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Crime Prevention in the UK

Crime prevention in the UK plays a pivotal role within society, whether it be 'the fight against crime' or influencing new policy. The prevalence of crime has resulted in many new strategies being brought in to force in an attempt to lessen the 'crime problem', but why has crime prevention become the more favoured strategy, and have any of these strategies actually had any affect on crime rates? The purpose of this essay is to briefly outline key developments within the approach to crime prevention in the last twenty years, before moving on to a brief discussion of particular strategies that have been implemented in order to prevent crime as well as assessing their effectiveness. Finally, offender supervision within the community will be considered, and it will be discussed as to whether this is an efficient means of helping to control crime within society.

As the prominent theorist Cesare Beccaria stated, "It is better to prevent crimes than to punish them." (Beccaria 1996: 11) and this statement is one that seems to reflect the theory behind modern day crime prevention. Over the last twenty years there have been several key developments within this area which has led to many changes in the approach to crime prevention. Previously, there had been little focus on the concept of crime prevention; instead the focus was on punishment and imprisonment, which meant that a vital aspect of criminal behaviour was being ignored: that is, could a particular crime or even crime in general, be prevented? Due to rising crime rates in the 1980s and a realisation that perhaps imprisonment was not as effective as was first thought, crime prevention became the new way to fight against crime, so much so that, "In 1983, the Crime Prevention Unit was established at the Home Office." (Tilley 2002: 16) This was followed in 1988 by the 'Safer Cities' initiative which was launched by the Home Office, a project which was important because it demonstrated the significance of groups working together in order to combat crime. Partnerships or multi agency working was deemed to be highly significant in crime prevention, a factor that became even more prevalent in the next key development, the publication of the Morgan Report in 1991. This Home Office paper "Explored ways in which inter-agency crime prevention could be made normal business…with the key recommendation that leadership should be placed in the hands of the local authority." (Tilley 2002: 20-1) The Morgan Report was key to the development of crime prevention because it considered the idea that crime would be easier to prevent if there were more people from different yet relevant areas working together. Crime prevention should not be the responsibility of just the police; it should be the joint responsibility of several different agencies in order for it to be effective. This approach was approved of to such an extent that when Labour came to power they incorporated this notion in to their key piece of legislation, the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. This act "Requires participation by local authorities, police forces, probation services and health authorities" (ibid) to work together in an effort to prevent crime. Local businesses and the community were also encouraged to contribute to this multi agency approach. The reason behind this statutory linking of the police with the local authorities is that "The police do not control most of the levers which generate crime levels…Local authorities have powers in relation to the planning of new developments, tenancy agreements with those in social housing, and the operation of schools." (Pease 2002: 963) Therefore, in areas where crime could occur, the local authority had to take measures to prevent crime from happening as they were ultimately responsible for that particular area. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 is perhaps the most important development in the approach to crime prevention over the last twenty years as it makes mandatory the concept of agency partnerships, something which had not been done before, and this approach is essential in order to try and prevent crime. It is also important as it heralds an entirely new focus: "The new infrastructure is strongly oriented towards a set of objectives and priorities - prevention, security, harm reduction, loss reduction, and fear reduction - that are quite different from the traditional goals of prosecution, punishment and 'criminal justice'." (Garland 2001: 17)

There are other types of supervision carried out by probation officers and youth offending officers, yet it is impossible for these people to physically be around an offender twenty four hours a day which is why the public are not reassured by these people being in the community. There has been plenty of media coverage recently relating to sex offenders who have been released from prison who have ended up attacking women or children, and these people should have been under supervision in order to re-integrate them back in to society, yet the supervision has failed and a crime has been committed.

Overall, there are always going to be those who choose to commit crimes, whether they are due to opportunism or planning, and whether they are a known offender or not, so the public are never going to feel re-assured about offenders being in the community. Crime prevention tries to offer strategies and techniques to help prevent crime from occurring and there are now several websites dedicated to this, as well as local police websites containing crime prevention advice. Crime prevention strategies and partnerships are an important part of the crime reduction puzzle, yet it cannot work on its own, so it is necessary to consider individual aspects of crime and criminals and to carry on analysing criminal behaviour in order to reach a fuller conclusion as to why crime occurs, and what can be done to stop it.

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