research about crime prevention

Crime Prevention Research Center

Dedicated to conducting academic quality research on the relationship between laws regulating the ownership or use of guns, crime, and public safety, latest research.

The continued false claim that firearms are the leading cause of death for children or teens, now from the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy

The continued false claim that firearms are the leading cause of death for children or teens, now from the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy

by johnrlott | Jun 26, 2024 | Original Research On Tuesday, the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy declared: “Firearms are the leading cause of death for children and adolescents” and that it is “public health crisis.” This has been a favorite talking point from the...

New Research: Estimating the Effect of Concealed Carry Laws on Murder: A Response to Bondy, et al.

New Research: Estimating the Effect of Concealed Carry Laws on Murder: A Response to Bondy, et al.

by johnrlott | Jun 20, 2024 | Original Research

Professor Carl Moody, our CPRC research director, and Dr. John Lott have new research available for download. Abstract In response to our short paper in Academia Letters, Bondy et. al. published much longer response in this journal. We show that the Bondy et. al....

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Latest Columns

At National Review Online: What Vivek Murthy Gets Wrong about Gun Crime: The surgeon general wants to promote gun control through public health. He should try to get his facts right, first.

At National Review Online: What Vivek Murthy Gets Wrong about Gun Crime: The surgeon general wants to promote gun control through public health. He should try to get his facts right, first.

by johnrlott | Jul 4, 2024 | op-ed , Public Health

Dr. John Lott has a new piece at National Review. . ‘Firearms are the leading cause of death for children and adolescents,” U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy saidlast week, calling the situation a “public health crisis.” It has been a favorite talking point of the...

At Townhall: Want to ‘Do Something’ to Stop Mass Shootings?: Use Existing Involuntary Commitment Laws.

At Townhall: Want to ‘Do Something’ to Stop Mass Shootings?: Use Existing Involuntary Commitment Laws.

by Nikki Goeser | Jun 25, 2024 | Gun Free Zones , Mass Public Shootings , op-ed , Red Flag Laws

Nikki Goeser, The CPRC's Senior Fellow, has a new op-ed at Townhall. Red flag laws are not necessary to prevent dangerous people from having guns. These laws are unconstitutional, as they put the accused in a position of being assumed guilty until proven innocent....

At the Washington Times: Liberals’ statistics on falling violent crime rates don’t match reality

At the Washington Times: Liberals’ statistics on falling violent crime rates don’t match reality

by johnrlott | Jun 24, 2024 | op-ed

Dr. John Lott has a new piece at the Washington Times. . “It’s no accident that violent crime is near a record 50-year low,” President Biden claims. And if you believe recent fact-checkers at places, like Politifact, rate Biden’s statement as “true.” On ABC’s This...

At Real Clear Politics: Biden’s Completely Dishonest and Outrageous Gun Control Ad

At Real Clear Politics: Biden’s Completely Dishonest and Outrageous Gun Control Ad

by johnrlott | Jun 19, 2024 | op-ed Dr. John Lott has a...

At Real Clear Politics: Nashville Shooter’s Manifesto Released Despite FBI Resistance

At Real Clear Politics: Nashville Shooter’s Manifesto Released Despite FBI Resistance

by johnrlott | Jun 14, 2024 | op-ed

Dr. John Lott has a new piece at Real Clear Politics. It was republished at the Daily Signal, Zero Hedge, Ohio Star, Real Clear Policy, Before Its News, The Heartland News, the BFD (New Zealand), and USSA News. The 2023 Nashville Covenant School murders understandably...

At Townhall: Biden’s Desperate Attempt to Paint Trump As a Racist

At Townhall: Biden’s Desperate Attempt to Paint Trump As a Racist

by johnrlott | Jun 8, 2024 | op-ed

Dr. John Lott has a new op-ed at Townhall. A new Biden ad quotes Trump saying, “Of course, I hate these people.” The ad explains, “Donald Trump disrespecting black folk is nothing new.” The ad claims that Trump “called for the execution of 5 innocent black and brown...

The Washington Times: Don’t defend yourself in New York City: If you do, you will be prosecuted

The Washington Times: Don’t defend yourself in New York City: If you do, you will be prosecuted

by johnrlott | May 29, 2024 | op-ed

Dr. John Lott has a new op-ed at the Washington Times. . The message in New York City is clear: don’t try defending yourself or anyone else from violence. If you do, you will be prosecuted by the city’s District Attorneys. . New Yorkers are likely to be very familiar...

At Townhall: The FBI’s Crime Data Have Real Problems

At Townhall: The FBI’s Crime Data Have Real Problems

by johnrlott | May 15, 2024 | op-ed

Dr. John Lott has a new piece up at Townhall that continues our investigation into the problems with the FBI crime data. The news media relies almost exclusively on FBI data to report on changes in crime rates. But there is strong evidence that FBI data...

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Talk in Brazil on July 5th

Talk in Brazil on July 5th

by johnrlott | Jun 19, 2024 | Talk

Dr. John Lott will speak on Friday, July 5th at the 4th edition of SHOT FAIR BRASIL. Location: SHOT FAIR BRASIL Arena Day: July 5th (Friday) Time: 7pm until 8:30pm Guests: Lott, Bene Barbosa and Fabrício Rebelo Location: Anhembi District – EXPO 5 - São Paulo/SP...

Public Speech in São Paulo, Brazil on July 5th

Public Speech in São Paulo, Brazil on July 5th

by johnrlott | May 29, 2024 | Talk

Dr. John Lott will give talks in Santiago, Chile, at the end of June and then travel to Brazil, where he will give more talks.

Conference talk on the Collapse of Law Enforcement in the US

Conference talk on the Collapse of Law Enforcement in the US

by RW | May 12, 2024 | Talk Dr. John Lott gave a talk at a Berkeley Springs 2024 Conference on the collapse of law enforcement in the US. Dr. Lott disagreed with what he was told were the concerns of others at the conference regarding legal immigration and also...

Media Appearances

On NewsMax’s Wake Up America Weekend: To Discuss Uptick in Undocumented Migrants Committing Violent Crimes

On NewsMax’s Wake Up America Weekend: To Discuss Uptick in Undocumented Migrants Committing Violent Crimes

by RW | Jul 11, 2024 | Television Dr. John Lott appeared on NewsMax’s Wake Up America Weekend with retired NYPD detective Angel Maysonet to discuss President Biden's border policies and violent crimes from undocumented migrants. (NewsMax’s Wake Up America Weekend,...

On Frontline with Dustin Faulkner: To Discuss Nashville Shooter’s Manifesto Revealed

On Frontline with Dustin Faulkner: To Discuss Nashville Shooter’s Manifesto Revealed Dr. John Lott appeared on Battlefront: Frontline with Derek Faulkner to talk about the Nashville shooter’s manifesto, which may lead to understanding how to stop the mass shooters, and the FBI's fight against its release. They...

On The Michigan Talk Network: To Discuss Biden’s Lies

On The Michigan Talk Network: To Discuss Biden’s Lies

by RW | Jul 10, 2024 | Radio

Dr. John Lott talked to Steve Gruber on the Michigan Talk Network about Hunter Biden's federal gun trial and President Joe Biden's remarks with false and misleading claims. (Wednesday, June 12, 2024)

All Our Posts

CPRC in the News: Instapundit, Powerline, 1819 News, Zero Hedge, Real Clear Politics, American Greatness, and much more

CPRC in the News: Instapundit, Powerline, 1819 News, Zero Hedge, Real Clear Politics, American Greatness, and much more

by johnrlott | Jul 11, 2024 | Media Coverage

According to gun expert and founder of the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) John Lott, who served as the senior advisor for Research and Statistics in the Office of Justice Programs and then the Office of Legal Policy in the U.S. Department of Justice...

Media Bias on TV Police Shows: CBS’ FBI Most Wanted, Criminals Using Machine Guns to Commit an Art Robbery

Media Bias on TV Police Shows: CBS’ FBI Most Wanted, Criminals Using Machine Guns to Commit an Art Robbery

by johnrlott | Jul 5, 2024 | Media Bias As the Crime Prevention Research Center has often pointed out, television crime shows seem to think criminals constantly use machine guns to commit crime. Unfortunately, CBS’ FBI Most Wanted is no different (Season 5 Episode...

More TV Police Shows Bias on Guns: CBS’s S.W.A.T. shows environmentalist terrorists using machine guns

More TV Police Shows Bias on Guns: CBS’s S.W.A.T. shows environmentalist terrorists using machine guns

by johnrlott | Jul 3, 2024 | Media Bias In real life, criminals generally use machine guns so rarely that a 2016 survey of prison inmates only broke down the numbers for uses in crime of handguns (11.2%), rifles (0.8%), and shotguns (1.1%). There are few... — John Jay College's Research and Evaluation Center

Community | safety | evidence.

research about crime prevention

Reducing Violence Without Police: A Review of Research Evidence


Executive Summary

Introduction, framing the agenda, major strategies, recommendations, about this report.

Members of the Advisory Group


research about crime prevention

Arnold Ventures asked the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice to review and summarize research on policies and programs known to reduce community violence without relying on police. To accomplish this goal, the Research and Evaluation Center assembled a diverse group of academic consultants across the fields of criminology, social and behavioral sciences, public health, epidemiology, law, and public policy. The group met several times during the summer of 2020 to produce an accessible synthesis of research evidence. Key questions were:

  • Can communities ensure the health and security of residents without depending on law enforcement,
  • What is the strongest research evidence to aid in the selection of violence-reduction strategies,
  • How can community leaders and funding organizations like Arnold Ventures draw upon existing evidence while building even better evidence, and
  • How can funding organizations use this report to elevate discussions about violence, improve outcomes in communities affected by violence, and help local and national partners to identify evidence-based interventions that are ready to be scaled.

The consultants used a broad lens to define community violence as the type of interpersonal violence that occurs in public places, but they considered the personal and structural antecedents of violence as well. By identifying the precursors of violence and emphasizing both their practical salience and theoretical relevance, the group sought to identify the most useful evidence for preventing and reducing community violence.

This report represents the consultants’ best advice for funding organizations and community leaders, but it is not a technical synthesis of research or a meta-analysis of the most rigorous studies. (There are sources for that information already, see , a site hosted for the U.S. Department of Justice.)

This report summarizes the collective judgment of an experienced group of researchers who were free to consider all evidence, unconstrained by the conventional priority given to randomized controlled trials (RCT). The most rigorous studies in the field of community violence are RCTs, but many focus on individual behaviors only, failing to account for the full social context giving rise to those behaviors, including social and economic inequities, institutionalized discrimination, and the racial and class biases of the justice system itself.

To synthesize evidence in an inclusive manner, one must be aware of social context and prioritize solutions that help to address structural impediments while still providing immediate interventions to reduce violence. Unless research evidence is considered in this context, potentially effective strategies may be overlooked simply because they target community-level change rather than individual change, and for that reason are difficult to evaluate and the research literature to back them up is inevitably less rigorous and less prominent.

With these goals in mind, the members of the research group worked collaboratively to identify, translate, and summarize evidence for strategies to reduce violence without police. To identify the most important and potentially effective strategies, the research group placed a high value on programs designed with a clear theoretical rationale and outcomes at specific levels—i.e. individuals, families, neighborhoods (including blocks and street segments), or larger geopolitical boundaries, including cities and counties. Recognizing that evaluation research tends to favor programs aimed at individual behaviors, the group made an effort to include strategies focused on community-level change with the potential to achieve durable, scalable effects.

The research advisory group also focused on the time frame for intervention. Some effective methods for preventing violence take years to reach their maximum effect. Some well-known strategies generate outcomes in a year or two, but that doesn’t make them the best ideas. The research advisory group resisted a systematic bias favoring short-term interventions.

The group identified seven evidence-backed strategies:

Improve the Physical Environment Place-based interventions that are structural, scalable, and sustainable have been shown to reduce violence and many strategies are economically viable. Increasing the prevalence of green space in a neighborhood, improving the quality of neighborhood buildings and housing, and creating public spaces with ample lighting suitable for pedestrian traffic can be cost-effective ways of decreasing community violence.

Strengthen Anti-Violence Social Norms and Peer Relationships Programs such as Cure Violence and Advance Peace view violence as a consequence of social norms spread by peer networks and social relationships. Outreach workers, a key part of these interventions, form supportive and confidential relationships with individuals at the highest risk of becoming perpetrators or victims of violence, connecting them with social resources and working to shift their behavior and attitudes toward non-violence. Evaluations suggest these programs may help reduce neighborhood violence.

Engage and Support Youth Young people, especially young males, account for a disproportionate amount of community violence. Any effort to reduce violence must involve a special focus on youth. Strategies that add structure and opportunities for youth have been shown to decrease their involvement in violent crime. Youth employment, job mentorship and training, educational supports, and behavioral interventions can improve youth outcomes and reduce violence. Some of these strategies require relatively costly individualized therapeutic interventions, but others focused on work and school have been associated with cost-efficient reductions in violence.

Reduce Substance Abuse Numerous studies show that interventions to reduce harmful substance abuse are associated with lower rates of community violence, and not all strategies involve treatment. Policies to enforce age limits on alcohol access, restrict alcohol sales in certain areas or during specific times, as well as increasing access to treatment have been shown to decrease violent crime.

Mitigate Financial Stress Financial stability and economic opportunities help to reduce crime. Short-term assistance, especially when coupled with behavioral therapy programs, appears to affect rates of violence and the timing of financial aid plays a role in community safety. People experiencing negative income shocks are less inclined to behave violently when they receive timely financial assistance.

Reduce the Harmful Effects of the Justice Process The judicial process must be viewed as legitimate for community members to engage effectively with law enforcement in reducing violence. Research suggests that community safety is supported when justice systems operate with transparency, openness, consistency, and trust, and when police departments are willing to address complaints from the community.

Confront the Gun Problem Implementing comprehensive and uniform gun policies can decrease the use of firearms in violent acts. Violence has been reduced by policy mechanisms that limit access to guns and increase restrictions for individuals with violent crime backgrounds, reduce access to guns by young people, impose waiting periods, and increase required training.

  • Behavior responds to situational and environmental influences. In addition to changing behavior one person at a time, communities should create physical environments that reduce violence with cost-effective, place-based interventions that are structural, scalable, and sustainable.
  • Violence can be reduced by increasing pro-social bonds and anti-violence norms across communities, especially when the message comes from community-based programs staffed by familiar and credible messengers.
  • Violence prevention and reduction strategies must include a priority on young people, focusing on protective factors as well as risk factors.
  • Violence prevention must include a focus on alcohol distribution, drug decriminalization, and treatment.
  • Violence is more prevalent where residents face severe and chronic financial stress. Timely and targeted financial assistance can help to reduce rates of violence.
  • To maximize the benefits and reduce the potential harms of the formal justice system, communities should invest in strategies designed to increase the objectivity, neutrality, and transparency of the justice process.
  • Keeping firearms away from people inclined to use them for violence is challenging given widespread gun ownership in the United States, but it remains an essential part of any effort to reduce community violence.
  • Effective prevention should include short-term strategies with rapid returns, but ignoring long-term investments increases community risk.
  • To generate reliable evidence, funding entities should place a priority on research involving significant and sustained community engagement.
  • Assessing the strength of research evidence is a technical skill. Evaluations of violence reduction efforts should involve teams of experts from a variety of fields, and advanced degrees are not enough. Experts in evaluation methods, statistics, and causal inference are essential partners.
  • Prioritizing intervention strategies based simply on the results and methodological rigor of research published in academic journals is dangerously naive and harmful. Strategies to reduce violence should reflect an appropriate balance of evidentiary support with theoretical salience and practical viability.
  • Many strategies for reducing violence require direct contact with human subjects for interviews and surveys. Funding entities should continue to invest in these studies, but more effort should be made to design cost-effective evaluations using pre-existing, administrative data from varying sectors, including schools, hospitals, housing, taxes, employment records, commercial sales, business regulations, etc. Researchers and funders should collaborate in designing data analytic projects and natural experiments that test a wide array of policies and programs for their potential to reduce violence.

Researchers have conducted hundreds of studies looking for effective ways to prevent and reduce violence, but the knowledge base is far from complete, especially as it relates to one important question: are there ways to prevent violence without relying on the police? The obvious answer is “yes.” Policing has never been the primary explanation for obviously varying levels of community safety. Residents of wealthy areas do not experience the intense police surveillance and enforcement imposed on poor neighborhoods. Yet, rates of violence are reliably lower in wealthy communities.

What are we to make from this simple observation? Are wealthy areas relatively safe from violence because the police already finished their work in those neighborhoods, or are other factors having nothing to do with law enforcement actually responsible for low rates of violence? Can those factors be replicated in non-wealthy areas affected by community violence? What are the most practical ways to prevent and reduce violence without police? Have those strategies been evaluated? Which interventions are backed by rigorous research?

Researchers have produced many studies of violence reduction strategies, but this does not mean contemporary policies and programs are always based on evidence from those studies. Searching the large volume of available research can be an obstacle for funders and community leaders. Many studies are hidden behind the paywalls of academic journals. It is also not a simple matter to read and comprehend evaluation research. Researchers often use a style of writing and presentation that can be impenetrable to non-researchers. The path from research evidence to actionable policies and programs is far from simple.

Arnold Ventures asked the John Jay College Research and Evaluation Center (JohnJayREC) to review the research evidence for violence reduction strategies that do not rely on law enforcement. The scan was carried out by an expert group of researchers from the fields of public policy, criminology, law, public health, and social science. The members of the research group worked collaboratively to identify, translate, and summarize the most important and actionable studies.

Before summarizing the state of research evidence for non-policing strategies to reduce community violence, the term community violence must be clarified. This is more difficult than it may appear. From a purely legal perspective, the term “violence” is used quite liberally. Merely threatening another person with bodily harm would be considered a violent offense in many states (i.e. simple assault or misdemeanor assault).

To the average citizen, the term “violent crime” describes serious harm. “Community violence” suggests the type of violent harm that a resident may encounter during the course of a normal day, whether in their own home or out in the neighborhood, and whether they are the intended victim of a violent act or merely an incidental victim or bystander. This would include homicides, shootings, violent robberies, serious assaults, and sexual assaults. It would not include suicides and it would exclude many routine interpersonal conflicts that are not seriously violent (i.e. loud arguments). The limits of this conventional definition are addressed later in this discussion.

Given a conventional understanding of community violence, the next issue is how to prevent and reduce it? Is policing sufficient? Comprehensive efforts to reduce community violence may always include a role for law enforcement, but a disproportionate amount of research on violence reduction focuses on policing and the formal justice system, although non-policing interventions have demonstrated promising results and positive returns on investment. The key questions are, which non-policing interventions are most promising and how do we know? Several important points help to frame the research described below.

First, if one searches for research on violence prevention it is immediately apparent that evaluations of policing interventions are more common than non-policing strategies. A search of community-based violence interventions on using the filters for strong evidence (“effective”), topic (“crime and crime prevention”), and setting (“high crime neighborhood”) yielded only 17 programs. Of those 17 programs, 14 involved the police as either the lead agency or a key partner, and at least 5 of the 14 were based on the “focused deterrence” law enforcement strategy. Changing the filter for evidence rating to “promising” yielded 34 programs, again with the overwhelming majority being police programs and those related to focused deterrence.

Websites like are used heavily by state and local governments without sufficient resources to conduct their own evaluations. The information they provide, however, is heavily skewed toward policing programs because studies of policing interventions (i.e. hotspots policing and focused deterrence) are strongly supported by public and private funding bodies. For instance, the large number of evaluations of focused deterrence programs stems in part from years of Federal funding in support of the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) portfolio of law enforcement programs, which originated in 2001 and mandated (or, in some years encouraged) the involvement of research partners (Roman et al. 2020). In the early years of PSN, federal solicitations emphasized the focused deterrence model as a priority for funding. Similarly, the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance provided hundreds of millions of dollars for community-level violence reduction over the last two decades through the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation portfolio, now known as “Innovations in Community-Based Crime Reduction” (CBCR). These grants, most of which involved a policing partner, also mandated the participation of research partners. Thus, it is not surprising that a search of recent literature produces many examples of police-driven or police-affiliated strategies for preventing and reducing violence.

Putting aside policing interventions, a search of the literature finds another large group of studies testing the effects of social services for children and their families (Weisburd et al. 2017). This may be the case because evaluating family programs is relatively easy. Researchers can establish control over program implementation and follow-up periods can be relatively quick.

Of course, the easiest and quickest answers are rarely the best answers. Perhaps it would be just as effective to focus on schools, neighborhood networks, communities, and the physical characteristics of communities. Other interventions may reduce violence by improving labor markets, economic opportunities, housing quality, gun laws, and the prevalence of substance abuse and mental health issues. Even broader interventions may be able to affect community violence by changing cultural beliefs and attitudes about racism, gender bias, and class differentials.

Violence reduction interventions other than policing have been successful in some places and under some conditions, but which strategies can be expanded and replicated across communities? Are some ideas ready to be scaled up and scaled out? Replication is a critical issue (Lösel 2018). As every evaluation researcher knows, public officials tend to believe the problems of their communities are unique to their communities. Indeed, some violence problems could be site-specific, but interventions to reduce violence should be constructed from general principles to ensure effectiveness and facilitate replication.

Community leaders must be able to identify strong, theoretically informed strategies with proven track records, know how to implement them, and know whether they can be modified in any way before making them a permanent part of their approach to violence prevention. The evidence base for violence prevention is strengthened when outcome evaluations are backed up by process evaluations that investigate the ideal conditions for program implementation and use rigorous methods to identify the required components of interventions versus those that may be modified or even disregarded. Before an intervention is chosen for implementation, research partners should also help with “problem analysis,” an organized effort to identify exactly what an intervention is designed to achieve and whether it is the right solution for the immediate problem.

Researchers testing interventions focused on individual behaviors must also try to identify whether strategies are equally effective across the demographic spectrum—i.e. differences by age, race, ethnicity, sex, and gender. Knowing whether programs are equally beneficial for all persons and places is often just as important as the design, implementation, and management of programs (Windsor et al. 2015).

Moreover, individuals live in neighborhoods, located within cities and counties, all of which are contained within states or provinces. Evaluation evidence must be sensitive to the externalities of a community’s social and political environment and how they influence the implementation and effectiveness of intervention strategies (Aisenberg and Herrenkohl 2008). Developing a deeper understanding of how different contexts influence outcomes is important for understanding violence prevention and violence reduction, whether at the individual level or the community level.

The time frame for intervention is another critical issue. Some of the most effective methods for preventing violence could take years to reach their maximum effect, but the research spotlight does not always linger long enough to see the benefits (Brame et al. 2016). Investments in violence reduction are often short term. Due to funding issues and the rush to present findings, many evaluations of violence reduction rely on outcomes that are measurable within a year or two. Political leaders change, social contexts evolve, agency priorities shift, and researchers are under constant pressure to publish. A short time horizon may limit the utility of evaluation studies.

Finally, the utilization of research suffers from misleading marketing. Policymakers and the public have been told for decades that the “gold standard” of evaluation evidence is the randomized experiment, or randomized controlled trial (RCT). If all questions relevant for policy and practice in the prevention of violence were amenable to randomized studies, this would be an admirable position. In many areas of social policy, however, some important questions cannot be answered with RCT studies due to logistical, financial, and ethical concerns. This is especially true in the case of violence prevention and violence reduction at the community level. Randomized designs are a valuable resource for providing precise answers to specific questions, but it is also important to ask the right questions and only then select the best method of answering them (Butts and Roman 2018).

research about crime prevention

What exactly is a non-policing approach? How does it work and how long does it take to have an effect? In what contexts or circumstances could it work? Most importantly, is it feasible and affordable as a mainstream practice? These questions should be answered with research evidence and not simply politics or public opinion.

Policymakers and the public instinctively embrace a classic deterrence perspective, or a belief that crime is most effectively prevented when criminal sanctions for illegal acts are delivered with certainty, swiftness, and appropriate severity. This is thought to apply at the level of individuals in the case of “specific deterrence,” and at the aggregate or population level for “general deterrence.”

If deterrence were entirely sufficient to prevent violence and ensure public safety, the United States would undoubtedly enjoy one of the lowest rates of community violence in the world. The U.S. drastically expanded its already substantial investments in policing and prisons during the past 50 years (Platt 2018). Effective violence prevention, however, involves strategies beyond deterrence. It requires investments in communities and organizations other than police and the justice system.

Non-policing approaches to violence prevention can produce significant benefits without the attendant harms of policing and punishment. Funding organizations should invest in a broad range of research to build a strong evidence base for communities seeking effective approaches to reduce violence. The following sections review the state of research evidence for some of the most promising strategies:

Improve the Physical Environment

Strengthen anti-violence social norms and peer relationships, engage and support youth, reduce substance abuse, mitigate financial stress, reduce the harmful effects of the justice process, confront the gun problem.

The relationship of violence to poverty and inequality is well documented. It is not surprising that many violence interventions focus on people and behaviors associated with social and economic disadvantages. But, are individualized services the best approach? Can neighborhoods themselves be the focus of interventions to prevent and reduce violence?

A growing body of scientific evidence with a long theoretical tradition indicates that structural, place-based modifications may significantly decrease violence. Strategies focusing on the “root causes” of violence—especially accumulated structures of neighborhood poverty—can be implemented in specific geographic areas in ways that help to counter even decades of disinvestment, neglect, racist policies, and indeed violence. By reshaping certain aspects of the physical environment—e.g., fixing abandoned buildings, greening vacant lots, and lighting public spaces—policymakers can reduce opportunities for violence, prevent the possession of illegal guns, lower rates of gun violence, and create sustained co-benefits such as reductions in stress, fear, and common nuisances.

The notion that crime can be prevented by improving physical space inspired an entire branch of research known as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, or CPTED (Cozens et al. 2005). Broadly, CPTED builds on Jane Jacob’s idea that the physical design of streets and public spaces can encourage the active guardianship of those spaces, thereby promoting informal neighborhood social control and reducing potential opportunities for crime (MacDonald et al. 2019). Epidemiologists and city planners, borrowing from decades of thinking on maximizing and sustaining interventions to improve the health and safety of whole populations and not simply subsets of high-risk individuals, also independently developed a series of community-engaged, place-based interventions that recognize violence as a public health crisis (Frieden 2010; Rose 2001).

These interventions can function like other systemic public health interventions, such as the chlorination of water to prevent infectious diseases and the restructuring of roadways to prevent traffic crashes. Of course, city planners must be careful to avoid using CPTED as a justification for severe physical modifications that increase resident anxiety and hinder collective efficacy (Cozens et al. 2005). Reliable evidence for well-considered place-based interventions, however, indicates that interventions that are structural, scalable, and sustainable may help to reduce community violence (Branas and MacDonald 2014).

research about crime prevention

Green Space

One of the most obvious place-based interventions to reduce crime and violence without policing is the creation of green space, such as adding parks, planting trees, and revitalizing vacant lots. Nature is believed to reduce crime by having a neuro-therapeutic effect that reduces aggression and creates an inviting space for local residents to congregate and become more invested in their relationships with each other and their surroundings (Kuo and Sullivan 2001b). Natural experiments in Chicago demonstrated that increased greening and greater tree canopy in public housing areas were associated with significantly less violent crime and reports of aggression by residents (Kuo and Sullivan 2001a; Kuo and Sullivan 2001b). Using data from Philadelphia, another study found evidence of an inverse relationship between tree cover and gun assaults, especially in low-income areas (Kondo et al. 2017a). Taking advantage of an exogenous shock (i.e. an infestation of emerald ash borer beetles that decimated trees across the Cincinnati, Ohio area), another natural experiment estimated that tree loss was associated with significant increases in simple assaults, felony assaults, and violent crimes (Kondo et al. 2017b). A study conducted in Connecticut, on the other hand, found a null relationship between tree planting and crime, but this may have been driven by selection effects determining which neighborhoods succeeded in their tree-planting efforts (Locke et al. 2017).

Multiple cities have implemented straightforward and highly scalable programs to revitalize vacant lots. The creation of small “pocket parks” has been evaluated with a mixture of epidemiologic randomized controlled trials, quasi-experimental studies, and ethnographic participant-observer research, showing that “cleaning and greening” interventions signal to residents that their communities are investing in the neighborhood and closely monitoring the newly greened spaces. Greening vacant lots may directly intervene to prevent gun assaults since vacant and overgrown lots are known to be havens for the storage and disposal of illegal guns as well as inviting violence and other unwanted behaviors along with abandoned cars and other large trash items (Branas et al. 2011).

One decade long quasi-experimental study in Philadelphia showed that greening vacant lots was associated with consistent and significant reductions in gun assaults and resident stress citywide (Branas et al. 2011). A randomized controlled trial in Philadelphia assigned vacant lots into clean and green treatment and control groups, finding that “removing trash and debris, grading the land, planting new grass using a hydroseeding method that can quickly cover large areas of land, planting a small number of trees to create a park-like setting, installing low wooden perimeter fences, and then regularly maintaining the newly treated lot” reduced residents’ safety concerns when going outside their homes by 58 percent, while decreasing crime overall by 9 percent, gun violence by 17 percent, and police-reported nuisances by 28 percent (Branas et al. 2018). Another study found that similar interventions significantly increased residents’ feelings of safety (Garvin et al. 2013), and that simply mowing the grass and cleaning up trash significantly reduced shootings by 9 percent (Moyer et al. 2019).

Research in several cities shows that community-led initiatives to maintain vacant lots can decrease violence. In a quasi-experimental study in Flint, Michigan, street segments that voluntarily engaged in a “Clean & Green” program experienced nearly 40 percent fewer assaults and violent crimes compared with street segments that did not maintain their vacant lots (Heinze et al. 2018). A quasi-experimental study in Youngstown, Ohio analyzed the effects of “Lots of Green,” an initiative focused on cleaning up vacant lots and growing plants while inviting area residents to propose new uses for the empty space. The first intervention significantly reduced burglaries while the proposal process alone was associated with a significant reduction in overall violent crime (Kondo et al. 2016). Given the low cost of such remediations and the high costs of violent crime outcomes such as gun violence, every dollar spent on cleaning and greening interventions may return hundreds of dollars in public safety benefits (Branas et al. 2016).

research about crime prevention

Housing and Buildings

Another widely studied place-based intervention targets housing and other types of buildings. The condition and quality of built structures affect the overall safety of neighborhoods as well as the experiences of individuals residing within them. From the impact of lead paint to perimeter defenses, to whether a building is simply abandoned or in disrepair, multiple factors have been linked to crime and violence.

One aspect of housing receiving considerable attention from researchers is the mounting evidence of the relationship between lead exposure and subsequent violence. Measuring blood lead levels of 125,000 preschool boys born in Rhode Island between 1990 and 2004, one study found that increased blood lead levels were significantly associated with delinquency (Aizer and Currie 2019). A Swedish study examining long-term outcomes from reforms that phased out leaded gasoline found that lead exposure affected noncognitive skills, which in turn affected individual probabilities of criminal behavior, especially among males (Grönqvist et al. 2020). Even after children have been exposed to elevated lead levels, interventions to address the behavioral consequences of such exposure could help to reduce subsequent crime and violence (Billings and Schnepel 2018).

Abandoned buildings are often focal points for illegal activity, including violence. Interventions targeting vacant and abandoned buildings can decrease neighborhood violence. A quasi-experimental study in Philadelphia found that abandoned building remediations were associated with a 39 percent reduction in firearm assaults and, given the low cost of such remediations, returned hundreds of dollars for every dollar invested in the program (Branas et al. 2016; Kondo et al. 2015). A New York City study found that foreclosures increased violent crime by nearly 6 percent (Ellen et al. 2013), and a study from Pittsburgh found that foreclosed homes left vacant increased violent crime rates in the surrounding area (Cui and Walsh 2015). Multiple studies provide evidence that abandoned and disheveled buildings may signal to the community that illegal activities and violence can proceed unseen and unmonitored.

Other studies have examined the impact of demolishing public housing on neighborhood crime. With data on the closure and demolition of roughly 20,000 units of geographically concentrated high-rise public housing in Chicago, Aliprantis and Hartley (2015) found an 86 percent reduction in shots fired in and near areas where high-rises were demolished. The reductions in violent crime in these neighborhoods greatly outweighed any increases in violent crime associated with a displacement effect. Likewise, a quasi-experimental study in Detroit found that building demolitions reduced firearm assaults (Jay et al. 2019). Philadelphia’s “Doors and Windows Ordinance” in January 2011 allowed the city to fine building owners for building openings that were “not covered with a functional door or window on blocks that are more than 80% occupied,” which significantly reduced assaults and gun assaults citywide (Kondo et al. 2015). In this way, the condition and availability of a neighborhood’s physical infrastructure provide opportunities for intervention that can have widespread effects on the incidence of violence.

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Place-Based Situational Crime Prevention

Crimes are more likely to occur when suitable targets and motivated offenders converge in time and space in the absence of capable guardians. Street robberies, for example, are more likely to occur on dark streets that allow easy access to users of cash machines in locations offering other advantages—e.g., bad lighting or easy egress. Place-based approaches suggest that simple modifications to physical space may reduce the likelihood of crime and violence. A key element of place-based crime prevention is to diminish opportunities for crime by making it “riskier, less rewarding, more difficult, less excusable, or less likely to be provoked” (Welsh and Farrington 2012).

Roadway and traffic control enhancements have been shown to increase safety and decrease opportunities for crime. For instance, cul-de-sac streets are safer than other street layouts for preventing auto accidents. Changing the layout of streets has been shown to reduce violent crime (Southworth and Ben-Joseph 2004). The Los Angeles Police Department used traffic barriers to create cul-de-sacs in some neighborhoods to decrease gang violence in the 1990s, an intervention that led to a 20 percent decrease in violent crime within a year of implementation (Lasley 1996). After officials in Dayton, Ohio enacted barriers to turn several local streets into cul-de-sacs, the number of traffic accidents fell 40 percent, overall crime dropped 26 percent, and violent crime decreased by half (Lasley 1996). Street closures have been associated with decreased crime in other studies of high-crime neighborhoods (Welsh and Farrington 2009a).

Security cameras and lighting have been found to deter crimes of opportunity, such as burglary and robbery. One study found surveillance cameras were effective at decreasing planned crime: pickpocketing dropped 20 percent and robbery fell 60 percent (Priks 2015). A systematic review found that closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance cameras significantly decreased crime by 16 percent in public areas that had them compared with areas that did not, and CCTV reduced crime 51 percent in car parks (Welsh and Farrington 2009b). The benefits of CCTV surveillance, however, are not reliably consistent. Other quasi-experimental studies have not found crime prevention effects (Ratcliffe and Groff 2019).

Lighting may be an important factor for reducing crime and fear because it allows better monitoring of spaces. A 2002 systematic review and meta-analysis examining the effect of street lighting on crime found that, across eight American and five British studies reviewed, crimes decreased by 20 percent in experimental areas compared with control areas, and most of the studies included measures of violent crime (Farrington and Welsh 2002).

Treating daylight saving time (DST) as an exogenous shock, one natural experiment found the additional light decreased daily cases of robbery by 7 percent and decreased the probability of any robbery by 19 percent, highlighting the importance of ambient light in reducing criminal activity (Doleac and Sanders 2015). Analyzing the discontinuous nature of daylight savings time and its 2007 extension, researchers estimated the extension resulted in a gain of $59 million annually from the avoided social cost of robberies. A recent RCT provided additional evidence for the effect of street lighting on crime by studying the impact of randomly allocated temporary street lights in public housing developments across New York City, finding a 36 percent reduction in night-time outdoor, violent crime after the introduction of lighting (Chalfin et al. 2019).

The public safety effects of business improvement districts can also reduce violent crime. Leveraging spatial and temporal variation in the establishment of 30 Los Angeles Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), Cook and MacDonald (2011) found large decreases in violent crime. The social benefits from BID expenditures on security were perhaps 20 times larger than the private expenditures required to establish BIDs. Even reducing traffic congestion can reduce violence. Relying on data about deviations from normal traffic flow in Los Angeles from 2011 to 2015, Beland and Brent (2018) estimated that extreme traffic increases the incidence of family violence.

The installation of bulletproof glass may also reduce crime. In New York City, homicides decreased among taxi drivers who installed bulletproof partitions in their cars (Smith 2005). Other mixed methods research, however, suggests the risk of gun violence can be exacerbated by bulletproof glass installed in take-out alcohol outlets (Branas et al. 2009). For situational-based crime prevention to be effective, it is important to understand the specific context of any intended environment before choosing an appropriate and locally acceptable place-based intervention.

Policymakers have relied on a variety of quantitative and qualitative studies to formulate place-based violence prevention policies. Cities such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and others have appropriated municipal funds in response to the growing body of research supporting the public safety benefits of place-based approaches, especially in historically disinvested neighborhoods. The available evidence—both quantitative and qualitative—underscores the value of place-based structural and environmental improvements for preventing and reducing violence.

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Social Consequences of Place

Research suggests that place-based interventions may affect violence at least in part through their social consequences. Reducing neighborhood socio-economic segregation through housing policy, for example, could reduce violence. Capitalizing on the quasi-random assignment of refugee immigrants to specific neighborhoods, Damm and Dustmann (2014) found strong evidence that pre-existing rates of violent crime among young people in a neighborhood were associated with increased violent crime convictions of newly assigned male residents.

The configuration of school districts may influence the propensity of youth to engage in violent crime. Leveraging the as-if random variation in neighborhood residence along opposite sides of a newly drawn school boundary, Billings et al. (2019) found that, within small neighborhood areas, grouping more disadvantaged students together in the same school increased violence. Youth were more likely to be arrested together. Neighborhood and school segregation tended to increase violence by fostering unwanted social interaction among youth most at risk for violence.

Policies that increase the diversity and connectedness of neighborhoods may reduce violence through social mechanisms. Using idiosyncratic variations in social connectedness stemming from patterns of housing relocation that resulted in some people moving away from their home towns, Stuart and Taylor (forthcoming) found that a gain of one standard deviation in social connectedness was associated with a 21 percent decrease in murder in U.S. cities from 1970 to 2009 as well as significantly lower incidences of rape, robbery, and assault. The study suggested greater social connectedness may be related to improved public safety.

Reducing neighborhood foreclosures and vacancies may reduce violence. Using geocoded foreclosure and crime data from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Cui and Walsh (2015) found that violent crime rates increased by roughly 19 percent when foreclosed homes became vacant, an effect that grew with the length of vacancy. Conversely, supporting the construction of affordable housing may reduce violent crime. An analysis of federal rule variations in determining census tract eligibility for the subsidized construction of low-income housing rental units found that low-income housing development in poor neighborhoods brought significant reductions in violent crime. When scaled by population, robberies and aggravated assaults declined two percent for each development of new low-income rental housing located in an eligible census tract rather than a wealthier neighborhood (Freedman and Owens 2011).

Research is beginning to produce strong evidence for intervention models that see violence as behavior shaped by social norms and the relationships people share with their peer networks. Programs using this approach include Cure Violence based in Illinois and Advance Peace from California. Both programs operate in numerous locations across the country and increasingly around the world. These and similar models rely on two key interventions: community outreach and direct interruption or mediation of neighborhood conflicts by trained people known to the neighborhood and trusted by the residents.

Community outreach, sometimes called street outreach, has been well documented in the health field as a strategy for reaching historically marginalized and disenfranchised populations, understanding their barriers to health care, and addressing their health-related needs (Mack et al. 2006). Community outreach begins with the understanding that individuals who are marginalized, “hard to reach,” and at the highest risk for negative health outcomes are also likely to be chronically alienated, disconnected, and distrustful of traditional structures and systems of support (Advance Peace n.d. a; Boag-Munroe and Evangelou 2012). Building relationships with individuals in the community helps staff to identify and address participant needs and to alter unhealthy or negative life trajectories. For those at the highest risk of violence, community outreach may serve as both an immediate and long-term mechanism for desistance from violence.

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Early efforts to use a form of community outreach for engaging youth and young adults date to the 1800s in the U.S., and by the 1940s many cities were using outreach strategies to work with young gang members, linking them with social services to reduce their involvement in illegal activities and violence (Decker et al. 2008; Goldstein 1993; Spergel and Grossman 1997). Community-based organizations have often used outreach activities to address unmet needs for those most vulnerable to violence and other negative health outcomes (Boston TenPoint Coalition n.d.; Collins 2006; Thomas et al. 1994).

Prominent violence prevention strategies–particularly those valuing social and behavioral interventions–have incorporated outreach workers (National Network for Safe Communities, n.d.). Cure Violence from Chicago and Advance Peace in Richmond, California rely on paid outreach workers to develop relationships with individuals at high risk for committing or being victims of violence (Advance Peace n.d. b; Cure Violence Global n.d.). Outreach workers at the United Teen Equality Center (UTEC) in Lowell, Massachusetts strive to build relationships with youth at risk for group-related violence (Frattaroli et al. 2010). The Urban Peace Institute’s Urban Peace Academy provides specialized training for community intervention workers. The program trains gang intervention workers nationwide (Urban Peace Institute n.d.). Similar programs are found across the United States, including ROCA, LIFE Camp, Inc., the Institute for Nonviolence, the City of Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention, and New York City’s network of more than two dozen programs called the Crisis Management System, coordinated by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.

Community outreach strategies may vary somewhat in their specific program objectives and implementation tactics. The populations they seek to engage are unlikely to welcome unsolicited attention or to trust outsiders, however, so their approaches also share many characteristics. For one, the programs must be adept at identifying and connecting with the right participants.

In the 1990s, Chicago’s Comprehensive Community-Wide Gang Program Model was implemented in multiple communities around the United States. Community engagement via street outreach was a strong component of the model. Outreach workers served as part of an intervention team—the primary service-delivery mechanism. Some communities using the approach even partnered with law enforcement. Intervention teams connected youth with supportive services, established job training programs, and trained youth in filling out job applications, conducting job interviews, and using appropriate interpersonal skills with employers and co-workers. Evaluations sometimes found strong effects on violence, especially with younger youth (Spergel and Grossman 1997; Spergel et al. 2003; Spergel et al. 2006).

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Outreach workers must be well known by the communities in which they work. They must use relentless yet positive persistence and intensive follow-ups to make connections and demonstrate their commitment to supporting and uplifting their intended clients. It is critically important for relationship development and their personal safety that program participants and the community at large perceive outreach workers as people who can be trusted not to share potentially incriminating information with authorities.

Community outreach staff must be relatable to the population of youth and young adults most at risk for violence involvement. While not an absolute requirement, many outreach workers share the backgrounds and justice-system experiences of their program participants. They can recognize and relate to the complex traumas their clients may have endured. Being formerly involved in and familiar with the very behaviors and activities they hope to change increases the likelihood that their clients will see them as trustworthy and credible. Outreach workers function as role models, exhibiting prosocial behaviors and providing the social support known to be a protective factor for violence involvement (Cullen et al. 1999; Culyba et al. 2016; Feeney and Collins 2015; Hammack et al. 2004). Outreach workers connect individuals to resources and trainings, address personal and familial needs, and encourage social development. Through their community-wide influence, outreach programs help to shift community norms related to violence.

Evaluations of community outreach are promising but mixed. The approach is difficult to evaluate. First, the programs intentionally engage individuals who are disconnected from traditional institutions and systems of support and are already involved in illegal activities, possibly including violence. Forming relationships with participants and helping them towards lifestyle transformations that will still likely be interrupted by setbacks requires substantial time and resources, especially if workers are viewed with suspicion at first (Jones 2018). There are also significant challenges for program managers working to secure consistent financial and political support for program operations. The pay and benefits for outreach workers are typically low, despite the high stress and high-risk nature of their jobs. Programs encounter difficulties in identifying and retaining appropriate staff. Outreach strategies must have consistent leadership and program oversight, with the ability to respond quickly to changing community needs. And finally, outreach programs may not be equipped to address the many obstacles facing their participants, including structural racism and systemic barriers to health care, employment, affordable and stable housing, and quality education.

The most studied community outreach program is probably Cure Violence (formerly known as Chicago CeaseFire), which has been replicated in dozens of cities around the United States and internationally. One early study used interrupted time series analysis with 16 years of data to detect significant declines in shootings in five of seven sites operating Cure Violence programs in Chicago (Skogan et al. 2008). Shooting trends in Cure Violence areas generally outperformed matched comparison neighborhoods, and researchers concluded the decline was due to the program in four of five sites.

Another early study used a difference-in-difference model with monthly panel data from Baltimore to test the effects of a Cure Violence inspired model on homicides and shootings (Webster et al. 2013a). The results were inconsistent across several sites, but researchers also conducted participant surveys in several neighborhoods, finding evidence of cross-contamination. More than 30 percent of respondents in comparison areas reported program activities in their neighborhoods.

The Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College conducted a quasi-experimental evaluation of the Cure Violence approach in New York City from 2013 to 2017 (Delgado et al. 2017). Using more than 10 years of police and hospital data, researchers measured shootings and gun injuries in two neighborhoods with Cure Violence programs, comparing them with two matching areas. Results of an ARIMA analysis showed statistically significant breaks in violent injuries in both treatment areas while smaller declines in the comparison areas were not significantly different from zero.

New York researchers also conducted three waves of surveys with samples of men ages 18-30 in both treatment and comparison areas, asking respondents to indicate their support for the use of interpersonal violence in a series of hypothetical scenarios representing varying degrees of provocation (Butts and Delgado 2017). Respondents’ inclination to use violence dropped across all study areas for serious disputes, but the decrease was steeper in Cure Violence areas (33% vs. 12%). Support for violence in petty disputes declined significantly only for neighborhoods with Cure Violence programs (down 20%). Other research confirms that Cure Violence may help participants to embrace nonviolent responses to interpersonal conflict (Milam et al. 2018).

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More recent studies were conducted in Philadelphia and Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. In Philadelphia, Roman and colleagues (2018) tracked shooting trends in crime hotspots and found that shootings decreased significantly compared with matched comparison areas. The evaluation in Trinidad and Tobago (Maguire et al. 2018) found the presence of Cure Violence was associated with significant reductions in overall violent crime (–45%) and shooting injuries (–39%). Compared with the legal and medical costs of gun injuries, the program also appeared to be cost-effective, as each averted gun injury cost just $4,300 in program expenses.

Studies of Cure Violence and similar models (e.g. California’s Advance Peace) continue to produce promising, but less than definitive evidence of program effects (Butts et al. 2015; Roman et al. 2018; Webster et al. 2013a). In one study, for example, the Richmond program from which Advance Peace was created may have been associated with statistically significant reductions in firearm violence, but researchers noted small increases in other types of violence (Matthay et al. 2019). While the research literature in support of the community outreach approach is still emerging, evidence suggests it is at least promising despite its many challenges (Huguet et al. 2016; Maguire et al. 2018).

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Some outreach programs, including Cure Violence, partner with hospital-based violence intervention programs (HVIP), an important addition to community-based violent reduction strategies. Capitalizing on the healthcare and social support available from hospital-based medical staff in the immediate aftermath of a violent incident, HVIP efforts can help survivors and their families recover from violence and reduce the chances of retaliation. Working with victims to overcome trauma helps to stop violence from reoccurring. Research on these programs is relatively new, but findings are promising (Evans and Vega 2018).

One early study measured the effect of crisis intervention specialists making hospital visits with young survivors of violent injuries to offer supportive services and dissuade them from seeking revenge. Youth served by the program were less likely than those from a comparison group to be arrested in a six-month follow-up period (Becker et al. 2004). A more recent California study compared the incidence of new injuries among a group of patients served by a violence prevention program and detected a decrease of four percent after controlling for demographic characteristics of the patients (Juillard et al. 2016). Patients randomly assigned to a hospital-based program in Baltimore were less likely to be re-arrested or incarcerated compared with those assigned to a control group (Cooper et al. 2006), and other studies have found lower rates of both arrest, re-injury, and re-hospitalization after intervention by a hospital-based prevention program (Zun et al. 2006).

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Youth with positive and structured lives have lower rates of crime and violence, and youth programs often use positive engagement as a mechanism for public safety (Butts et al. 2010). Programs traditionally focus on individualized services, but some rely on creative features of law and policy. Using spatial and temporal variations in state laws setting the minimum permissible age to drop out of high school, for example, Anderson (2014) found that relative to states with minimum ages of 16 or 17, states setting the age at 18 experienced 23 percent lower rates of violent crime arrests for youth ages 16 to 18. Similarly, Berthelon and Kruger (2011) studied temporal and spatial variations in the implementation of policies to lengthen the school day. Their analysis found that a 20 percent increase in the share of a municipality’s high schools requiring full versus half days reduced violent crimes 12 percent.

Ensuring quality school experiences for young children has demonstrable benefits for public safety and reductions in violence. In a now-classic example of program evaluation from the 1960s, researchers followed a sample of 123 disadvantaged pre-schoolers in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Children were randomly assigned to treatment and control groups. Treatment provided two years of extra educational supports in a 2.5-hour program each school day, along with weekly home visits from teachers. Outcomes were tracked for decades and revealed an array of possible benefits, including reductions in criminal behavior (Heckman et al. 2010; Heckman et al. 2013). One study found 48 percent of control group subjects experienced at least one violent crime arrest later in life while the same was true for just 32 percent of the treatment group (Schweinhart 2007).

Providing summer jobs for youth may lower violence not only during the period of employment but afterward as well. Using randomized assignment, a study of youth applicants to a summer jobs program in Chicago found that variations in a 6-8 week part-time job at minimum wage coupled with a job mentor and a job-readiness training led to 42 percent and 33 percent reductions in violent crime arrests one year after program participation (Davis and Heller forthcoming). Likewise, a randomized controlled trial of a Boston summer youth employment program found that an offer of a six-week part-time minimum wage job, coupled with a 20-hour, job-readiness curriculum was associated with a 35 percent decrease in violent crime arraignments for 17 months following program participation (Modestino 2019). The study found larger decreases in violent crime among treatment-group youth reporting gains in social skills during the summer of participation, including their ability to manage their own emotions and how to resolve conflicts with peers.

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Helping youth gain access to positive opportunities also improves community safety. A community-randomized trial of 24 U.S. towns showed that “Communities That Care,” a prevention and youth engagement strategy, reduced the incidence and prevalence of problem behaviors among a panel of youth followed from 5th through 12th grade (Rhew et al. 2016). The program engaged communities in evidence-based programs prioritized for each area and providing an array of youth development activities with specific tools for assessing levels of risk and protection experienced by youth. An independent quasi-experimental trial involving more than 100 Pennsylvania communities found the strategy was effective in reducing delinquency. Cost-benefit analyses suggested the program returned $5.30 for every dollar invested.

Providing visible civilian safety officers in areas with high youth foot traffic has been shown to reduce violent crime. By exploiting spatial and temporal variations in the rollout of Chicago’s “Safe Passage” program that placed civilian guards along routes used by students walking to school, McMillen et al. (2019) observed an average reduction of 14 percent in violent crime. Somewhat analogously, directly restricting risky youth behavior reduces violent crime. For example, using spatial and temporal variation in the implementation of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws, which restrict nighttime driving for teenagers, Deza and Litwok (2016) found that the implementation of GDL decreased arrests for murder and manslaughter among teenagers ages 16 and 17, with larger effects in states where the nighttime driving curfew was required for a longer period of time.

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Providing youth with greater structure and supervision may lower violence. Investing in their human and social capital may be effective as well. Requiring youth to complete more years of schooling has been shown to reduce post-graduation violent crime convictions. Using temporal and spatial variation in the rollout of a policy increasing the number of years of compulsory schooling, Hjalmarsson et al. (2015) found that each additional year of schooling decreased the eventual number of violent crime convictions by 62 percent among men ages 19-29.

Improving the quality of schools attended by youth at risk for violence has been found to reduce violent crime arrests after graduation. Using data on high school choice lotteries in a North Carolina school district, Deming (2011) found that, seven years after random assignment, high school lottery winners had about 70 percent fewer violent felony arrests relative to high school lottery losers, with the greatest effects concentrated among high-risk youth. Gains in school quality for high school lottery winners, as measured by peer and teacher inputs, were equivalent to moving from one of the lowest-ranked schools in the district to one at the district average.

Other programs serving children, adolescents, and parents have been shown to prevent violence by improving participants’ self-control, social skills, and decision-making. Programs such as Nurse Home Visitation (Olds et al. 1997) and “Stop Now and Plan” (Augimieri et al. 2016) have performed well in evaluations. Supplementing education with targeted programs in social skill development may help to reduce violent youth arrests. In two large-scale randomized controlled trials carried out in Chicago, Heller et al. (2017) found that youth participating in group sessions focused on social and cognitive skill development had 45-50 percent fewer violent-crime arrests during the year of program participation. Researchers believed the program helped youth to slow down and reflect on their behavioral options during stressful situations.

Interventions to reduce substance abuse, especially alcohol abuse, can lower violence, often without individualized treatment. Age limits on alcohol access, for example, have been found to reduce violent crime. Using a regression discontinuity design in a California study, Carpenter and Dobkin (2015) found that, relative to young adults just over age 21, individuals just under age 21 with no legal access to alcohol were six percent less likely to be arrested for aggravated assault, seven percent less likely to be arrested for robbery, and nine percent less likely to be arrested for other assaults. In an Oregon study, Hansen and Waddell (2018) found a measurable increase in violent crime among individuals after age 21, with particularly sharp increases in assaults lacking premeditation. Crime increases were 50 percent greater after age 21 among people with no prior criminal record.

Controlling where and when alcohol may be sold also appears to reduce violence. Variations in the adoption of “dry laws” restricting the sale of alcohol in bars/restaurants during specific hours of the week allowed Biderman et al. (2010) to detect a 10 percent homicide reduction associated with legal provisions governing alcohol sales. The phased repeal of laws in Virginia law that once prohibited the sale of packaged liquor on Sundays provided an opportunity for Heaton (2012) to estimate that repeal of the laws increased alcohol-involved serious crimes—including violent crime—by 10 percent. Similarly, using county-level variations in Kansas laws governing the sale and on-premises consumption of alcohol, Anderson et al. (2018) found that a ten percent increase in the number of establishments licensed to sell alcohol by the drink increased violent crime by three to five percent. In a study of Chicago zoning codes, Twinam (2017) used an instrumental variable strategy to find that in neighborhoods without high residential population density, the presence of liquor stores and late-hour bars was associated with higher levels of violent crime.

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Individual interventions for substance abuse may reduce violence as well. South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Program requires those arrested for or convicted of an alcohol-related offense to abstain from alcohol and submit to alcohol tests multiple times daily. Testing positive or missing a test automatically results in moderate sanctions, typically a short period in jail. Kilmer and Midgette (2020) examined spatial and temporal variations in the rollout of the 24/7 program and concluded the program significantly reduced individual-level probabilities of violent crime arrests for one year following participation.

Simply increasing access to substance abuse treatment, of course, also reduces violence. Using county-level variations in the opening and closing of substance abuse treatment facilities, Bondurant et al. (2018) found that expanded access to substance-abuse treatment facilities reduced violent crimes. Effects were particularly pronounced for serious violence, including homicides, particularly in densely populated areas. Another analyzed the effects of a staggered expansion of Medicaid eligibility through Health Insurance Flexibility and Accountability (HIFA) waivers to find that HIFA-waiver expansion led to sizable reductions in rates of robbery and aggravated assault (Wen et al. 2017). Much of the crime-reduction effects likely occurred through increasing treatment rates that reduced substance use prevalence.

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Efforts to lessen the legal consequences of substance use may also have benefits in violence prevention. In an experiment that decriminalized the possession of small quantities of marijuana in defined geographic areas within a large city, Adda et al. (2014) found that decriminalization reduced sexual assault, robbery, and burglary. Likewise, Gavrilova et al. (2019) found the introduction of medical marijuana laws led to a decrease in violence in states bordering Mexico. The effect was strongest for counties closest to the border (less than 350 kilometers) and for specific crimes related to drug trafficking. The results were consistent with the notion that decriminalization of the production and distribution of drugs may reduce violent crime if drug markets would otherwise be controlled by trafficking organizations.

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Helping families avoid financial stress and negative income shocks may lead to reduced violence. Using data that captured the negative shock to mothers’ economic status after the introduction of unilateral divorce laws, Cáceres-Delpiano and Giolito (2012) found that children whose mothers were likely to fall below the poverty level and remain unmarried after the introduction of unilateral divorce were significantly more likely to engage in violent crime as adults.

Mitigating even short-term economic insecurity can reduce community violence. Chicago’s Homelessness Prevention Call Center (HPCC) connects families and individuals experiencing income loss with immediate, one-time financial assistance. The availability of the support, however, varies unpredictably due to public budgeting cycles. Exploiting this quasi-random variation, Palmer et al. (2019) found that eligible individuals requesting assistance during periods of funding availability were 51 percent less likely to be arrested for a violent crime during the follow-up period compared with other eligible applicants who failed to secure help simply due to funding interruptions. Researchers noted the effect on violence may have been related in part to housing stability.

Other researchers have found that short-term financial assistance is more effective at reducing violent crime and victimization when coupled with programs that support the development of emotional and social skills. In one randomized trial of cognitive behavioral therapy for criminally engaged men, Blattman et al. (2017) found that both an eight-week CBT program combined with $200 cash grants reduced violent crime initially, but the effects dissipated over time. When the cash followed therapy, however, violent crime among participants decreased for more than a year. The researchers hypothesized that providing cash after the program reinforced its impact.

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Analyzing data from 81 large American cities during the period 1930 to 1940, Fishback et al. (2010) found that social welfare (relief) spending helped to reduce violent crime. Individuals receiving income support were required to work a defined number of hours. Researchers speculated the work requirement may have been more effective in reducing crime than direct income support simply by limiting the free time available for program participants. Bell et al. (2018) found that young people finishing school during periods of high entry-level job availability were significantly less likely to engage in repeated violent criminal activity than youth leaving school and entering the labor market during downturns in entry-level employment.

Yang (2017) analyzed data from a sample of four million people released from prison across 43 states between 2000 and 2013 and found that those leaving prison and entering counties characterized by higher low-skilled wages had a significantly lower risk of being reincarcerated for new violent crimes. Notably, the impact of higher wages on reducing recidivism was larger in employment sectors with greater willingness to hire people of color, formerly incarcerated people, and people released after their first period of incarceration.

Researchers find promising effects simply from relocating residents of public housing into less impoverished neighborhoods. The most studied program is the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Moving to Opportunity (MTO) experiment, in which families living in high-poverty neighborhoods across the United States were randomly given housing subsidies with various stipulations. Comparing outcomes among individuals randomly offered an option to move versus those of a control group, one study found that moving families from high- to low-poverty neighborhoods decreased unwanted outcomes such as juvenile involvement in violent crime (Ludwig et al. 2001). Such relocation experiments suggest that changing places matters to the prevention of violence, but caution should be exercised in their implementation as many residents might prefer their home neighborhoods, decline offers for relocation, or react to the offers as unethical. “In situ” place-based programs that correct longstanding problems within neighborhoods where people live and allowing them to remain in place could be preferable choices for the prevention of violence in some instances.

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A Chicago study estimated long-term outcomes among children from public housing developments who received vouchers to relocate to less-disadvantaged neighborhoods after their homes were demolished. Children who moved had fewer violent crime arrests into adulthood, compared with those from nearby public housing units that were not demolished (Chyn 2018). Other evidence suggests that subsidizing rental housing decreases violent crime. A paper studying the effects of the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, which provides additional tax breaks for developers building rental housing for low-income residents in high-poverty areas, found that the poorest neighborhoods experienced the most significant reductions in violent crime (Freedman and Owens 2011).

The immediacy and reliability of income can affect rates of violence. Wright et al. (2017) examined the effects of county-level variations in the timing of transitions from cash benefits to electronic benefit transfer (EBT) and found that the switch to EBT reduced overall crime rates by nine percent. Staggering payments may also reduce violent crime. Using daily reported incidents of major crimes in twelve U.S. cities, Foley (2011) found the incidence of financially-motivated violent crimes was related to cycles in monthly welfare payment, but only in jurisdictions in which disbursements were focused at the beginning of the month and not in jurisdictions in which disbursements were staggered. Likewise, Carr and Packham (2019) found that staggering payments to individual recipients of federal food benefits (SNAP) led to meaningful reductions in crime, including assault, domestic violence, and kidnapping.

Despite the best efforts of state and local governments, their nonprofit partners, and residents themselves, every community is likely to face some level of violence. When violence occurs, the formal justice system will be expected to respond. Communities should ensure that operations of the justice system do not add to violence problems. For example, punitive approaches to justice can easily become theater, designed to satisfy the public’s appetite for punishment but adding little to actual public safety. Moving to less punitive policies may reduce the incidence of violence. In one recent study based in Texas, Mueller-Smith and Schnepel (forthcoming) examined temporal discontinuities in policies affecting diversions from felony prosecutions and found that diverting felony offenders from prosecution reduced their subsequent convictions for violent crime. Likewise, taking advantage of “as-if random” practices for assigning Assistant District Attorneys to misdemeanor arraignments in one Massachusetts county, Agan et al. (forthcoming) found that when prosecutors decline to prosecute marginal misdemeanor defendants, it can lead to significant reductions in their downstream felony arrests and convictions.

Reducing the use of juvenile detention has also been shown to reduce violent crime. Using the incarceration tendency of randomly-assigned judges as an instrumental variable, Aizer and Doyle (2015) constructed legal histories of criminal cases from a large urban county over a 10-year period and found that juvenile incarceration resulted in substantially higher adult incarceration rates, including for violent crimes. Using variation in small cohorts within the same juvenile detention facility, Stevenson (2017) found that detained youth exposed to peers having higher levels of aggression and more troubled family histories had increased felony arrests and a greater likelihood of felony incarceration after release.

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Procedural Justice

Research suggests the effectiveness of justice interventions depends in part on procedural justice, or the extent to which citizens perceive the actions of the formal justice system as fair, trustworthy, and legitimate (Lind and Tyler 1988; Tyler 2006). Legitimacy refers to whether people experience the actions of legal authorities as unbiased and whether they are treated fairly and equally during interactions with justice officials. Researchers have investigated whether perceptions of legitimacy are associated with voluntary decisions to comply with the law, defer to requests from authorities, and cooperate and engage with the justice process.

Procedural justice depends on four factors. First, participation and voice are critical. People report higher levels of satisfaction in encounters with authorities when they have an opportunity to explain their situation and perspective. Even when people know their input will not entirely control an outcome, they want to be heard and taken seriously. Second, people care a great deal about the fairness of decision-making by authorities and they pay attention to neutrality, objectivity, factuality, consistency, and transparency. This means that people care about whether a decisionmaker takes the time to explain what he or she is doing and why. Third, people care that legal authorities treat them with dignity, respect for their rights, and politeness. Fourth, in their interactions with authorities, people want to believe authorities are acting with a sense of benevolence. They want to trust that the motivations of the authorities are sincere and well-intentioned. Basically, the public needs to believe that actors from the justice system think they matter. In relationships with law enforcement, the public makes this assessment by evaluating how police officers treat them.

Research shows this is more than a theory. In one federally funded project, Project Safe Neighborhoods, jurisdictions held “notification meetings” for individuals convicted of serious felonies. The meetings were deliberately organized with procedural justice principles. An evaluation demonstrated positive effects (Papachristos et al. 2007; Wallace et al. 2016). Perceptions of legitimacy encourage trust and add to public safety beyond the effects of simple deterrence achieved through fear of consequences (McLively and Nieto 2019; Wakeling et al. 2016).

research about crime prevention

Although a recent evaluation of interventions centered on procedural justice, limitations on the consequences of bias, and promotion of community reconciliation demonstrated mixed results and few decreases in violent crime across the six cities hosting the study (Lawrence et al. 2019), other research documented a causal relationship between procedural justice training provided to police and a reduction of police use of force as well as fewer complaints against officers (Wood et al. 2020).* [ * Description of Lawrence et al. (2019) revised in 2021 to correct previous error. ]

In any comprehensive strategy to reduce community violence, officials in the justice system should attend to the effects of their own process. Research suggests that systems focused on procedural justice may be more effective in addressing neighborhood violence. Evidence for the value of procedural justice applies across the wide array of criminal legal institutions, including police, prosecutors, courts, and the many nonprofit partners involved in the justice process (LaGratta 2017; Lee et al. 2013; Meares and Tyler 2014).

Any credible effort to reduce violence in the United States must attend to the problem of firearms (Abt 2019; Smart et al. 2020). Reducing access to guns would reduce violent crime. Increasing restrictions on gun access for people convicted of domestic violence offenses, for example, has been shown to reduce violent crime. Using spatial and temporal variation in the application of the 1996 expansion of the federal Gun Control Act (GCA) to prohibit defendants convicted of qualifying domestic violence misdemeanors from possessing or purchasing a firearm, Raissian (2016) found GCA expansion led to 17 percent fewer gun-related homicides among female intimate partner victims, 31 percent fewer gun homicides among male domestic child victims, and a 24 percent reduction in gun homicides of parents and siblings. Restricting children’s access to guns reduces violent crime as well. Analyzing data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) from 1993–2013, Anderson and Sabia (2018) found that child-access-prevention (CAP) laws were associated with an 18 percent decrease in gun carrying and 19 percent fewer students being threatened or injured with weapons on school property.

The wide availability of firearms appears to play a role in explaining why the United States has a homicide rate 7.5 times higher than that of the average high rate of homicide in high-income nations (Grinshteyn and Hemenway 2019). Firearm availability is associated with rates of homicide across the U.S. (Cook and Ludwig 2006; Siegel et al. 2014) and is a good predictor of rates of fatal police violence (Hemenway et al. 2019). One recent study examined changes in state-level policies governing access to firearms, including child access prevention, right-to-carry laws, and stand your ground laws (Schell et al. 2020). The results suggested that child access protection laws alone could lead to 11 percent fewer firearm deaths.

research about crime prevention

Reducing firearm availability to those who might be inclined to use them to commit violence is challenging given widespread gun ownership and the many weaknesses in federal firearms laws that allow individuals with histories of violence to obtain firearms legally (Webster and Wintemute 2015). The primary objective of most U.S. firearms policies is to keep guns away from individuals with histories of violence. The effectiveness of such laws depends upon the breadth of prohibiting conditions (i.e., how well the law specifies various prohibitions), how well state and local jurisdictions make records available for criminal background checks, and how well the laws and their enforcement hold violators accountable (Webster and Wintemute 2015).

Studies have suggested that laws that time-limited (5-10 years) firearm prohibitions for violent misdemeanor convictions are associated with lower rates of violent offending with a firearm among individuals targeted by the law (Wintemute et al. 2001). State-level studies find protective effects for violent misdemeanant prohibitions for Blacks but not for Whites (Knopov et al. 2019). At the county level, firearm prohibitions for violent misdemeanors were associated with reduced firearm homicide rates in suburban and rural counties, but not among urban counties (Crifasi et al. 2018; Siegel et al. 2020). A recent study of California’s laws to prohibit violent misdemeanants from possessing firearms and extend background check requirements to private transfers of firearms found no clear effects on state-wide homicide rates (Castillo-Carniglia et al. 2019).

The lack of protective effects from violent misdemeanor firearm prohibitions reported in some population-level studies may be due to relatively weak laws to prevent diversions of guns to the underground market where guns used in homicide are frequently obtained (Braga et al. 2020). Studies that use indicators of diversion or trafficking from crime gun trace data show that extending background checks to private transfers, requiring licenses or permits to purchase handguns, waiting periods, mandated reporting of lost or stolen firearms, and strong regulation and oversight of licensed gun sellers are each associated with reduced levels of diversion of firearms for criminal use (Collins et al. 2018; Crifasi et al. 2017; Webster et al. 2013b; Webster et al. 2009). Comprehensive background check laws are necessary for preventing the diversion of firearms for criminal misuse, but rigorous studies fail to find clear evidence that they are sufficient for reducing homicides unless coupled with requirements that handgun purchasers be licensed (Castillo-Carniglia et al. 2019; Crifasi et al. 2018; Kagawa et al. 2018; McCourt et al. 2020; Rudolph et al. 2015).

Research monitoring firearm homicides after states change their handgun purchaser licensing laws provides compelling evidence that purchaser licensing has a large protective effect. In 1995, Connecticut enacted a law requiring handgun purchasers to be licensed by state police contingent upon passing a background check and receiving eight hours of firearm safety training. Rudolph and colleagues (2015) estimated the law reduced firearm homicide rates by 40 percent during the first 10 years. Another recent study updated the analysis with 12 additional years of post-enactment data and estimated a 28 percent reduction in firearm homicide rates associated with Connecticut’s handgun purchaser licensing law (McCourt et al. 2020).

research about crime prevention

Beginning in the 1920s, Missouri state law required handgun purchasers to be licensed and vetted by local sheriff’s departments. The state repealed the law in 2007. Three studies, using data over different time periods and different statistical modeling methods demonstrated that the law’s revocation was associated with statistically significant increases in firearm homicide rates between 17 and 47 percent (Hasegawa et al. 2019; McCourt et al. 2020; Webster et al. 2014). Revocation was also associated with a two-fold increase in an important indicator of illegal diversion of firearms for criminal use (Webster et al. 2013b). Importantly, these and other studies of Connecticut’s and Missouri’s handgun purchaser laws found similarly large effects on firearm suicides (Crifasi et al. 2015; McCourt et al. 2020). Studies examining the association between purchaser licensing laws across all states having such laws find that licensing provisions are associated with lower firearm homicide rates (Crifasi et al. 2018; Knopov et al. 2019; Luca et al. 2017; Siegel et al. 2020), lower rates of fatal mass shootings (Webster et al. 2020), and lower rates of law enforcement officers shot in the line of duty (Crifasi et al. 2016).

Purchaser licensing laws may reduce the incidence of fatal shootings by police. In states that require comprehensive background checks but without purchaser licensing laws, rates of fatal shootings by police are twice as high as in states with licensing laws. States with neither licensing laws nor background checks experience fatal police shootings at four times the rate seen in states with purchaser licensing laws (Webster and Booty 2020).

National surveys indicate growing support for handgun purchaser licensing laws—77 percent overall (Barry et al. 2019). In states requiring handgun purchaser licensing, more than three-quarters of gun owners support the laws (Crifasi et al. 2019). Purchaser licensing that allows local officials wide discretion in denying applications, as in New York and Massachusetts, may be more vulnerable to inequitable restrictions on 2nd Amendment rights. (Faculty at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Gun Policy and Research are working with the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy to develop licensing guidelines that address equity concerns.)

State regulations of concealed carry of firearms outside the home appear to affect rates of violent crime, including homicide. Most states have so-called “Shall Issue” laws that make it relatively easy for citizens to obtain permits to legally carry concealed firearms outside of the home, provided they are not legally prohibited from having firearms. Some Shall Issue laws allow for denials of permit applications if there is some evidence an applicant is dangerous. Eight states and the District of Columbia have “May Issue” laws that provide law enforcement with discretion to deny concealed carry license applications even when the applicant is not a prohibited person. “Permitless” carry laws are gaining popularity in states with strong anti-gun-regulation politics. The best available research indicates that changing laws from “No Issue” or “May Issue” to “Shall Issue” may be associated with increased rates of violent crime, including homicide (Crifasi et al. 2018; Donohue et al. 2019; Gius 2019; Siegel et al. 2017; Siegel et al. 2019).

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A more politically feasible and legally sound way to reduce civilian gun carrying would be through rigorous licensing that sets a higher bar for prohibitions relevant to a history of violent or dangerous behavior as well as a high standard for applicants’ ability to discern when and when not to reach for, brandish, or shoot a firearm. There is wide support (83% of non-gun-owners and 73% of gun owners) for laws requiring civilians seeking concealed carry licenses to demonstrate they can safely do what they are seeking a license to do (Barry et al. 2019).

So-called “Stand Your Ground” (SYG) laws that expand justifications for lethal responses to perceived threats represent a threat to community safety. Research is somewhat inconsistent based upon modeling strategies, time periods studied, and whether the effects of other key laws are considered. The weight of evidence, however, suggests that SYG laws increase homicides (Cheng and Hoekstra 2013; Crifasi et al. 2018; Humphreys et al. 2017; McClellan and Tekin 2017). Using state-level monthly data and a difference-in-difference identification strategy, McClellan and Tekin (2017) found that about 30 people are killed monthly due to SYG laws. The study suggested the laws were associated also with increased hospitalizations due to firearm-inflicted injuries. Using state law variations between 2000 to 2010, Cheng and Hoekstra (2013) found that SYG laws led to a statistically significant eight percent net increase in the number of reported murders and nonnegligent manslaughters.

research about crime prevention

More Evidence, Different Evidence

If any country could be expected to generate and use high-quality evidence for reducing violence, it would be the United States. Not only does the U.S. suffer from high rates of interpersonal violence, especially gun violence, but it also has a well-funded and diverse community of researchers ready to conduct rigorous evaluations of policies and programs. Why then, do public officials and community leaders still ask for new evidence when designing strategies to prevent violence? Why has the country not solved this problem?

First, policymakers are reluctant to reject established concepts. Strategies for reducing violence have traditionally depended on two core components: 1) police and other agencies in the formal justice system are expected to deter and rehabilitate people already known to be violent offenders while simultaneously communicating a general message of deterrence to potential offenders still unknown, and 2) numerous organizations including human service agencies, schools, healthcare providers, and the faith community try to mitigate the wide array of social structures and community conditions associated with high rates of violence. Public officials can be reluctant to support the second strategy. Especially during periods of social unrest and increasing violence, addressing the underlying causes of violence with preventive services and supports can sound vague, complicated, and ineffectual. To attract broad political support, violence prevention strategies must have immediate and visible effects. When news media produce images of people being arrested and imprisoned, the public readily assumes these actions will generate greater safety. It is harder, if not impossible, to photograph the long-term preventive effect of good schools, secure housing, and orderly public spaces.

Second, the nature of evaluation research creates a bias that disadvantages non-policing approaches. Researchers are more likely to find positive effects for interventions focused on individuals rather than neighborhoods and communities. Individual-level studies benefit from larger sample sizes and predictably higher base rates of key outcomes, especially when research subjects are already involved in the justice system. These factors increase the ability of researchers to detect statistical effects (or the strength of a measurable relationship between an intervention and its outcomes). Community-based interventions, on the other hand, are usually implemented in groups of cities or neighborhoods, which results in smaller sample sizes, hard-to-control treatment assignments, and large numbers of unmeasurable covariates. This creates an evidentiary bias favoring individual-level programs for known offenders (secondary intervention) rather than strategies designed to prevent crime and violence at the neighborhood or community level (primary prevention).

Researchers assessing the strength of evidence reinforce the individual-level bias when they:

  • prioritize studies based on the rigor of comparative designs, with a preference for randomization,
  • rank studies according to reported effect size on crime-related outcomes (usually police reports), and
  • designate interventions at the top of the list as “evidence-based.”

Individual-level interventions inevitably find their way to the top of such lists due to the nature of statistics. In this way, public officials are taught to be skeptical of community-based strategies for violence prevention and violence reduction. The common ideological tendency of public officials to locate the sources of social problems within individuals rather than communities only aggravates and strengthens the bias in favor of interventions operated by law enforcement and the justice system.

research about crime prevention

Data Blinders

Too much of the knowledge base for reducing violence depends on studies that measure public safety with data generated by law enforcement and subsequent processing within the justice system. Police data do not capture all crimes and certainly not all forms of harm and abuse. Even for crimes of violence, more than half of all offenses are never reported to police, and only half of those reported ever result in an arrest (Butts and Schiraldi 2018; Morgan and Oudekerk 2019).

Police data are affected by differential reporting based on a community’s trust in police, residents’ reluctance to report certain crimes (e.g., interpersonal violence, sexual assault), and numerous other definitional/measurement problems, data entry errors, and even purposeful manipulation by law enforcement agencies (Elliott et al. 1986; Flowers 1988; Gelles 1993; Rokaw et al. 1990).

Police and justice system data are generated from the work processes of formal bureaucracies that are inherently subject to racial and class biases and that create a distorted image of community crime (Hetey and Eberhardt 2018; Richardson et al. 2019). Even if communities of color are only slightly more likely to be under constant police surveillance, for example, and even if people of color are only slightly more likely to be stopped and questioned, then just slightly more likely to be arrested, charged, and convicted, all the slight increments of racial bias accumulate (Bishop et al. 2020). When the formal systems of law enforcement and public safety are perceived as biased, poor communities and communities of color are less likely to report incidences of violence to the police and less likely to cooperate with police when crimes are reported. Thus, police data represent an incomplete picture of the harmful behaviors affecting neighborhoods and exposing residents to trauma and stress.

Official crime data also fail to capture the harms resulting from justice operations (Bell 2020; Pettit 2012; Roberts 2003; Rowe and Søgaard 2019). Data portraying the possible harms of a program, such as added victimization and negative effects on mental health and general well-being are not common in evaluation studies when the outcome of interest is violent crime. Data to operationalize community variations in resident well-being, social integration, and peer support would likely come from self-report data generated through surveys and interviews. Self-report data, however, are typically time- and resource-intensive. As funding for evaluation is often treated as an afterthought by government funding sources, investigators are incented to avoid expensive data in favor of readily available police and court data, which encourages evaluations to focus on simply ascertaining whether officially recorded violence decreased after an intervention was implemented and not the full range of other important outcomes.

One critical and overlooked outcome, nearly always ignored in evaluations of both policing and non-policing approaches to violence reduction, is the true cost of policing. In many ways, the push to “defund” police that gained traction in 2020 is built on claims about costs and benefits: that investing limited city funds in institutions other than the police could reduce crime at substantially lower costs. Unfortunately, addressing this claim head on is hampered not just by the general lack of cost-benefit analyses (CBA) of policing (Fackler et al. 2017; Ponomarenko and Friedman 2017; Washington State Institute of Public Policy 2019), but by the fact that CBA studies generally fail to identify important shortcomings in police operations and their outcomes.

Few if any studies reporting net positive effects from policing actually show it is specifically the police that reduce crime. Instead, results indicate that having someone present reduces crime and that police can be that someone, but not that police must be that someone. In other words, CBA studies appear to validate Jacobs’ (1961) “eyes on the street” hypothesis more than they credit the effects of police involvement. Of course, it may be that the threat of arrest is what makes police presence matter, but even that does not necessarily imply that armed police are essential. As Sharkey (2018) and Cook and MacDonald (2011) point out, many Business Improvement Districts have relied on (often unarmed) private security to provide safety. In fact, the U.S. employs more people as private security than as sworn police officers, even though studies of policing’s impact on crime tend to omit private security from their models.

Another shortcoming is that CBAs of policing measure the fiscal costs of policing and not the social costs of policing (Ponomarenko and Friendman 2017; WSIPP 2019; though see Manski and Nagin 2017 for a rare, narrowly focused exception). Deaths caused by policing, for example, do not show up as costs in traditional CBAs, nor does community fear and other collateral costs that usually follow in the wake of such deaths. Studies do not include the costs of non-lethal police violence as well, both physical and emotional, nor do studies include any of the macro-level costs, such as an unwillingness to report crime (Desmond et al. 2016), community-wide declines in voting that come from negative police encounters (Weaver and Lerman 2010), or the collective costs of racialized mass stops, such as NYC’s Stop and Frisk campaign (Fagan et al. 2009). Studies tend to measure fiscal outlays, which would likely be dwarfed by measures of true social costs.

Policing CBAs also typically fail to engage the issue of opportunity costs (though see Aos and Drake, 2013 for a partial exception). Chalfin and McCrary (2018), for example, estimate that $1.63 in reduced crime flows from each additional dollar spent on policing, even implying that “US cities are underpoliced” (the title of their paper). Their conclusion does not hold, of course, if each dollar could produce more than $1.63 in reduced crime if spent elsewhere. Studies cited by Doleac (2018) suggest that a dollar spent on (civilian) drug treatment may cut crime by almost $4, gains that far exceed those of policing without the attendant social costs, and with a host of other social benefits. It is certainly helpful to know that interventions are not net losses when viewed in isolation (putting aside concerns about overlooked social costs), but findings of “net gain” should not be always read to mean “invest more.” They may be consistent with “invest less.” The United States spends about $100 billion per year on policing, but CBAs of policing do not accurately measure social costs, spend little time examining opportunity costs and have not carefully identified the extent to which any measured deterrent effect is due to the unique powers of police officers or might be matched by other sorts of observers. These are serious and significant blind spots at any time, but especially during a period when the efficacy and centrality of policing is facing significant criticism.

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As community leaders and funders consider ways to reduce violence without police and to prove the effectiveness of those strategies, the conventional view of violence must be reconsidered. The narrow and traditional definition of violence used in most evaluation research is interpersonal harms reported by the police or to the police. This view is wholly insufficient if the goal is to prevent and reduce community violence. For one, most violent acts are not measurable with police data because they are never reported to police (Biderman and Reiss 1967). Not only do conventional definitions of violence fail to capture half of all violent acts between neighborhood residents, but they also omit any violent harm resulting from organizational behaviors, social structures, and systematic racial and class oppression. If the goal of violence reduction is to enhance the peace and security of neighborhood residents, efforts to reduce violence should attend to all forms of violence.

If a person knowingly poisons their neighbor’s water with lead, causing lasting harm to a child, the public would condemn the act as a serious and even violent crime. When a government does the same thing, however, the average citizen might describe it as a cruel and callous bureaucratic error, but probably not a violent crime. If a person sits in a car while a friend attempts to rob a liquor store and a clerk inside the store is shot and killed, the driver would probably be charged with taking part in a murder even if they were unaware the friend was carrying a weapon. When corporations repeatedly take actions to condemn entire communities to levels of stress proven to result in high rates of violence, however, most people would not see those actions as crimes.

Using a broad definition would hold parties criminally responsible for violence whenever they were accountable for violent harms, whether they were individual perpetrators, organizational entities, political bodies, or economic and corporate structures. Without a legal framework to address all forms of structural violence, traditional definitions of violence fail to indict all responsible parties (Farmer et al. 2006). Expanding the concept of violence to include structural violence would signal a true commitment to peace, truth, reconciliation, and racial healing.

Researchers should participate in expanding the concept of violence. Conventional evaluation frameworks are often deficient for transformative research as they are less attuned to data from community experts and more oriented for academics and professional researchers. The data instruments commonly deployed in social scientific studies do not account for the dual- or multi-coding schemes required to capture the experiential overlap unfolding in complex social contexts (Brezina et al. 2009; Forenza et al. 2019; Sabol et al. 2004).

Conventional evaluation studies often fail to account for the full social context giving rise to violence and other unwanted behaviors. Traditional research analyses label the behavior of individuals as violent while omitting other relevant traits (e.g., exposure to neighborhood-level crime salience, prior experiences in police custody, exposure to police violence). Without an analytically appropriate strategy for unpacking the dynamics of place-based violence, the full contour of these other factors remains detached from research methods and measures (regardless of an individual scientist’s conceptual understanding of violence and victimhood).

Measurement validity in studies of community violence would be enhanced by including input from community residents as they are usually in the best position to identify and shape the type of violence reduction interventions that would be most effective in their own communities. Resident guidance and control of research would make evaluations more meaningful and effective. Researchers would benefit from following the knowledge of residents as they contribute to the contextual definitions of violence, the identification of precursors and consequences of violence, and the design of investments to improve public health and safety. This is particularly important for research aimed at developing interventions to disrupt violence without relying on the formal legal system. Research that fails to acknowledge this paradigmatic gulf inevitably yields an incomplete understanding of the core constructs that supposedly form the subject of such studies—community violence and community empowerment.

The John Jay College Research Advisory Group on Preventing and Reducing Community Violence offers 11 recommendations to consider when generating new evidence for violence reduction without police.

1 –  The seven major strategies identified in this report are consistent with the most persuasive research evidence for preventing and reducing violence without relying on police. Funding organizations and researchers should ensure each strategy is also responsive to the values and experiences of community residents. Needed Action: Funding entities should place a high priority on research involving significant and sustained community engagement. Resident participation should begin during the design phase and not wait until data are already collected.

2 –  Environmental strategies, such as greening vacant lots, improving lighting, and increasing tree canopy can reduce violence and address accumulated structures of poverty, fear, and stress, while increasing social integration and resident well-being. Needed Action: Place-based interventions have been tested and often found to be successful. Researchers should identify the strategies ready to be scaled-up and identify best processes, relative dosages, and thresholds of intervention needed to reduce violence. Current evidence is often derived from natural experiments that examine existing differences across contexts without intervention by scientists (e.g., effects of variations in the tree canopy or lighting levels). New trials-oriented research should be used to manipulate physical features and establish the effects of place-based interventions and build a portfolio of investments focused on low-cost, high-reward opportunities.

3 –  Strategies that increase pro-social bonds, promote anti-violence norms, and provide social supports and opportunities for participants can produce short-term and long-term desistance from crime when implemented and managed properly. Needed Action: Outreach-based programs, such as Advance Peace and Cure Violence, are an attractive area for new research investments, but the literature is at an early phase. In addition to outcome evaluations, funding organizations should focus on two areas: (1) the use of implementation science to identify the key components of such programs and establish the role of program fidelity, and (2) research to assess individual-level behavior change by varying the timing and intensity of program components.

4 –  Communities seeking to reduce violence must place a priority on young people. Interventions should focus on protective factors as well as risk factors, strengths as well as problems, and efforts to facilitate successful transitions to adulthood for all youth. Young people engaged with positive, prosocial adults and peers are more likely to build the developmental assets needed for non-violent lives. Needed Action: Researchers in the area of youth services traditionally measure deficits, including criminal re-arrest and recidivism. New funding should focus on rigorous evaluations of efforts to deliver positive assets for youth, including improvements in family relations, school success, labor market performance, and use of leisure time.

5 –  Violence-prevention efforts must include a focus on substance abuse but look beyond the effects of substance abuse treatment. Studies suggest that restricting access to alcohol among young people can reduce rates of interpersonal violence. Needed Action: New research should establish the benefits of varying strategies to reduce youth access to alcohol while monitoring displacement effects if youth increase their use of other substances.

6 –  Community violence is more prevalent in neighborhoods where residents face severe and chronic financial stress. To disregard this reality while focusing solely on surveillance and enforcement is inherently discriminatory. Needed Action: Research funders should support evaluations of violence reduction strategies that include fiscal components, such as cash incentives tied to skills training, therapeutic counseling, and other programs that assist low-income residents in need of immediate help.

7 –  Communities are continuing to invest in procedural justice, or strategies to increase the objectivity, neutrality, and transparency of the justice process. Evidence for the value of procedural justice has been found across the wide array of criminal legal institutions, including police, prosecutors, courts, and the many nonprofit partners involved in the justice process. Needed Action: Research is still needed to establish the causal effects of various approaches to procedural justice, controlling for the severity of the legal matters involved and community context as well as the fidelity of strategies intended to achieve procedural justice outcomes.

8 –  Keeping firearms away from people inclined to use them for violence is challenging given widespread gun ownership in the United States and many weaknesses in federal and state firearms laws. The variability in law, however, allows researchers to model the effects of policies on firearm violence. Needed Action: Evidence suggests that strategies to prevent community violence should include policies that control access to and possession of firearms. New research should test the association between the presence of such policies and the knowledge and behavior of individuals residing in affected areas.

9 –  Weighing the strength and applicability of research evidence is a technical skill. Any effort to base policy and practice on research evidence should involve the advice and counsel of trained researchers–not merely those with advanced degrees, but experts in evaluation methods, statistics, and causal inference. Needed Action: Research funding should include incentives for individual investigators to use multi-disciplinary teams, both in the design phase of studies and in the data analytic stages.

10 –  Judging the strength of evidence behind a specific policy or practice is not a simple matter of determining which studies are best from a technical perspective. Some causal propositions are harder to test than others. Needed Action: In choosing specific research projects, funding organizations must strike a balance of theoretical salience, practical viability, and evidentiary support. Judging research value based solely on statistical rigor is dangerously naive and even harmful.

11 –  There will never be enough financing to support rigorous evaluations of every feasible method of reducing community violence—especially studies requiring direct contact with human subjects for interviews and surveys. Needed Action: Researchers and community leaders should collaborate in data analytic projects and natural experiments to test a wide array of policies and programs for their potential to reduce community violence. Funding bodies will undoubtedly continue to invest in studies requiring primary data collection, but other cost-effective research projects should use pre-existing, secondary data from varying sectors, including schools, hospitals, housing, taxes, employment, commercial sales, business regulations, etc.

Funding This report is the product of a collaborative effort supported by Arnold Ventures. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Arnold Ventures or its staff.

Acknowledgments The authors appreciate the contributions of the entire criminal justice team at Arnold Ventures, especially those who conceived the project plan, contributed to its design, or read and commented on earlier drafts: Jordan Costa, Jocelyn Fontaine, Walter Katz, Nicola Smith-Kea, Jeremy Travis, and Asheley Van Ness.

Recommended Citation John Jay College Research Advisory Group on Preventing and Reducing Community Violence (2020). Reducing Violence Without Police: A Review of Research Evidence. New York, NY: Research and Evaluation Center, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York.

Members of the Research Advisory Group

Department of Epidemiology
Mailman School of Public Health
Columbia University

Violence Prevention Research Program
University of California Davis

John Jay College of Criminal Justice
City University of New York

Department of Politics
and Public Safety Lab
New York University

School of Social Welfare
University of California, Berkeley

School of Law
Yale University

Department Sociology
and Institute for Policy Research
Northwestern University

School of Law
Fordham University

Department of Sociology
University of Miami

Department of African American Studies
University of Maryland

Department of Criminal Justice
Temple University

Bloomberg School of Public Health
Johns Hopkins University

The work of the advisory group members was supported by the able assistance of staff from the John Jay College Research and Evaluation Center:

Nicole Alexander, Communications Specialist Edda Fransdottir, Research Associate Yuchen Hou, Graduate Research Assistant Victoria Wang, Graduate Research Assistant William Wical, Graduate Research Assistant

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Situational Crime Prevention: Theory, Practice and Evidence

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  • John E. Eck 6 &
  • Ronald V. Clarke 7  

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Situational crime prevention focuses on the settings for criminal acts rather than on the characteristics of offenders. It provides a practical approach to improving safety and challenges criminological theories based on offenders’ propensities for mischief. According to situational crime prevention, crime is the result of an interaction between disposition and situation. Offenders choose to commit crime based on their perceptions of available opportunities. Consequently, situational factors can stimulate crime and addressing these factors can reduce crime. Situational crime prevention focuses on very specific categories of crime or disorder, and takes particular note of crime concentrations. Understanding how crimes are committed is critically important to situational crime prevention. It uses an action-research model and demands considering numerous possible alternative solutions. Situational crime prevention has been widely used across the globe and has been applied to minor deviance (e.g., littering), standard crimes (e.g., burglary and robbery), and to extremely serious crime (e.g., international terrorism and maritime piracy). The evidence for situational crime prevention effectiveness is substantial. Research clearly demonstrates that it does not inevitably displace crime. In fact, it often reduces crime near prevention sites.

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Situational crime prevention.

  • Joshua D. Freilich Joshua D. Freilich Department of Criminal Justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York
  •  and  Graeme R. Newman Graeme R. Newman Department of Criminal Justice, University at Albany
  • Published online: 29 March 2017

Situational crime prevention (SCP) is a criminological perspective that calls for expanding the crime-reduction role well beyond the justice system. SCP sees criminal law in a more restrictive sense, as only part of the anticrime effort in governance. It calls for minutely analyzing specific crime types (or problems) to uncover the situational factors that facilitate their commission. Intervention techniques are then devised to manipulate the related situational factors. In theory, this approach reduces crime by making it impossible for it to be committed no matter what the offender’s motivation or intent, deterring the offender from committing the offense, or by reducing cues that increase a person’s motivation to commit a crime during specific types of events. SCP has given rise to a retinue of methods that have been found to reduce crime at local and sometimes national or international levels. SCP’s focus is thus different than that of other criminological theories because it seeks to reduce crime opportunities rather than punish or rehabilitate offenders.

SCP emerged more than 40 years ago, and its major concepts include rational choice, specificity, opportunity structure, and its 25 prevention techniques. Contrary to the common critique that SCP is atheoretical, it is actually based upon a well-developed interdisciplinary model drawing from criminology, economics, psychology, and sociology. Importantly, a growing number of empirical studies and scientific evaluations have demonstrated SCP’s effectiveness in reducing crime. Finally, the SCP approach inevitably leads to a shifting of responsibility for crime control away from police and on to those entities, public and private, most competent to reduce it.

  • situational crime prevention (SCP)
  • classical theories of crime
  • problem-oriented policing (POP)
  • designing against crime (DAC)
  • crime prevention
  • specificity of prevention techniques
  • opportunity structure
  • rational choice
  • crime control

Situational Crime Prevention: Historical Background and Origins of the Idea

The originating concept of situational crime prevention (SCP) is “opportunity reduction” (Clarke, 1980 ). It eschews esoteric matters or grand initiatives to transform society (Freilich & Newman, 2016 ; Newman, 1997 ; Tilley, 2004 ). Instead, SCP is uniquely concerned with the practical question of how offenders successfully commit their crimes. Understanding how the offender carries out the crime is used to craft interventions that remove crime opportunities and thereby prevent offending. In contrast, orthodox criminology is focused on why perpetrators offend, what Clarke ( 2004 ) and others refer to as the dispositional bias. Freilich and Natarajan ( 2009 ) explain that Ron Clarke, the founder of SCP, became interested in situational factors, opportunity, and crime prevention when he was studying for his doctorate. At that time, Clarke also worked as the research officer at the Kingswood Training School, a residential school for delinquent boys. His doctoral thesis examined why some boys ran away (“absconded”) from the school. At that time, most frameworks assumed that deep-seated psychological factors could explain absconding. But Clarke’s ( 1967 ) analysis of absconding records found that situational factors, such as daylight hours and sunshine, influenced the opportunity structure (longer periods of darkness provided youths more opportunities to escape unseen from school) and were related to absconding.

SCP primarily seeks to solve and reduce crime problems in an action setting. Newman and Clarke ( 2003 , p. 7) explain that SCP’s approach is similar to that of “operations research” (Wilkins, 1997 ), in which the researcher works closely with the persons who are actually on the job. Indeed, SCP’s focus on crime reduction has led to partnerships between academics, police, and practitioners, where SCP principles have been used to guide practice (see, for example, Braga & Kennedy, 2012 ; Scott & Goldstein, 2012 ). SCP is associated with problem-oriented policing, currently a leading policing strategy (Eck & Madensen, 2012 ). Problem-oriented policing calls for focusing on specific problems to devise proactive strategies to eliminate them (Clarke & Goldstein, 2002 , 2003 ; see also the extensive collection of Problem-Specific Guides for Police published by the Center for Problem-oriented Policing, many of which are heavily indebted to SCP). SCP proponents have also worked with private industry to design products based upon the principles of design against crime (DAC) that are resistant to theft and other crimes (Ekblom, 2008 , 2012a , 2012b ). These efforts all pinpoint the problem or problems, and then data are collected (sometimes in reverse order if it is difficult to identify the specific problem without first having collected the data). Next, solutions are adopted and then data are collected to find out whether a solution was successful. SCP’s method is to analyze and break down an identified crime problem into its specific parts, using whatever scientific techniques will do the job.

Currently, operations research has gone its own way, becoming highly quantitative and following the needs of computer programs to systematically develop and implement routine actions, feedback loops, and the like. However, in SCP, the modern version of operations research is called the “script” approach (Cornish, 1994 ), in which the detailed lines of action of offender behavior that are required to carry out a specific crime are described and analyzed. Cornish and Clarke ( 2002 , p. 47) explain that “crime [scripts] … involve such chains of decisions and actions, separable into interdependent stages, involving the attainment of sub-goals that serve the overall goals of the crime.” SPC’s specificity focus is discussed further in the section on *Specificity* .

SCP’s script method has also encouraged SCP scholars to focus on the location of crime. Brantingham and Brantingham ( 1981 ) introduced the geography of crime to criminology via crime pattern theory. They argued that crime was never random and demonstrated that criminal events and criminal behaviors were patterned according to specific times and places. The places varied from street corners to neighborhoods and other special places that attracted criminal behavior. As the technology of mapping developed, the concept of hot spots developed, and much policing today is driven by various conceptions of hot spots of crime (Eck & Weisburd, 1995 ; Weisburd et al., 2012 ). Adopting the SCP scripting method, a further elaboration of this idea was to follow the offender’s journey to crime and identify the favorite places, routes, and times where offenders would either congregate or carry out their criminal activity. A detailed knowledge of this information then provides insights as to where, in the chains of events situated in time and place, police or crime prevention specialists may intervene.

Importantly, SCP’s basic ideas are not new: there are many examples going back thousands of years that rely upon similar arguments and assumptions to reduce crime. Killias ( 2006 ) notes, for example, that Aristotle discussed the relationship between opportunity and theft. Marongiu and Newman ( 1997 ) point out that the ancient Romans relied upon SCP-like interventions, such as the use of walls and building designs to safeguard installations, houses, and other structures. There is thus a collective body of earlier knowledge on which SCP proponents can draw to reduce crime.

SCP has also been linked to Beccaria’s ( 1764 ) On Crimes and Punishments , the seminal Classical School text that helped create the academic discipline of criminology and criminal justice (Beirne, 1991 ; Newman, 1997 ). Becarria ( 1764 ) assumed that individuals were naturally inclined to place their own interests first and to seek out what pleases them, while avoiding unpleasant situations. Since most crime is committed to further an individual’s interests, there is no need to explain where the motivation to commit crime originates (Freilich, 2015 ; Newman & Marongiu, 1990 ). Thus, Beccaria was a proponent of deterrence and argued that the criminal justice system should use punishment to reduce crime in the future. In this respect, Beccaria’s forward-looking approach, though more general than that of SCP, anticipates SCP’s mission of preventing specific crimes (Newman & Marongiu, 1990 , 1997 ).

Bentham ( 1789 ), whose utilitarian approach anticipated operations research in post World War II Britain, similarly viewed human behavior as being motivated by the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. In addition, people are said to have “agency,” the ability to control their behaviors and to make rational choices. To Bentham, a rational choice was to choose the course of behavior that avoided pain and consummated pleasure (Newman & Marongiu, 1997 , pp. 137–162). It was a “lightning calculus,” a mechanical assessment that individuals continuously made, rather like robots—which suggests that individuals may make decisions “without thinking,” setting the basis for what SCP would later call “limited rationality.” It followed that interventions to prevent crime were simply a matter of controlling such calculated behavior by reducing opportunities.

Major Concepts of SCP


The narrow rational choice model forms the basis of the economic theory of rational decision making (Becker, 1968 ). It may or may not be “conscious,” but it is rational according to the external evaluation of the observer (the economist) (Opp, 1997 , p. 47). This model of decision making obviously poses a problem for modern rational choice theorists, since the common sense meaning of the word “rational” is taken to mean the conscious making of a decision. To address this problem of “unconscious” decisions, rational choice theorists have introduced the idea of “readiness” (Newman, 1997 , p. 21). There are basically three versions of readiness:

Situations may make individuals ready to commit crimes almost without their being aware of it. These include environmental cues that may provoke or prompt individuals to action (Wortley, 1997 , p. 66).

Background causal factors (“distal factors”) place individuals in different states of readiness (Wortley, 2011 ), which make them more sensitive to opportunities in the environment and thus account for individual and group differences in propensity to commit crime (Tilley, 1997 , pp. 95–107).

Individuals arrive at a conscious state of readiness as a result of evaluating alternative means of meeting a perceived need, and this conscious state is influenced by a host of background and situational factors (Cornish & Clarke, 1986 , p. 3).

Whatever the model, it is clear that rational choice can also be “irrational” (Tilley, 1997 , pp. 95–107), which therefore makes rational choice theory quite applicable to some crimes that are popularly thought of as irrational, such as rape, murder, and terrorism (see Freilich & Newman, 2009 ). The irrationality of rationality has led rational choice theorists to advance it as a “limited” or “bounded” model of rationality. Hsu and Newman ( 2011 ) note in relation to the third type of readiness described above, that Cornish and Clarke ( 1986 ) have advanced the idea that offenders behave in situations (physical and social environmental settings) according to the ways in which they perceive them. They perceive their own needs (they want money for a drug habit), and they perceive environments (near and far) as offering them opportunities to carry out their course of action, whether it be burglary, bank robbery, or a terrorist attack. Why offenders choose to commit crime as a means to get money rather than get a job is the question unanswered by rational choice theory. Or at least is seen as less relevant than the question why the offender chooses burglary instead of bank robbery, or why the terrorist chooses to bomb a building instead of hijack an airplane. It is offenders’ perceptions of both opportunities and constraints that condition their course of action. To the outsider or observer of their behavior, the courses of action taken by offenders may or may not appear rational. To the offender, the behavior is perceived as a rational way of achieving an end.


SCP calls for removing opportunities to prevent crime (Clarke, 2012 ; Mayhew, Clarke, Hough, & Sturman, 1976 ). Cornish and Clarke ( 1986 ) have repeatedly stated that SCP focuses on interventions to reduce very specific crimes (e.g., reduction of car theft in parking lots, not reduction of crime or even car crime). They note: “ … a crime-specific focus was adopted … because the situational context of decision making and the information being handled will vary greatly among offenses”(p. 2). In other words, SCP is at odds with “grand” or “general” theories about crime, such as Gottfredson and Hirschi’s ( 1990 ) theory that argued a single factor (low self-control) could account for all types of offending, from street crime to white collar crime, although control theory does provide the context within which choices are made, consistent with the SCP approach (Felson, 2014 ). Situations in which crimes occur are thus the focus of study as they demand specificity: they provide concrete clues to both the behavior of the criminals and how the environment (both social and physical)—as seen through the prism of the situation—may be changed to affect criminal behavior. This focus on the specificity of the crime was important to later research that evaluated the success of situational interventions, as seen in the many case studies in Clarke ( 1997 ) and in the SCP case studies database .

Focusing on specific crime types (or problems) will lead to the identification of the situational characteristics—the opportunities—that allow the perpetrator to successfully complete the crime. (This is discussed more fully in the next subsection.) The identification of opportunities highlights possible intervention points to remove them. Once the opportunities and possible intervention points are identified, the next step is to devise strategies to prevent the crime. SCP relies upon its famous 25 techniques of prevention to devise interventions to reduce crime in specific situations.

Opportunity Structure

Examining the specific situations in which crimes occur leads us to look for the opportunities that situations provide for the offender or intending offender to commit crimes of specific kinds. This approach is commonly referred to as analyzing the opportunity structure of crimes (Clarke, 1997 ). Analysts begin with the situation or situations in which the crime occurs, and they almost always find that general settings can be broken down into increasingly small component parts. The ways in which this is accomplished may depend on the facilities or access to information available. It may require the collection of information from participants in the situations in which the crime occurs, such as offenders, victims, and law enforcement personnel. Information collected, however, is always focused on how the crime was committed, what facilitates its commission, what barriers are avoided or overcome by the offender, and so on. This focus leads to a mapping of the opportunity structure of the crime, and hopefully the point at which the course of action taken by the offender can be thwarted. Again, the conceptual approach is on “how” not “why”—although the answers to the “little whys” may he sought along the way, such as why did the burglar choose this house to enter rather than another. But the big sociological why, the why of “the causes of crime,” is not addressed (Clarke, 2012 ; Freilich & Newman, 2016 ).

In sum, the opportunity structure focuses on a specific crime and application of the script method (all discussed above) to uncover possible preventative interventions. This has led to a range of techniques that researchers and policymakers draw on to develop strategies of crime reduction.

25 Techniques of Crime Prevention

The SCP framework currently includes five general strategies encompassing 25 techniques to reduce crime (Cornish & Clarke, 2003 ). They include both “hard” and “soft” interventions. Hard interventions include either deterring offenders from committing the offense, or making it impossible for the offender to commit the crime regardless of his/her intent or level of motivation. Many of these strategies, though not all, are consistent with Beccaria’s and Bentham’s ideas discussed above (Freilich, 2015 ). Soft interventions reduce situational prompts/cues that increase a person’s motivation to commit a crime during specific types of events (Cornish & Clarke, 2003 ; Freilich & Chermak, 2009 ; Wortley, 2008 ).

As described by Newman and Freilich ( 2012 ), Freilich and Newman ( 2014 ), SCP is dynamic and encourages innovation, which is why the types of interventions have evolved and increased over the years. SCP was first set forth in a Home Office paper (Mayhew, Clarke, Hough, & Sturman, 1976 ) that highlighted the concept of opportunity by emphasizing (a) the immediate physical environment that made particular crimes possible and (b) the situational conditions that were “stimulus conditions, including opportunities for action presented by the immediate environment, … to provide—in a variety of ways—the inducements for criminality” (Mayhew et al., 1976 , p. 2). The paper described other studies that demonstrated this aspect of opportunity in a variety of settings:

steering locks that prevented car theft

changes in the physical environment that reduced boys’ absconding from school

reductions in the toxicity of coal gas that resulted in the decline of suicide by inhaling coal gas, a common method of suicide at the time

carelessness of victims that made stealing cars and burglary easier

the poor design of housing estates that reduced surveillance by neighbors. thus increasing opportunities for crime and vandalism

damage on buses resulting from poor supervision.

Thus, opportunity explained a variety of crimes, even suicide, which has traditionally been studied by psychiatrists because of its “obvious” deep psychological motivation. The general applicability of “opportunity” and the situational environment are built into the origins of SCP. The same 1976 paper outlined the essential components of opportunity:

Offender-based opportunities, such as lifestyle, experience, age, and sex

Patterns of daily activity (clearly a precursor to routine activity theory)

The abundance of products that are available for theft (e.g., cars or items displayed in retail stores) or that may cause injury (e.g., guns).

Environments where there is reduced security, such as dark streets and public places that lack surveillance or supervision, such as buses, housing estates, or retail stores.

The four types of opportunity were connected to eight opportunity-reducing techniques (Clarke & Mayhew, 1980 ) classified into three types: target hardening, target removal, and various forms of surveillance. Subsequent research on routine activity theory (Cohen & Felson, 1979 ), inducements to crime, and issues of access control and defensible space (Poyner & Webb, 1991 ) resulted in 12 techniques, organized under three headings: Increasing the effort, increasing the risks, and reducing the rewards of offending (Clarke, 1992 , p. 11). Clarke and Homel ( 1997 ) added a column of “removing excuses” for crime to incorporate “folk crimes” that provide the excuse “everybody does it” (e.g., traffic offenses), unlike the predatory crimes of “hardened criminals” (Clarke, 1997 , p. 16). Finally, in response to criticism by Wortley ( 2001 ), who argued that situational aspects of the social and physical environments may precipitate criminal acts, Cornish and Clarke ( 2003 ) added another column, “reducing provocations,” for a total of 25 techniques (see Table 1 ; a more complete and interactive version is available at ).

Table 1. Twenty-Five Techniques of Situational Prevention

Increase the Effort

Increase the Risks

Reduce the Rewards

Reduce Provocations

Remove Excuses


























To decide which of the 25 techniques to rely upon in each specific situation, SCP calls for reviewing the empirical literature to identify successful interventions that were used to combat similar problems (Clarke & Eck, 2005 ) and the innovative crafting of new strategies (Eck, 2002a , 2002b ; Ekblom, 2012a ). Invariably, a series of potential crime-reduction strategies are identified. What works will depend on many factors, including the cost and practicality of implementation. There are so many techniques available that it is hard to imagine any problem to which one or more of them would not apply. The techniques chosen will depend on which interventions local communities are most comfortable with after balancing public safety, individual rights, community concerns, and other factors (Felson & Clarke, 1997 ). As SCP’s popularity and its use have increased, a growing number of strategies have been identified and implemented that have in fact reduced crime (Clarke, 1997 ; Guerette & Bowers, 2009 ; Weisburd et al., 2006 ).

Theoretical Complexity of SCP

SCP is based upon a well-developed model (Freilich, 2015 ; Newman, 1997 ). It is not atheoretical as its detractors claim (Haywood, 2007 ) when they observe that SCP’s primary focus is crime reduction, achieved by an eclectic array of 25 techniques. Many critics mistake SCP’s interdisciplinary approach to crime causation for lack of theory. SCP uses a variety of causal models to achieve its crime-reduction goal but it also adds to, and qualifies, some of the major theoretical approaches of other disciplines. This section first describes the causal models SCP uses to reduce crime. Next it shows how SCP adds to the standard ideas of social structure and culture, two key sociological concepts, followed by a brief overview of the economics of SCP.

Classical School and Deterrence Theory

Many of SCP’s “hard” techniques are based upon the classical school and deterrence theory arguments that assume offender agency, hedonism, and rationality. As already noted, Beccaria assumed that because individuals want to avoid negative outcomes, they will choose to conform to avoid the costs of punishment.

Similarly, some SCP hard techniques (e.g., the use of CCTV cameras, the public deployment of police officers, and environmental design initiatives to increase surveillance) are consistent with Beccaria’s certainty claims, because they warn individuals that if they offend they are likely to be immediately apprehended (Cozens, 2008 ; Jeffrey & Zahm, 1993 ). Other SCP strategies converge with Beccaria’s severity arguments that called for increasing the magnitude of punishment. SCP proponents eschew the use of formal punishment and instead rely upon situational interventions. They claim that laws and punishment are too distant a threat to influence most offenders’ decision making during the crime event (Braga & Kennedy, 2012 ; Cornish & Clarke, 1986 , 2008 ; Cusson, 1993 ; Felson, 2008 ; Tilley, 2004 ). Some of the interventions (such as building a fence around a parking lot so that offenders must scale it to gain entry) make it more difficult for the crime to be committed. These interventions assume that persons will choose to conform because the increased costs no longer make it “worthwhile” to commit the crime.

SCP strategies also mimic Beccaria’s celerity arguments that for punishment to deter, it should immediately follow the crime. SCP recognizes that interventions and offender decisions must converge. Interventions that are temporally distant from crime scenes are usually ineffective. In this sense, SCP is faithful to Beccaria’s call for crime and punishment (or in SCP’s case, the intervention) to go together. Finally, SCP, like general deterrence theory, sees a role for publicity in reducing crime. Bowers and Johnson ( 2005 ) explain that publicizing SCP interventions will educate the public to take actions that raise the costs of offending to a potential perpetrator by increasing their risk of apprehension. Publicity can also be used to influence offenders’ perceptions of the difficulty/risks of committing a crime and their likelihood of being caught.

Social Psychology and Behaviorism

Significantly, not all hard SCP techniques are based upon the assumption of offender rationality or agency. Certain hard SCP strategies, the traditional version of SCP set forth in the 1970s, seek to thwart the offender by making it impossible for the crime to be committed no matter what the motivation, mindset, or emotions of the offender (Cornish & Clarke, 2008 , p. 41). Rational choice theory, in other words, is not needed to support this aspect of SCP. Newman and Freilich ( 2012 , p. 216) explain that “originally interventions were applied to the situational environment without regard to offender motivation or behavior. For example, the construction of physical barriers has nothing to do with the internal psychology of offenders. If it works, ‘it works’ and we know from many studies, that such hardening techniques work.” An effective hardening of the target would just as easily thwart a (legally insane) offender acting under an irresistible impulse (who did not possess agency), as it would a hedonistic offender who did possess agency and chose to try to commit the offense. This approach reflects the “black box” behaviorist theories of the 1950s: organisms respond to a given stimulus in predictable ways (responses), regardless of what is going on inside their heads.

SCP’s recently developed “soft” approaches also do not rely upon offender rationality or agency to reduce crime. Soft SCP approaches are instead based upon a complex social psychological theory of human behavior. The techniques seek to remove environmental cues or prompts that create, or increase, an individual’s motivation to commit crime. Wortley ( 1997 , 2008 ) identified empirical findings that, for instance, found that publicly displayed weapons (for example, by a police officer or private security guard) could cause some individuals to become violent. Wortley argued that characteristics of the environment provoked internal dispositions in the offender and that, without such stimuli, offenders would not be motivated to commit the crime.

Wortley discovered the controlling conditions that invoke these behaviors and implied that certain conditions were embedded within the psychology of individuals and may remain dormant unless the external (situational) conditions of provocation or invocation were actuated. Soft SCP endorses interventions that eliminate these cues and prompts. In terms of the weapon example, a soft SCP policy would ensure that in certain circumstances a police officer’s weapon would not be publicly displayed. The conclusion from this illustration is that offender agency, in the sense of conscious decision making, is not assumed by soft SCP (Freilich, 2015 ; Newman & Freilich, 2012 ), though it is possible that what Bentham meant by a “lightning calculus”—his view of rationality—was operative.

Finally, it is important to note that even if certain SCP techniques are based upon assumptions that take motivated offenders for granted, they still may differ in the degree in which they do so. Cornish and Clarke’s ( 2003 ) response to Wortley’s ( 2008 ) critique discussed three types of offenders, mundane, provoked, and antisocial predator. Interestingly, SCP proponents have not really elaborated upon the issue of offender types and varying motivation levels. It could be that SCP scholars are worried that engaging this issue will detract from their crime-reduction mission and situational focus by instead highlighting potential distractions like how the offender types emerge and other distal concerns (Freilich, 2015 ).

SCP and Social Structure

SCP has a very different take than does mainstream sociology on the key constructs of social structure and culture. Unlike most sociological works that focuses on the large-scale and abstract concept of the social structure, SCP demands specificity. In other words, SCP’s concern is the opportunity structure, not the social structure. It treats situations as concrete settings (this does not of course mean that they are physical settings). Thus, questions of the relationship between social class and crime—a perennial topic of study in the sociological approach to crime—are seen as too abstract. Further, they do not lead easily to prevention. It is the highly abstract nature of the concept of social class, for example, that makes it almost impossible to discern from the literature whether or not there is a correlation between social class and crime. This is also exacerbated by the vagueness of the word “crime,” which SCP also insists on breaking down to the most specific category of action possible.

Take the example of the classic “broken windows” paper by Wilson and Kelling ( 1982 ). They noted that neighborhoods (usually specific areas of the city) that were neglected and allowed to deteriorate, where vandalism and other minor crimes were tolerated, led offenders to perceive that social control was weak and that they could safely commit more serious crimes. Many inferences for changes to reduce or prevent crime in that and similar neighborhoods were made from these seemingly simple, perhaps even common-sense, observations (Garland, 2000 ). Had Wilson and Kelling applied the traditional sociological approach, they would have taken the run-down neighborhoods as symptoms of lower social class, which would have led to completely different policies, such as those advocated by Cloward and Ohlin ( 1960 ). Further, the inference is suspect that run-down neighborhoods are symptoms of low social class, since there are many well-kept streets and houses in poorer areas. Jumping to the abstraction of social class therefore introduces not only an element of vagueness, but also of bias. Worse, it leads to policies that cannot, without massive and perhaps even revolutionary social upheaval, ever be achieved (Freilich & Newman, 2016 ; Knepper, 2007 ; Tilley, 2004 ).

Thus, the contrast between opportunity structure and social structure is great. Opportunity structure is grounded in concrete analysis of the opportunities that situations give to would-be criminals. They make specific criminal activities possible. Social structure is grounded in generalities and inferences about income, employment, “class consciousness,” and so on, with a highly tenuous link between those abstractions and the equally abstract notion of “crime.”

It might be argued that focusing so closely on the opportunity structure of crimes in such narrowly defined situations ignores other significant and important aspects. Certain types of organized crime, in which criminals adhere to a particular set of values and ways of doing business, may be a particularly good example. Here, offenders bring a level of commitment to a situation, and it is this commitment that has to be recognized as part of the situation to be assessed. Similarly, certain Internet crimes are commonly believed to be the result of the “hacker's ethic,” which, it is often claimed, derives from a “culture” or “subculture” to which computer buffs adhere (Newman & Clarke, 2003 ). This raises the interesting question of the relationship between situations and culture. For is not culture a highly abstract term of the same kind, bringing with it the same problems as “social class”?

SCP and Culture

It is perhaps typical of the abstract nature of much of sociology that there has been a long and difficult controversy surrounding the concepts of culture and class. The work of Kornhauser ( 1978 ), for example, epitomizes this controversy, where it is argued that culture does not exist, or at least that it is subsumed within social class. Criminology textbooks compare and contrast cultural versus class explanations of crime. SCP does not need to address this issue, since it is concerned with applying techniques of prevention to specific situations. Whether or not a particular value is class-based or culturally based is largely irrelevant. All that is needed is that a particular value or set of values be identifiable empirically, and that these can be exploited to modify decision making in a specific situation.

The work of Cavallo and Drummond ( 1994 ) in Australia applied a number of situational techniques to reduce the level of drunk driving, not the least of which were random breath tests. One of the techniques used an intensive advertising campaign that targeted the beer-drinking culture. “Good mates don't let mates drink and drive” was the slogan. This approach acknowledges the existence of (in this case) a strong subcultural attitude that valued heavy drinking in any setting and refused to acknowledge that individuals who drove while drunk were either impaired or responsible for the accidents they may have caused. It also targeted a positive aspect of Australian subculture, the strong value of “mateship.” This was an example of targeting an advertising campaign at a specific situation—one in which a mate is urged to stop another mate from making an “idiot” of himself. Similarly, Freilich and Chermak ( 2009 ) highlight extremist ideology not to address distal factors but to use situationally crafted responses to prevent offending. This is a situational view of culture (and ideology), recognizing that a situation that is bound up with deep and broad cultural values can be modified using known techniques that intervene in an individual’s decision making at just the right time. Heavy assumptions of psychology are embedded in this approach (guilt, shame, and peer pressure) (Clarke & Homel, 1997 ; Wortley, 1996 ). But the techniques of advertising, which are essentially designed to affect directly an individual’s decisions and choices at a specific moment—usually to buy a particular product brand—are well established.

The Economics of SCP

Economics and decision making.

In traditional economic theory, the concept of rational choice simply means that if economic conditions change, individuals will change their behavior in response. The principle of supply and demand provides the prime example. If a particular drug (e.g., heroin) is scarce (because it is illegal) then the price will be high because demand exceeds supply. If a dealer floods the market, then prices will drop and more people will buy the product. Markets therefore behave rationally because people do. Of course, psychologists rightly observe that taking heroin is not a rational choice—that is, it is bad for the user’s health (in most cases). Hsu and Newman ( 2011 ) note that the first decision to take heroin may have been rational from the user’s point of view (under pressure from peers, suffering excruciating pain, facing emotional stress, etc.) but choosing to continue its use is not a rational decision. In fact it may not be a decision at all because the user becomes addicted (i.e., habituated). Yet even in the case of a drug addict, carrying out a burglary to acquire heroin requires rational decision making—whether to find a dealer for the right price, to rob a convenience store to get the money, or to break into a pharmacy to steal the drug. These behavior sequences require some planning and some knowledge of the targets to be reached. It will be noted that these examples appear to be more complex than the overly simple model of rational choice assumed in basic economic theory (Opp, 1997 ). However, the more sophisticated version of rational choice put forward by Simon ( 1955 ), with his idea of “satisficing” (satisfactory and sufficient), a decision-making strategy that accepts a “good enough” outcome, rather than the best choice of alternatives as posed by Bentham originally and throughout economic theory, was adopted by SCP in its infancy (Cornish & Clarke, 1986 ).

Most crimes are committed by groups of two or more, which means that the decision-making process becomes considerably more complicated. SCP recognized early on that combinations of offenders create networks of varying complexity and thus offer opportunities for intervention and disruption (Clarke & Newman, 2006 , pp. 75–83). SCP has embraced the concept of markets in two respects: (1) the analysis and disruption of criminal markets (Natarajan & Hough, 2000 ) and (2) the use of markets to motivate businesses to reduce the negative externalities of their activities, such as designing crime-prevention techniques into their products and systems (Newman, 2012 , pp. 87–106).

Scientific Studies of SCP

There are a number of methodological challenges in measuring the effect of particular interventions designed to reduce or prevent specific crimes. Two major methodologies have emerged. The first is the script approach reviewed above. The script method analyzes the sequence of behaviors and events that are the result or cause of offender decision making and are used to identify the interventions (by first highlighting the opportunities and intervention points). The second is a special methodology developed to assess the specific effects of a particular intervention.

The second approach builds on the first to assess the level of, and/or change in type of, crime before and after the intervention. Some studies have used time series analyses to investigate the impact of specific interventions and found support for SCP’s claims (see, for example, Hsu & Apel, 2015 ). A number of studies, termed “cliff edge” studies (Perry et al., 2016 ) have found that there can be a dramatic drop in crime after an effective intervention. Traditional experimental designs are often not appropriate or needed, especially because these experiments occur in an action setting, so that political and ethical problems may be involved in allocating groups to experimental or control groups. Nagin and Weisburd ( 2013 ) and Perry et al. ( 2016 ) have shown that convincing and valid results can be drawn using quasi- experimental designs that focus on careful examination of time-series frequency tables.

The Point of Intervention

SCP’s focus on situations that are essentially external to the offender led Clarke ( 1999 ) to identify the characteristics of situations that attracted offenders or facilitated their behaviors. This resulted in the idea of “hot products,” which led inevitably to examination of the ways in which products could be designed so as to make them less desirable to thieves (Ekblom, 2005 , 2012a , 2012b ). This meant that the point of intervention was, incredibly, not at the site where the crime might occur, such as, for example the arrangement of goods in a retail store, but at the earliest possible point, the design of the product that might be stolen. The characteristics of hot products were identified according to the acronym CRAVED (Clarke, 1999 ):

Concealable . Objects that can be hidden in pockets or bags are more easily stolen by shoplifters and other sneak thieves.

Removable . The fact that cars and bikes are mobile helps explain why they are so often stolen. Nor is it surprising that laptop computers are often stolen, since they are desirable and easy to carry.

Available . Theft waves can result from the availability of an attractive new product, such an iPhone, which quickly establishes its own illegal market. Desirable objects that are widely available and easy to find are at higher risk.

Valuable. Thieves will generally choose more expensive goods, particularly when they are stealing to sell.

Enjoyable . Hot products may be enjoyable things to consume, such as liquor, tobacco, and songs or videos.

Disposable . Thieves prefer products that are easy to sell.

The idea of hot products has led to the insight that crime prevention can be built into the design of products and services in the same way that safety is designed into automobiles (Clarke & Newman, 2005a , 2005b ; Ekblom, 2005 , 2012a , 2012b ). Packaging of products and their placement in stores may significantly reduce theft, or even murder, as in the case of the Tylenol poisonings. In 1982 , seven people died in the Chicago as a result of swallowing cyanide-tainted Tylenol. In 1988 , the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received 488 tampering complaints, most of which concerned food and beverage products. Nor were these incidents confined to the United States. In 1989 in the United Kingdom, Heinz suffered an incident of tampering with its baby food products, which cost it at least £2 million in advertising to re-launch the product after it was protected with tamper-resistant packaging (Clarke & Newman, 2005 , pp. 55–57). Tamper-proof and tamper-evident packaging is now a basic feature of all consumable products.

As SCP’s popularity has increased, a growing number of strategies have been identified and implemented in an effort to impact specific crime problems. It is necessary to understand, though, that any intervention is not a zero-sum game (Clarke & Newman, 2006 ) and could result in a variety of outcomes. SCP’s ultimate and pristine approach is to create interventions that eliminate all opportunity to commit that crime. This rarely occurs, though, and SCP’s fallback position is to at least reduce the amount of the specific crime. Importantly, other SCP interventions do not seek to reduce or eliminate the specific crime’s occurrence but rather to reduce the harm it causes. For example, redundant computer systems are designed so that if a hacker destroys one system, the other will kick in, or redundant electricity grids are created to minimize harm caused by terrorist attacks.

Displacement and Diffusion of Benefits

Studies have shown that SCP interventions almost always influence offenders (Freilich & Newman, 2014 ). In fact, SCP interventions have consistently been found to reduce crime (Clarke, 1997 ; Hesseling, 1994 ). Thus, the common criticism that SCP’s interventions will simply displace the problem and not reduce or eliminate it has not been supported. The most common type of crime displacement is the shifting of crime from one place to another (spatial displacement) as a result of an intervention of some kind. Displacement may also occur in respect to time, target selection, one type of offense to another, or a change of tactics (Reppetto, 1976 ). Diffusion of benefits refers to cases where an SCP intervention is implemented in a location, and crime reduction also occurs in nearby areas or similar targets that have not received the intervention. Anticipatory benefits refer to crime reduction that occurs in an area while a proposed intervention is discussed but before it is implemented. In both cases, publicity is the mechanism that results in crime reduction. It is thought that offenders hear about the proposed intervention and mistakenly (but consistent with limited/bounded rationality) conclude that it has already been implemented in their area. The offenders thus decide to conform (Barr & Pease, 1990 ; Bowers & Johnson, 2005 ; Clarke & Weisburd, 1994 ; Smith, Clarke, & Pease, 2002 ).

Guerette and Bowers ( 2009 ) examined the effectiveness of SCP interventions in changing likely offender behavior. They found that many SCP interventions do not result in displacement (see also Bowers, Johnson, Guerette, Summers, & Poynton, 2011 ; Weisburd, Wycoff, Ready, Eck, & Hinkle, 2006 ). Guerette and Bowers looked at 102 evaluations of SCP projects that included 574 observations. They found that displacement occurred in 26% of observations, while the opposite of displacement, diffusion of benefits, occurred in 27% of the observations. Further, Guerette and Bowers, in their examination of 13 studies, which took into account spatial displacement and diffusion effects, found that when spatial displacement did occur, it was usually less than the treatment effect. The end result is that, even after factoring in displacement effects, the interventions usually resulted in an overall crime reduction. Further, SCP interventions often have positive spillover effects through the diffusion of benefits and anticipatory benefits that leads to crime reductions in locations beyond the target area (Guerette & Bowers, 2009 ; Freilich & Newman, 2014 ; Weisburd et al., 2006 ).

SCP’s Future Directions

SCP effectively reduces crime, and it is based upon a complex, well-developed interdisciplinary model. In considering SCP’s future directions, consideration is given to two non-criminal-justice-system avenues that SCP advocates have recently increasingly used to reduce crime: civil government regulation and the shifting and sharing of responsibility for crime to those most competent to reduce it.

The Regulation of Crime

Civil and other government regulations have been used to good effect by SCP to regulate establishments, product design, and individual behavior to reduce crime. This approach is in contrast to the traditional justice system model that seeks to arrest offenders one by one (Mazerolle & Roehl, 1998 ). Clarke and Newman ( 2005a , 2005b ) have discussed six important points relating to government regulation of crime. First, the role taken by government in any specific case depends on the options available, which vary with the crime, with the state of current technology, and with a host of other circumstances, as shown by the Tylenol case described above. Second, the willingness of governments to intervene in the private sector depends on their political complexion. Thus, conservative governments have generally been reluctant to intervene in business practices or to expand the role of government in regard to business and industry. Which varieties of governments have been in power, and for how long, can therefore have a marked impact on a country’s use of regulatory power. Third, levels of concern about crime, which can vary considerably across countries, or in the same country over time, can strongly influence a government’s willingness to intervene and regulate business practices. For example, concern about car theft prompted the conservative government in the United Kingdom in 1992 to publish “league tables” of the most stolen cars in an effort to get manufacturers to improve their security (Pease, 2001 ).

Fourth, whether the private sector or government offers particular services is also subject to policy (Freilich & Newman, 2016 ). Thus, many services previously offered by government—rail services, subsidized housing, water, telecommunications—are now offered through private enterprise. Fifth, the government role depends on the system of government in place in the country concerned, its constitutional powers, and its relationship with the legal system. The multiple jurisdictions in the United States sometimes result in legal confusion, as when the banks challenged the right of the New York City Council to impose regulations on ATM machines on the grounds that banks were subject to federal controls (Guerette & Clarke, 2003 ). Sixth, the laws and legal traditions in different countries can greatly affect the scope for government intervention. In the United States, for example, there is a strong tradition, almost unknown in the United Kingdom, for example, of entrepreneurial lawyers filing class action liability suits on behalf of groups of citizens harmed by the products or practices of business and industry.

While many civil and regulatory initiatives are effective in reducing crime, they are a marked departure from most other criminology theories that highlight the importance of the police and the criminal law for crime reduction. Intriguingly, though, this evolution and increased reliance on civil law provides an opening for SCP advocates and legal scholars to collaborate and harness the increased use of regulations for crime prevention. However, the proponents of this tactic to reduce crime should keep in mind that civil actions are not predicated upon the determination of offender guilt or innocence, one of the central questions engaged by the criminal justice system.

Responsibility and Competency

An unconventional approach recently explored by SCP proponents has suggested that crime be conceived as something like pollution and regulated accordingly. This approach endorses using the cap-and-trade market approach that is now used to control carbon emissions (Newman, 2012 ). The prime advantage of the market approach to crime reduction is that it rests on the classical school’s recognition that businesses (and people for that matter) will take advantage where they see an opportunity to do so, and will not give it up until it costs more than it is worth (Beccaria, 1764 ). Crime-reduction trading assigns a monetary cost to accountability for a specific crime that is not directly imposed by a third party, such as a government imposing fines, but is imposed by the offending business or entity primarily responsible for the criminal opportunity on itself as it engages in the marketplace. The cap-and-trade approach to control opportunities for crime created by businesses (as negative externalities of their doing business) requires those most competent to reduce the opportunity for crime to take on the primary responsibility for its reduction, since they are also the most competent to do so.

The relationship between competency and responsibility in preventing crime is complex (Hardie & Hobbs, 2005 ). For example, are individuals who do not shred their credit card bills more responsible for their victimization than the corporations that fail to require PIN numbers for credit card use, or due to poor internal security allow card details to be hacked or stolen from their databases? These problems are accentuated by viewing the reduction of credit card fraud from a market perspective. All crime, including crimes like robbery, assault, or even murder, can be assessed from this point of view: which entity or person is most competent to prevent or reduce the specific crime? Very often, perhaps most often, such entities are not necessarily the police, or even government, for that matter.

This way of thinking about crime reduction also shifts the focus away from the traditional dispositional bias in policy making in criminology, which focuses on single cases, whether the deviance of individuals or corporations, and largely depends on the criminal justice system or heavy government regulation for its solutions. In the complex and rapidly changing world of crime, this is an inadequate policy approach since it assumes that police and others in the criminal justice system have the competency to solve crime problems, the immediate causes of which lie well beyond their resources or traditionally defined roles. The approach advocated here is to realign responsibility for responding to crime with the competency to do it. This means drawing on a wide range of institutions and organizations, including corporations large and small, trade associations, unions, NGOs, and interest groups, as well as government organizations, to solve specific problems of crime.

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Future of Crime Prevention: Developmental and Situational Strategies

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Knowledge Development Trajectories of Crime Prevention Domain: An Academic Study Based on Citation and Main Path Analysis

Song-chia hsu.

1 College of Management, National Taipei University of Technology, Taipei 10608, Taiwan

Kai-Ying Chen

2 Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, National Taipei University of Technology, Taipei 10608, Taiwan

Chih-Ping Lin

Associated data.

Data sharing is not applicable to this article.

This study performed main path analysis to explore the academic field of crime prevention. Studies were collected from the Web of Science database, and main path analysis was used to analyze the studies and identify influential authors and journals on the basis of the g-index and h-index. Cluster analysis was then performed to group studies with related themes. Wordle was used to output keywords and word clouds for each cluster, both of which were used as reference to name each cluster. Five clusters were identified, namely crime displacement control, crime prevention through environmental design, developmental crime prevention, the effects of communalism on crime prevention, and the effect of childhood sexual abuse on crime. Each cluster was analyzed, and suggestions based on the results are provided. The main purpose of crime prevention is to advance our understanding of the psychological criminal mechanisms (i.e., personal, social and environmental impacts) associated with different criminal behaviors at the intersection of law by using main path analysis.

1. Introduction

Crime prevention has garnered attention worldwide. It refers to the direct and indirect measures taken to reduce, inhibit, and prevent crime. Scholars have analyzed crimes such as theft, juvenile crimes, and robbery and factors related to them to develop crime prevention strategies; however, most crime prevention-related literature reviews have been limited. To comprehensively understand crime prevention, this study performed a main path analysis on the literature on crime prevention, investigating the development history and trends of crime prevention. The objectives were as follows:

  • To identify the overall development trajectory of crime prevention and key studies on crime prevention in the academic field through a main path analysis and find out the relevant research in the academic field of crime prevention in different periods.
  • To identify key themes in the research on crime prevention through a cluster analysis.
  • To identify key themes in the research on crime prevention for different periods through text mining and growth curve, and the growth trend of each research topic is predicted through growth curve analysis.

1.1. Crime Prevention Theories

Crime prevention involves improvements in the social and physical environments before, during, and after the occurrences of crimes to prevent, control, eliminate, and reduce them. Criminology approaches crime from the perspective of etiology and the environment [ 1 ]. Etiology is used to explore motivations to commit crimes, which are often diverse and cannot be explained by a single theory. As a result, scholars of criminology have combined several aspects of criminology to comprehensively explain these motivations and crimes. Analyzing crimes from the perspective of environment requires framing crimes as trade-offs between costs and benefits and acknowledging that humans’ understanding of consequences informs their decision to commit crimes. Before committing crimes, rational individuals assess the risks, the severity of the penalties, and the rewards. If the rewards outweigh the risks, the individuals will likely commit the crimes. We found that white-collar crime is the cause of crime that has been neglected in academic research. The concept of white-collar crime has a lot of confusion and controversy. The researchers suggest collecting various documents and data packages in recent years, including field observations, interviews and questionnaire surveys and other empirical research. However, in recent years, medical staff has been threatened with verbal threats or even physical violence during the medical process, which not only affects their health or safety but also interferes with medical operations and affects other patients’ treatment. This article used the situational crime prevention theory to prevent medical violence and analyzes the reasons, objects, places, and time of medical violence that often occur in court judgments and medical staff’s perceptions. By increasing the difficulty of crime, increasing the risk of crime, reducing crime opportunities and reducing post-criminal remuneration, we try to develop strategies to prevent medical violence. Through cross-field team cooperation to conduct a case review and preventive strategy management, we will continue to improve the personnel’s ability to prevent and handle violent incidents, and we will strive to maintain the safety of the medical environment and anti-violent incidents. Crime prevention models [ 2 ] can be technology-oriented (e.g., punitive, corrective, and mechanical), target-oriented, stage-oriented (e.g., prevention during intention, preparation, and attempt stages), those proposed by Podolefsky (involving strategies analyzing social problems and preventing victimization), conscious strategies (e.g., conservative, liberal, and radical models), those categorized by Naudé (e.g., biopsychic, sociological, physical, and legal sanction and punishment models), and those classified by Clarke (e.g., root cause, deterrence, rehabilitative treatment, and situational models). In conclusion, the model of crime prevention, literature research, and scholars suggest that the concept of “community policing” was born for the police. The local police must actively promote related measures, and the problem determination must show the importance of professionalism to the police. The concept of crime prevention and public service is increasingly advocated, and the police are expected to provide a safe and secure living environment.

1.1.1. Purpose of Crime Prevention

Police enforcement agencies operate under the “tertiary prevention” principle advanced by public health agencies, emphasizing that prevention is better than the cure. Crime prevention involves eliminating opportunities to commit crimes, situational prevention, and relapse prevention. Targeted policies for each of these aspects may be more effective and thus reduce national and social costs. Crime prevention policies are a crucial aspect of national governance and can also be grouped as follows [ 3 ]:

  • Primary prevention strategies: to eliminate opportunities to commit crimes by improving physical and social environments.
  • Secondary prevention strategies: to pre-emptively intervene in the activities of potential criminals.
  • Tertiary prevention strategies: to provide treatment to criminals to stop them from committing crimes.

Reviewing the literature on the definition of “tertiary prevention” related measures of prevention, it is particularly recommended that future research scholars put forward more suggestions on preventing child sexual abuse cases, including protecting the identity of the whistleblower and the right to work as well as creating a friendly campus and resettlement agencies environment, so that children have the courage to ask for help.

1.1.2. Types of Crime Prevention

Crime prevention involves individual and situational models. In the criminal justice system, crime prevention involves patrol and arrest in traditional policing, prosecution, quick decisions made by judges, and deterrence and long-term incarceration in rehabilitation institutions. Drug crime prevention involves raising awareness of the risks of drug use, preventing smuggling, investigating drug trafficking and related personnel, and combatting drug trafficking organizations. Situational crime prevention involves measures to decrease the risks of certain specific crimes, reduce the rewards of crimes, and eliminate opportunities to commit crimes through environmental design and management. Community crime prevention involves altering the structure of a community (e.g., family, peers, and neighborhood organizations). Developmental crime prevention involves preventing individuals from developing the intention to commit crimes by eliminating dangers to individual growth, prioritizing children’s health and academic performance, and preventing individuals from becoming criminals because they were abused in their childhood [ 4 , 5 ]. Reviewing the recommendations for future research, scholars in the literature especially elaborate on the rehabilitated people who no longer commit crimes and the unfriendly eyes of the public observing the rehabilitated people. Regarding the characteristics of Japan’s rehabilitation practices, it is explained in perspectives of public sector organizations and manpower, private sector types and functions, crime victims-related measures, and crime prevention and recidivism prevention carry forward. Finally, these experiences of Japan compared with Taiwan’s current practices provide feasible advice for the references of planning and promoting future judicial protection policies by the relevant authorities.

1.2. Literature on Main Path Analyses

Several scholars have performed path analyses and key-route main path analyses to review studies on science and technology. Verspagen [ 6 ], Fontana et al. [ 7 ], and Consoli and Mina [ 8 ] performed main path analyses to map technological trajectories. Bekkers and Martinelli [ 9 ] and Lucio-Arias and Leydesdorff [ 10 ] performed main path analyses to analyze technological changes. Bhupatiraju et al. [ 11 ], Calero-Medina and Noyons [ 12 ], Colicchia and Strozzi [ 13 ], Harris et al. [ 14 ], Liu et al. [ 15 ], Chuang et al. [ 16 ], Yan et al. [ 17 ], and Su et al. [ 18 ] performed main path analyses on literature reviews in various domains. Lee [ 19 ] performed a main path analysis to simplify and organize patent verdicts to explore their effectiveness. Lee [ 20 ] performed a main path analysis to identify key patent verdicts and explore patent misuse in the 20th century.

2. Materials and Methods

2.1. data source.

This study reviewed literature on crime prevention as the basis for a keyword search. The keyword “crime prevention” was used to search the Web of Science (WOS) database on 31 December 2020; the search yielded 1668 results. Duplicates and studies without authors, titles, and publication dates were removed, leaving 1554 studies.

2.2. Main Path Analysis

Main path analyses can be used to process large numbers of citation data and review key knowledge in any academic field. Main paths connect the source (starting) and sink (ending) points in the literature. Main paths are identified by measuring the traversal counts of each path through search path count, search path link count (SPLC), and search path node pair [ 21 ]. This study referenced Liu and Lu (2012), who used global main paths and key route main paths. SPLC is superior to search path count and search path node pair [ 22 ], because it maps knowledge diffusion more effectively. Figure 1 presents the process of main path analysis based on SPLC weights. First, a path in the network is selected. The number of paths connecting source points and nodes to sink points and the number of possible paths connecting sink points to each node are multiplied to obtain the weight of each link.

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Object name is ijerph-19-10616-g001.jpg

Example of main path analysis based on SPLC weights.

2.3. Basic Statistics Analysis of Journals and Authors

The WOS database provides the journal in which a study was published, the study’s publication date, the journal’s g-index and h-index, and the author’s name and g-index and h-index. The g-index represents the number of citations an article receives, with top articles receiving at least g 2 citations, whereas the h-index represents the number of citations an author receives. This study used these indices as primary and secondary indices, respectively, to assess journals’ and authors’ contributions to their academic fields; the top 20 journals and authors in crime prevention were examined.

2.4. Growth Curve Analysis

This study input the total number of studies on crime prevention published each year in the WOS database into Loglet Lab 4 to create a graph; the Y-axis was the number of papers, and the X-axis was the year. The graph enabled us to identify periods of growth and maturity in the field.

2.5. Cluster Analysis

A cluster analysis was performed to group studies with similar themes. Each cluster was named on the basis of the studies’ keywords. An edge-betweenness clustering analysis was then performed. First, the betweenness in the network was calculated. Betweenness is the total number of shortest paths that cross the shortest path between any two nodes. Second, the path with the highest betweenness score was removed. If a new citation network was derived, the modularity of the cluster was calculated. If no new citation network is derived, the first and second steps were repeated until all paths were removed. Finally, the group with the highest modularity was identified as the optimal group; modularity was used to compare the strength of links connecting intercluster and intracluster nodes.

2.6. Data Mining

The labels for each cluster were input into Wordle to determine the frequency with which each title appeared in the literature and to output a word cloud; prepositions and definite articles were not included in the computation.

3.1. Data Statistics

Figure 2 presents an Excel chart of the number of studies published each year and total number of studies on crime prevention from 1989 to 2020 in dark and light blue, respectively. The number of studies consistently increased. By 2015, the growth was exponential, and hundreds of studies were being published annually. This signifies that crime prevention began to garner more attention.

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Object name is ijerph-19-10616-g002.jpg

Cumulative papers on crime prevention. Title: Statistics on publication of crime prevention literature. Bottom left text: number of studies published annually. Bottom right text: total number of studies published.

3.1.1. Crime Prevention Journals

This study used the g-index to identify the top 20 journals covering crime prevention. Journals with the same g-index scores were ranked on the basis of their h-index scores ( Table 1 ). The top five journals, in descending order, are The British Journal of Criminology , Journal of Experimental Criminology , Security Journal , Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency , and Criminology & Public Policy . The top journal, The British Journal of Criminology , published its first issue in 1989 and has since published 75 studies. The journal publishes high-quality studies on crime prevention from around the world and has indicated that professionals in criminology, sociology, anthropology, and psychology are crucial to crime prevention. Journal of Experimental Criminology focuses on criminological theories and high-quality experimental research for the development of judicial policies. Security Journal mostly consists of security analyses and reports on research and innovations in various fields. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency provides research notes, reviews of other journals, and explorations of controversial problems in the judicial field. Criminology & Public Policy centers on judicial policies and their implementation. CiteScore is based on the citations recorded in the Scopus database rather than in JCR, and those citations are collected for articles published in the preceding four years instead of two or five. Using the CiteScore of Scopus to rank journals, we found that Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science and Criminology were ranked first and second, respectively. Either g -index or CiteScore provide researchers with a measure of the journal, and it will be referenced.

The top 20 most influential journals.

g-IndexJournalg-Indexh-IndexCiteScoreActive YearsTotal PapersPapers after 2000
1 40235.01989~20204875
2 241242009~20193030
3 23132.32008~20207979
4 23124.81993~20202223
5 23115.62010~20202929
6 21136.81996~20191721
7 2198.11989~20181421
8 20104.41989~20202025
9 19116.32002~20191919
10 19105.21992~20192731
11 18103.02008~20193232
12 1892.71989~20202836
13 1785.21994~20201622
14 1691.52005~20192828
15 15102.51999~20192425
16 14127.31997~20191314
17 1493.72009~20201717
18 1494.22000~20201414
19 1383.21991~20191213
20 1160.31993~2009912

3.1.2. Authors

This study used the g-index to identify the top 20 authors in crime prevention. Authors with the same g-index score were ranked on the basis of their h-index scores ( Table 2 ). The top six authors were Welsh, BC; Farrington, DP; Weisburd, D; Braga, AA; Johnson, SD; and Piza, EL.

The top 20 most influential authors.

g-IndexAuthorg-Indexh-Index1st AuthorsActive YearsTotal Papers
1Welsh, BC3119261997–202040
2Farrington, DP281571996–202029
3Weisburd, D1612111997–201916
4Braga, AA1610122001–201916
5Johnson, SD12851998–202012
6Piza, EL118102014–202015
7Leclerc, B11762007–201911
8Pease, K11641989–201111
9Eck, JE10622006–202010
10Groff, ER9832007–20199
11Losel, F9832006–20199
12Reynald, DM9742009–20199
13Farrell, G9641994–20189
14Casteel, C9542000–20169
15Andresen, MA8632014–20208
16Beauregard, E8632007–20188
17Bowers, K8612010–20198
18Ekblom, P8671995–20168
19Sherman, LW8661993–20198
20Guerette, RT7432009–20197

BC Welsh is a professor in the Northeastern University Criminology and Criminal Justice Program and serves as the director of the Cambridge Somerville Youth Study. Welsh’s main field of research is crime prevention, and he has served as an advisor for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the United Kingdom Home Office, and the Canadian National Police Service. Six of the 18 studies in the global main path, accounting for one-third, were written by Welsh, indicating his contributions to the field.

DP Farrington is a British criminologist, forensic psychologist, and emeritus professor of psychological criminology at the University of Cambridge, where he also serves as a Leverhulme Trust Emeritus Fellow. He is renowned for his research on the development of criminal behavior. In 2003, Farrington was appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his contributions to the field of criminology. The same year, he received the Stockholm Prize in Criminology for his contributions to crime prevention programs.

D Weisburd is an Israeli criminologist and Distinguished Professor of Criminology, Law, and Society at George Mason University. Weisburd’s main fields of research are public security and white-collar crime. In 2010, he received the Stockholm Prize in Criminology and Israel’s Rothschild Prize in social sciences.

AA Braga is a distinguished professor of criminology and criminal justice. He is renowned as a leading researcher in crime prevention and has published various influential papers in Criminology , Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency , Justice Quarterly , and Journal of Quantitative Criminology .

SD Johnson is the Director of the Dawes Center for Future Crime at University College London. He works in criminology and forensic psychology, and his research focuses on how new technologies affect crime.

Elis Piza is an Associate Professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York. He has conducted research on geographic information systems and spatial analysis. He also published six of the studies in the global main path, which is a similar contribution to that of Welsh.

3.2. Academic Literature and the Overall Development Trajectory of Crime Prevention

The main path analysis revealed the global main path of crime prevention in the academic field. In Figure 3 , the green and blue nodes represent the source and sink points, respectively. Each node represents a study. The arrows connecting the nodes indicate the direction of knowledge flow. Each node was labeled with a serial code corresponding to the last name of the first author, the other authors’ initials, and the year of publication. If two studies had the same serial code, a lowercase letter was added to the end of the code to indicate which study was first alphabetically.

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Main path analysis of crime prevention (Top to bottom). Exploring the effects of CCTV on crime rates. Exploring the effects of the combination of foot patrol and CCTV. Exploring the effects of CCTV on crime prevention. Exploring the effects of physical infrastructure and crime reports on crime rates. Evaluating the costs and benefits of crime prevention strategies. Proposing prevention strategies for various types of crime.

Figure 3 depicts the global main path of crime prevention in the academic field. The main path of the citation network had the highest total weight and consisted of 18 nodes, each representing a study. Pennell et al. [ 23 ] assessed the effects of the Guardian Angels Program (i.e., volunteers patrolling the streets and subways) on crime and citizens’ attitude toward crime; order maintenance policing helped prevent crime and made citizens feel safe. Bennett and Lavrakas [ 24 ] proposed a community-based crime prevention program to eliminate the fear of crime and other problems but did not observe any changes in crimes or perceived quality of life. Mulvey et al. [ 25 ] reported that interventions must be broadly based and assessed more comprehensively to deter juvenile delinquency. Graham and Bennett [ 26 ] explored situational and community crime prevention programs in Europe and North America and their implementation effects.

Some scholars have assessed the economic efficiency of crime prevention programs. Welsh and Farrington [ 27 ] evaluated the feasibility and economic efficiency of a developmental and situational crime prevention program and explored its ability to reduce crime. Welsh and Farrington [ 28 ] proposed a cost–benefit analysis method to determine the optimal approach to crime prevention. The focus for most scholars of crime prevention has shifted to the effects of crime reports on crime rates. Painter and Farrington [ 29 ] indicated that increasing street lighting reduced crime rates on the basis of a self-report survey of young people. Farrington and Welsh [ 30 ] recommended that studies measured crime rates by using police records, surveys of victims, and accounts of offenses by perpetrators.

The widespread use and popularity of closed-circuit television (CCTV) have prompted scholars to explore the effects of surveillance cameras on crime. Welsh and Farrington [ 31 ] reported that CCTV reduces crimes in parking lots considerably but does not affect violent crime. Welsh and Farrington [ 32 ] evaluated the effects of CCTV as an intervention for crimes and revealed that it was more effective in the United Kingdom than in the United States; however, the effect was limited to crimes in parking lots. On the basis of survey results, Piza et al. [ 33 ] reported that CCTV should be placed in areas with high crime rates to discourage crimes. When installing CCTV, factors such as criminals and the presence of ground obstacles should be considered.

Piza and O’Hara [ 34 ] introduced a project that combined CCTV and foot patrols. Although the number of murders and shootings decreased in areas with foot patrol, the number of robberies exhibited temporal and spatial displacement. Piza et al. [ 35 ] indicated that multiple interventions should be implemented simultaneously to prevent crime, especially street crime. Piza et al. [ 36 ] presented an intervention combining CCTV monitoring with directed patrolling that successfully reduced crime rates.

Piza [ 37 ] used propensity score matching to explore the effects of CCTV on auto thefts, auto parts thefts, and violent crimes and found that CCTV only deterred auto thefts. Welsh et al. [ 38 ] noted that private CCTV systems are more effective in preventing crimes than are police CCTV systems or the combination of police CCTV systems and security personnel. Khan et al. [ 39 ] proposed adding blockchain to surveillance systems to ensure video evidence cannot be compromised. Most early studies focused on planning and assessing crime prevention strategies involving physical infrastructure; only in 2003 did studies appear related to CCTV.

4. Discussion

4.1. development trajectory of crime prevention and clusters.

The key-route main path comprised 23 studies. A comparison between Figure 3 and Figure 4 indicated that the key-route main path contained all 18 studies in the global main path; thus, the studies in the global main path are crucial in the academic field of crime prevention. The key-route main path also contained five studies not in the global main path. Polvi et al. [ 40 ] explored the risks of being burglarized a second time and revealed that homes burglarized once in 1987 had a four times greater risk of being burglarized again in the same year. Trickett et al. [ 41 ] analyzed the differences between areas with high and low crime rates and revealed that vulnerability determined the risks of crimes; thus, crime prevention strategies should focus on the most vulnerable populations and places. Farrell and Pease [ 42 ] performed predictable seasonal variation analyses by using police calls to domestic disputes and residential burglary in a 3-year period, and they found that larger predictable seasonal variations may provide deeper insight into the problems in question and directions for crime prevention. Farrington [ 43 ] categorized criminology research into five categories, namely measurement, explanations or correlates, police or crime prevention, sentencing, and correctional treatment, and they suggested that long-term research on the causes of crime is warranted. Guerette and Bowers [ 44 ] evaluated situational crime prevention projects and reported that crime displacement entailed the diffusion of the benefits of an intervention; this indicates that certain interventions prevent crimes.

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Key-route main path analysis of crime prevention (top to bottom). Exploring the effects of CCTV on crimes. Exploring the effects of interventions combining foot patrol and CCTV on crime rates. Exploring the effects of CCTV on crime prevention. Exploring the effects of physical infrastructure and crime reports on crime rates. Evaluating the costs and benefits of crime prevention strategies. Proposing prevention strategies for various types of crime.

4.2. Cluster Analysis of Field of Crime Prevention

An edge-betweenness cluster analysis yielded 20 clusters, and studies in the top 5 clusters, namely the effects of crime displacement control on crime prevention, the effects of crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED), the effects of developmental programs on crime prevention, the effects of communalism on crime prevention, and the effects of childhood sexual abuse on crimes, were input into Wordle to identify keywords. Figure 5 presents the themes, number of studies, keywords, and word clouds for these clusters. Keywords were ranked by their frequency (numbers in parentheses) in titles; for example, “crime” appeared an average 0.33 times in the first cluster. The studies in each cluster were analyzed to determine the main path of each cluster and the research direction of each main path ( Figure 6 , Figure 7 , Figure 8 , Figure 9 and Figure 10 ). The literature growth trend charts revealed that the number of studies in the literature increased in all five clusters.

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Top 5 clusters of crime prevention-related academic literature.

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Global main path analysis of first cluster. (Top to bottom). Assessing crime displacement control and other programs; the effects of focused police action programs on crime displacement control.

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Global main path analysis of second cluster. (Top to bottom). The effects of CPTED; relationship between environmental characteristics and social disorder.

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Global main path of third cluster. (Top to bottom). Evaluating the effects of developmental crime prevention; relationship between policy and crime prevention.

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Global main path analysis of fourth cluster. (Top to bottom). The effects of communalism on crime prevention; exploring the essence of crime prevention.

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Global main path analysis of fifth cluster (Top to bottom). Strategies for preventing childhood sexual abuse; analysis of childhood sexual abuse.

Figure 5 translation: (top row, left to right): research theme; first cluster (122 studies): the effects of crime displacement control on crime prevention; second cluster (104 studies): the effects of crime prevention through environmental design; third cluster (83 studies): the effects of developmental programs on crime prevention; fourth cluster (59 studies): the effects of communalism on crime prevention; fifth cluster (53 studies): the effects of childhood sexual abuse on crimes. (Bottom left, top to bottom): number of studies; word clouds.

4.2.1. The Effects of Crime Displacement Control on Crime Prevention

The first cluster contained 122 studies on crime displacement control ( Figure 6 ), and the main path contained 11 studies on crime displacement control from 1990 to 2020, demonstrating the effects of crime displacement control on crime prevention.

Gabor [ 45 ] indicated that citizens value community-based crime prevention programs and public participation. Braga [ 46 ] suggested that focused police actions can prevent crimes and disorder in crime hot spots. Weisburd et al. [ 47 ] indicated that focused crime prevention efforts at target sites improve nearby areas. Braga and Bond [ 48 ] reported that situational prevention strategies are more effective than misdemeanor arrests in preventing crime. Durlauf and Nagin [ 49 ] stated that the certainty of punishment deters criminals.

Johnson et al. [ 50 ] proposed the EMMIE framework, which involves collecting primary data on crime prevention and synthesizing knowledge through systematic reviews. Santos and Santos [ 51 ] explored police- and family-oriented interventions and discovered that their effects on crime were nonsignificant. Braga et al. [ 52 ] found that the effects of focused police crime prevention interventions in crime hot spots result in a diffusion of crime control benefits; the results showed that hot spots policing diffused crime control benefits into proximate areas. Piza et al. [ 53 ] reported that police substations reduce the number of thefts and scooter thefts in target areas considerably.

4.2.2. CPTED

The second cluster consisted of 104 studies on CPTED, which involves the relationship between environmental characteristics and crimes ( Figure 7 ). Taylor [ 54 ] maintained that involvement in the community encourages residents to coordinate their efforts against unrest and ensure social stability. Loukaitou-Sideris [ 55 ] explored bus stop crimes and analyzed the environmental attributes that determine safety for bus drivers. The study also developed a crime prevention strategy for bus stops based on environmental attributes. Loukaitou-Sideris and Eck [ 56 ] investigated whether crimes are a barrier to active living and developed a theoretical model comprising situational characteristics, crime and disorder, fear of crime or disorder, and physical activity.

Marzbali et al. [ 57 ] proposed CPTED and explored its effects on burglary rates. Marzbali et al. [ 58 ] explored the effects of CPTED on victims and fear of crime. Abdullah et al. [ 59 ] reported that elderly individuals perceive higher levels of neighborhood cohesion than do younger individuals. Marzbali et al. [ 60 ] examined the effects of CPTED on residential burglary rates, and they concluded that CPTED was associated with low victimization rates. Chen et al. [ 61 ] analyzed the effects of floating populations on residential burglary; floating populations from a single province do not strongly affect residential burglary rates in most parts of the city, whereas those from multiple provinces significantly and positively affect residential burglary rates. Cho and Jung [ 62 ] reported that CPTED is an effective tool for preventing sexual harassment and that although crime displacement occurs, its effects are outweighed by the positive effects of new policies in target zones. He et al. [ 63 ] analyzed factors affecting the safety of traditional settlements and revealed that safety is spiritual, physical, and behavioral. Kim and Park [ 64 ] investigated three groups’ awareness of wall removal projects. The first group consisted of burglars stationed at houses without walls, the second group consisted of residents who were stationed at houses with walls, and the third group consisted of residents who were stationed at houses without walls. The first group perceived houses without walls as easier targets, whereas the second and third groups reported that wall removal increased their fear of crimes. Most of the residents indicated that the walls protected them from external threats and ensured their environment was safe.

4.2.3. The Effects of Developmental Programs on Crime Prevent

The third cluster consisted of 83 studies on developmental crime prevention ( Figure 8 ). Mackenzie [ 65 ] used rigorous science scores to assess crime prevention strategies. Welsh and Farrington [ 66 ] commented that the effectiveness of correctional strategies should be evaluated and that the results of the evaluations should be incorporated into policies and practices. Manning et al. [ 67 ] encouraged policymakers to make rational decisions and incorporate research evidence into policies.

Crowley [ 68 ] encouraged policymakers to consider their regional planning and implementation capacity when investing in crime prevention programs. Farrington [ 69 ] applied a universal index to juvenile crime to identify suitable strategies for preventing each type of crime and revealed that family interventions and preschool courses can reduce juvenile crimes. Weisburd et al. [ 70 ] performed a systematic review of crime prevention strategies and suggested that studies perform cost–benefit analyses and explore the effectiveness of each strategy. Spasic and Simonovic [ 71 ] compared police officers’ and police educators’ receptivity to evidence-based policing. Farrington et al. [ 72 ] invited six leading criminologists to discuss instability in social systems, the importance of systematic reviews, heterogeneity among studies’ conclusions, replicating experiments in procedural justice, and enthusiasm bias in criminal justice experiments. Picasso and Cohen [ 73 ] employed a survey methodology previously used in studies on the environment, health, and safety economics to estimate the costs of violent crimes and homicide and demonstrated the feasibility of the methodology.

4.2.4. The Effects of Communalism on Crime Prevention

The fourth cluster consisted of 59 studies on crime prevention and communalism ( Figure 9 ). King [ 74 ] detailed the relationship between France’s crime prevention strategies and antisocial behavior. Omalley [ 75 ] reported that the rise of neoconservatism discouraged the development of programs based on risk models and examined situational crime prevention in relation to neoconservatism. Omalley [ 76 ] defined crime prevention as a key responsibility, advocated for the causes of crime to be studied, and indicated that criminals should take responsibility for their crimes. The study also proposed strengthening the law to enhance its punitive function.

Omalley et al. [ 77 ] believed that overly political governmentality may impede policy implementation and advocated for public discussion of this notion. Carson [ 78 ] explored the effects of communalism on crime prevention strategies. Hughes [ 79 ] examined community crime prevention, the instability of community governance, and strangers’ effects on community safety. Carson [ 80 ] expanded on Carson [ 80 ] by continuing to explore communalism as well as feasible crime prevention strategies. Selmini [ 81 ] explored crime prevention and social reassurance in Italy, which are strongly affected by conflict and negotiations between Italy’s national and local governments. Hughes [ 82 ] combined international, national, and local strategies to address changing governance in a society attempting to regulate migration and ensure community safety.

4.2.5. The Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Crime Prevention

The fifth cluster consisted of 53 studies on crime prevention and childhood sexual abuse ( Figure 10 ). Beauregard et al. [ 83 ] identified three hunting process scripts in serial sex crimes, namely coercive scripts, manipulative scripts, and nonpersuasive scripts. LeclercPB2009 [ 84 ] analyzed the victims of various crimes to identify specific characteristics in potential victims. Leclerc et al. [ 85 ] proposed a script model for child sex offenses.

Leclerc et al. [ 86 ] examined the effects of guardians on the severity of childhood sexual abuse; the presence of a guardian decreases the duration of sexual abuse by 86%, suggesting that guardians are crucial in preventing sexual crimes. Leclerc et al. [ 87 ] reported that environmental criminology contributes to the development of strategies to prevent childhood sexual violence. The study collected information related to sexual crimes through questions posed by criminologists and environmental criminologists and offered directions for further research. Guerzoni [ 88 ] evaluated the feasibility of clergy’s child safety practices to minimize impropriety and protect children from sexual crimes.

From 2007 to 2011, most studies focused on childhood sexual abuse; after 2015, the research focus shifted to strategies for preventing such crimes ( Figure 10 ).

4.3. Crime Prevention Growth Curve Analysis

The sample comprised 2678 scholars in the academic field of crime prevention. A growth curve analysis was performed to identify the period of maturity in the research on crime prevention. The dotted line in Figure 11 represents the estimated number of papers in the field; the line overlaid with dots represents the actual number of papers. The inflection point of the growth curve was estimated to be 2017, and the field is expected to reach maturity by 2047. By then, the total number of papers is expected to be 2546. At the date of writing, the crime prevention field has passed the inflection point and is expected to slowly enter the maturity period.

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Studies on crime prevention. A growth curve analysis was performed to identify the period of maturity in the research on crime prevention as blue dots.

5. Conclusions

This study collected 1554 studies on crime prevention, which is a field expected to reach maturity by 2047, at which point 2546 studies are expected to have been published. This study performed path analyses to identify the path with the highest total weight and examined it with respect to the key-route main path. Early studies focused on strategies to prevent various types of crime, middle-stage studies centered on cost–benefit analyses of crime prevention strategies, and late-stage studies explored the effects of physical infrastructure on crime rates. The following are three periods.

  • Early-term (1989–1997): Proposed prevention programs for different crime types. In order to improve social order and reduce citizens’ fear of crime, build a mutual aid and security system to reduce community-based crime, use crime propaganda to promote campus crime to protect young people, and reduce the causes of crime.
  • Mid-term (1998–2002): Substantial effectiveness evaluation of situational prevention programs. Through crime reporting and cost–benefit analysis, adding street lights can indeed reduce crime rates. This phase is also aimed at reducing the incidence of youth crime, with youth self-report studies being a valid and reliable measure.
  • Later period (2003–2020): Discuss the impact of physical construction and crime reporting on crime rates. Through the active monitoring system and the scheme of cooperating with the police patrol, the security guards and the police mixed the operation of the monitor and the use of blockchain technology to ensure that the stored video is not modified and the data are authentic.

This study also performed a cluster analysis and data mining and identified the following five clusters, which were used to further analyze the evolution of the literature:

  • The effects of crime displacement control on crime prevention: There are 122 articles in this group. In the early period (1996–2014), there were 87 literature reviews in the study, and studies examined focused police action. The most discuss police roles, police executive powers and applications, and integrity organization design. In the late stage (after 2015), there were 35 literature reviews in the study, and studies evaluated the effects of crime displacement control and other strategies. A more systematic solution is to collect relevant information and raw data (such as transportation, community monitoring, formal cases); the acceleration of big data application is certainly the crucial strategy of scientific development in Taiwan at this stage. It is hoped that the application of big data would enhance the governmental efficacy and articulate examining public need.
  • The effects of CPTED: There are 104 articles in this group. Early (1996–2007) studies focused on the relationship environmental characteristics and social disorder, and late-stage (after 2011) studies examined CPTED. A total of 28 articles were reviewed discussing the impact of burglary and sexual assault on crime prevention. Among them, 15 articles discussed the phenomenon of homeowners’ fear of burglary crimes. Neighborhood cohesion can reduce the rate of residential burglary; seven articles reviewing the literature discussing reducing sexual assault in target areas. It is particularly pointed out that potential high-risk offenders with previous convictions are under the government’s management, and they are also the main benefactors of current social safety net counseling and the construction of social prevention safety nets; six studies in the literature discuss the protection of outer walls, the fear of crime and the function of keeping yourself in a safe environment.
  • The effects of developmental programs on crime prevention: There are 104 articles in this group. Early (2000–2013) studies explored the relationship between policy and crime prevention; the main research direction is the use of scientific methods and inclusion in policy making and enabling decision makers to put research evidence into the policy making process more rationally. In the late stage (after 2014), studies analyzed the effects of developmental crime prevention programs. A total of 36 articles in the literature discuss the feasibility of constructing a common indicator and cost–benefit analysis evaluation and estimating crime prevention costs.
  • The effects of communalism on crime prevention: There are 59 articles in this group. Early (1989–1994) studies mainly researched the nature of crime prevention, whereas late-stage (after 2014) studies explored the effects of communalism on crime prevention. Reviewing 25 studies in the literature, the topics discussed are all about the substantive effect of proper government governance and community security on crime prevention.
  • The effects of childhood sexual abuse on crimes: There are 53 articles in this group. Early (2007–2011) studies analyzed childhood sexual abuse; the literature discusses the connotation and related research of boundary trauma, self-trauma and complex post-traumatic stress reaction caused by abuse. In contrast, late-stage (after 2015) studies explored programs for preventing such abuse.

The global main path analysis, key-route main path analysis, and cluster analysis revealed that the field of crime prevention contains various interrelated themes. The following six major topics all appeared on the global main path and key-route main path, but only three topics appeared in the five groups.

  • The themes from the global main path and key-route main path, namely cost–benefit analyses of crime prevention strategies, corresponded to the themes identified through cluster analysis, namely the effects of CPTED. We finds that there is a growing body of scientific research that shows that early prevention is an effective and worthwhile investment of public resources.
  • “Exploring the Impact of Physical Construction and Crime Reporting on Crime Rates”, “Exploring the Substantial Effects of Surveillance on Crime Prevention”, “Exploring the Impact of the Integration of Surveillance and Police Patrols on Crime Rates” and “Exploring the Effects of Surveillance on Crime Rates” impact are four issues that can be classified into the cluster analysis “Assessing the impact of development programs on crime prevention”. Looking back at the literature review of the past two years, the concept of smart buildings has been applied to security measures for crime prevention, adding smart street lights and joint patrols by the police and the public to eliminate target areas such as communities or campuses that are prone to crime.
  • The “crime prevention methods proposed for different crime types” can correspond to the influence of crime diversion control on crime in the cluster analysis. Looking back at the literature review of the past two years, the majority of crime types are juvenile deviant behavior and online misconduct. The results show that deviant behaviors of adolescents are affected by law cognition and friend support, and online misbehaviors of adolescents are affected by law cognition and welfare needs. Accordingly, schools should provide law-related courses and information to young people to avoid deviant behaviors and online misbehaviors, so that the youth understand the consequences of their risky behaviors. In addition, young people’s interaction with their peers has to be paid attention in order to avoid peer instigation and participation in deviation behaviors. For youth’s online misbehaviors, it properly links to the youth’s various welfare resources. Practitioners should understand the problems that they encounter in their lives and online spaces, and provide appropriate assistance to reduce their online misbehaviors.

The research framework established by this research and the analysis method chosen are an integrated research method, which is very suitable for application in exploring the technological development trend of a certain topic and expounding the key implications of field management.


SONG-CHIA HSU: College of Management Ph.D. Candidate, National Taipei University of Technology. KAI-YING CHEN: Professor of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, National Taipei University of Technology. He focuses on the fields of Manufacturing Automation and Electronic Business, Manufacturing Execution System, and Application of Radio Frequency Identification. CHIH-PING LIN: Professor of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, National Taipei University of Technology. He focuses on the fields of Database Management, Engineering Economics, and Learning Productivity. WEI-HAO SU: He graduated with a Ph.D. in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, National Taipei University of Technology. He focuses on Technology and Innovation Management, Management of Technology, Managing Innovation in Organizations, and New Venture Creation.

Funding Statement

This research received no external funding.

Author Contributions

Final approval of the manuscript: all authors. Conceptualization, W.-H.S. and S.-C.H.; methodology, S.-C.H.; software, S.-C.H.; validation, W.-H.S., K.-Y.C. and C.-P.L.; formal analysis, W.-H.S.; investigation, S.-C.H.; resources, C.-P.L.; data curation, W.-H.S.; writing—original draft preparation, S.-C.H.; writing—review and editing, W.-H.S.; visualization, W.-H.S. and C.-P.L.; project administration, W.-H.S. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

Institutional Review Board Statement

The study was conducted according to the guidelines of the Declaration of Helsinki and approved by the Institutional Review Board. Ethical review and approval were waived for this study.

Informed Consent Statement

Not applicable.

Data Availability Statement

Conflicts of interest.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn't, What's Promising, Research in Brief

This report presents findings from a congressionally mandated evaluation of State and local crime prevention programs funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Deciding what works in the prevention of crime called for applying rigorous means for determining which programs have had a demonstrated impact on the reduction of crime and delinquency. The study concluded that very few operational crime prevention programs have been evaluated by using scientifically recognized standards and methodologies, including repeated tests under similar and different social settings. Based on a review of more than 500 prevention program evaluations that met minimum scientific standards, the report further concluded that there was minimally adequate evidence to establish a provisional list of what works, what doesn't, and what is promising. For infants, frequent home visits by nurses and other professionals are apparently helpful. For preschoolers, classes with weekly home visits by preschool teachers are useful; and for delinquent and at-risk preadolescents, family therapy and parent training have proven promising. Effective school programs encompass organizational development for innovation; the communication and reinforcement of clear, consistent norms; the teaching of social competency skills; and the coaching of high-risk youth in "thinking skills." Vocational training helps older male ex- offenders, and the use of rental housing for drug dealing can be countered with nuisance abatement action on landlords. Extra police patrols are effective for high-crime hot spots, and incarceration and monitoring by specialized police unit can reduce crime by high-risk repeat offenders. Also effective are on-scene arrests for domestic abusers who are employed, rehabilitation programs with risk-focused treatments for convicted offenders, and therapeutic community treatment programs for drug-using offenders in prison. This report summary also describes what types of programs do not work and what programs hold promise.

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    University, Churchill Hall, . Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA . Email: [email protected]. Abstract. Research Summary: This article reports on an updated. systematic review and meta-analysis ...

  13. Crime prevention and reduction programs: How does knowing about

    Findings are discussed in terms of their implications on future research, and strategies for developing crime prevention and fear reduction programs that maximise the positive effects on attitudes towards crime, while minimising their unintended consequences, are also offered. ... Crime Prevention Studies Vol. 20, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, pp ...

  14. Crime prevention: approaches, practices, and evaluations

    Published in Police Practice and Research: An International Journal (Vol. 18, No. 4, 2017)

  15. Situational Crime Prevention: Its Theoretical Basis and Practical Scope

    Situational crime prevention can be characterized as comprising measures (1) directed at highly specific forms of crime (2) that involve the management, design, or manipulation of the immediate environment in as systematic and permanent a way as possible (3) so as to reduce the opportunities for crime and increase its risks as perceived by a wide range of offenders. These measures include ...

  16. Situational Crime Prevention

    Summary. Situational crime prevention (SCP) is a criminological perspective that calls for expanding the crime-reduction role well beyond the justice system. SCP sees criminal law in a more restrictive sense, as only part of the anticrime effort in governance. It calls for minutely analyzing specific crime types (or problems) to uncover the ...

  17. Crime prevention: Approaches, practices, and evaluations

    Abstract. Crime Prevention: Approaches, Practices, and Evaluations, 9th Edition, meets the needs of students and instructors for engaging, evidence-based, impartial coverage of the origins of ...

  18. Future of Crime Prevention: Developmental and Situational Strategies

    Regarding the second question, there is a need for additional research and development on a wide range of critical issues that pertain to the effectiveness of developmental and situational crime prevention strategies. The study identifies gaps in knowledge related to the effectiveness of developmental and situational crime prevention strategies.

  19. PDF Street Violence Crime Reduction Strategies: A Review of the Evidence

    Founded upon opportunity theories of crime (i.e., environmental criminology) and leveraging effective practices for crime prevention (e.g. problem solving, situational crime prevention), place-based investigations represent a promising practice for the reduction of urban violence. Further research with rigorous evaluation is needed, however, to

  20. Focused deterrence strategies effects on crime: A systematic review

    Given the large body of research that has shown the ineffectiveness of many police crime prevention efforts (Visher & Weisburd, 1998), the overall crime reduction impact generated by DMI programs is still noteworthy. However, the smaller crime control benefits suggested by our meta-analysis are different from effectiveness claims made from ...

  21. Crime Prevention and Public Policy

    It studies four main crime prevention strategies, namely developmental prevention, community prevention, situational prevention, and criminal justice prevention. It provides an overview of the key theories that support these strategies and notes some relevant research on effectiveness. This article also considers the development of crime ...

  22. CCTV surveillance for crime prevention

    Research Summary. We report on the findings of an updated systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance cameras on crime. The findings show that CCTV is associated with a significant and modest decrease in crime. The largest and most consistent effects of CCTV were observed in car parks.

  23. Knowledge Development Trajectories of Crime Prevention Domain: An

    Welsh's main field of research is crime prevention, and he has served as an advisor for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the United Kingdom Home Office, and the Canadian National Police Service. Six of the 18 studies in the global main path, accounting for one-third, were written by Welsh, indicating his contributions to the field.

  24. Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn't, What's Promising, Research

    Deciding what works in the prevention of crime called for applying rigorous means for determining which programs have had a demonstrated impact on the reduction of crime and delinquency. The study concluded that very few operational crime prevention programs have been evaluated by using scientifically recognized standards and methodologies ...