards, which significantly increases the risk of offenders being caught.
Steel bollards placed in front of shop windows and steel shutters make crimes such as ram raiding more difficult. Reducing the amount of cash held on premises and colour-tagging clothes limits the rewards from crime.
Many cars are now fitted with electronic tracking devices that track a car once it is stolen and then allow an operator to turn off the engine and stop the car while alerting police to its location. Similarly, most modern cars are now fitted with immobilisers that prevent an engine being turned on unless a specially coded key is used to start the engine.
Social crime prevention
Social crime prevention attempts to reduce the factors that are likely to cause a person to commit a crime. These factors can include poor parenting and/or home environment, high levels of truancy and misbehaviour at school, drug addiction and exposure to criminal elements at an early age.
Lawmakers and enforcers are beginning to see the social and economic value in social crime prevention. The most common strategy to encourage young people away from crime is the use of diversionary programs that provide a venue for alternative activities, such as sporting groups, the Police Citizens Youth Clubs and drop-in centres. Programs that target substance abuse, enable intervention in violent behaviour and provide job training to reduce unemployment have also been adopted.