Key issues in crime prevention and community safety
The recent focus on crime prevention is a very delightful movement within the law enforcement arena. Traditionally crime prevention has been viewed as an unnecessary appendage to its more robust siblings within the system of law enforcement and justice (Community-based 2010). While the importance of crime prevention has been recognized, the implementation of successful strategies has been beset by the problem of proving something that has not taken place (Gerard, 1944). However, it is necessary to have a holistic grasp of the interlaced dynamics that operate within society to produce criminal behavior (Rogers & Prosser, 2006 p.56). Therefore, to deal effectively with crime an understanding of the causality relating to criminal behavior is necessary.
The aforementioned causality is not an easy component to get a hold of since crimes by their very nature are diverse and, as a consequence will have different causal factors associated with each crime (Hirschfield, & Bowers, 1998, p.200). The problem is even more complex because establishing causality is itself a problem. The fact that humans who, before committing the crime have lived a percentage of their life means that it is very difficult to identify true independent variables that can be explored as causal factors (Home office research study, 1998). These are the variables that can be identified as being amiable to manipulation and thus result in crime prevention. This is a major impediment in the prevention of crime, so that many of the approaches to crime prevention are limited from their inception since they are not addressing true independent variables.
Additionally, the theories that are incorporated into the research protocol is limited in its fecundity. Theory by its very nature requires testing to verify that the theory is sound and valid. The mechanism used to test the theory can also be considered to be lacking in that it is impossible to test prevention theory in an experimental manner (Hirschfield & Bowers, 2000). Thus, many of the theoretical positions are very limited in scope and are often not directly connected to successful policy positions (Laycock & Tilley, 1995 p. 536). The true hallmark of successful theory it the ability to not only explain and successful predict the action and scope of the phenomenon, but to also provide real world solutions. These solutions are often in the form of policy prescriptions that are employed by agencies to assist in the prevention of criminality (Walklate, Sandra (1998).
In addition to the limitation in the theorizing on crime, prevention there is also the challenge of the measurement of policy initiatives (Hope 1995 p.28). This problem has many facets but the most difficult may be those tied to the timeframes allowed for success of the initiatives and to the measurement of success (Dammert & Malone 2006). Additionally there may be challenges linked to either demographic or geographic challenges. As some age groups are more prone to commit and to be victims of crime, therefore is a different measurement required for the groups that are skewed from the onset of the process (Evaluation of, 2003, Green, McFalls, & Smith, 2001). The same concern applies to areas where the environmental conditions produce the type of climate that induces criminal behavior (Smith 1984 p.428, Lowman 1986). The measurement of policy success in these areas must be adjusted to account for the variation that exists within the population because of these elements (Clarke 1995, p. 150).
A final consideration for the issue of evaluation of program or policy success is the level at which the evaluation is conducted. Evaluations can be conducted at multiple levels, where the requirements of each level is different and the evaluation is also different. At the project level, where specific community projects are engaged in with the view to preventing crime (Rogers 2006). Consideration is given to the cost effectiveness of the project and the immediate results in terms of the reduction in specific types of criminal behavior. Projects such as dealing with abandoned lots or increased street lighting are designed to address specific types of crime (Improved street lighting 2007). They should be evaluated based on their impact on that type of crime only (Rogers, 2006). Evaluation can also be enacted at the program level where multiple projects are linked together through their commonalties and the…