Criminal Justice and Prevention Strategies
The American Civil was generated not only criminal gangs but also widespread business crime. People bribed government officials and intrigued to corner markets to obtain concessions for railroads, favorable land deals and mining and mineral rights on government land. The administration of President Ulysses Grant was tainted by numerous corruption scandals.
From 1900 to 1935, the world experienced a sustained increase in criminal activity, especially in USA. The period was marked by depression era outlaws such as Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, who was a folk hero among the sharecroppers of Eastern Oklahoma. More organized and larger gangs operated in the larger cities of USA.
Criminal Justice “System” refers to the agencies of the government charged with enforcing law, adjudicating crime and correcting criminal conduct. The criminal justice system is essentially an instrument of social control (control of behaviors considered dangerous in society). It is the job of the agencies of justice to prevent these behaviors by apprehending and punishing transgressors or deterring their future occurrence. Although society maintains other forms of social control, like family, school, church etc., they are designed to deal with mortal and not legal misbehavior. Only the criminal justice system has the power to control crime and punish criminals.
Since its origin in early 19 century Britain, law enforcement agencies have been charged with peacekeeping, deterring political criminals and apprehending law violators. The traditional police role involved maintaining order through patrolling public streets and highways, responding to calls for assistance, investigating crimes and identifying criminal suspects. The role of the police has gradually expanded to include a variety of human service functions such as the prevention of youth crime and diverting juvenile offenders from the criminal justice system, resolving family conflicts, facilitating the movement of people and vehicles, preserving civil order during emergencies, providing emergency medical care and improving police community relations. The police are the most visible agents of justice. Many times, they have been criticized of internal corruption, brutality and discrimination within the ranks on the basis of caste, region, religion etc. Consequently, at all levels of government, police have traditionally been defensive towards and suspicious to the public, resistant to change and secretive in their activities.
These are considered by many as the core element in the administration of criminal justice. In the purest sense of Justice, the courts determine the criminal liability of defendants. Ideally they are expected to convict and sentence those found guilty of crimes while ensuring that the innocent are freed without any consequence or burden. The courts are formally required to seek truth, obtain justice and maintain the integrity of the government’s rule of law. Unfortunately, the ideal conditions of objectivity, fairness and equal rights under which the nation’s courts should operate are rarely achieved. Although the criminal court system is founded on the concept of equality before law, poor and wealthy citizens receive unquestionably differential treatment when they are accused of crimes.
Strategies of Crime Prevention
1. Routine Activity Approach
A model for devising situational crime prevention programs has been suggested by Marcus Felson (1987) who combines physical design and kinetic management in the fight against crime. Felson sees both criminals and victims as creatures of habit, going about 'routine activities'.
Felson's routine activity approach to crime analysis specifies three elements of crime - a likely offender, a suitable target, the absence of a capable guardian against crime or an 'intimate handler', i.e. a person close to the offender who is able to impose informal social control and prevent him/her from committing an offence. Crime occurs when victims and offenders converge in the absence of a guardian or intimate handier. Crime can be prevented by keeping potential offenders and potential victims apart.
Using this routine activity approach, Marcus Felson categorized a number of situational crime prevention strategies thrown up by successful case studies, namely:
Reduce convergence of targets and offenders by:
• separating the elderly from teenagers and children in public housing.
Constrain offenders by:
• strengthening social controls, e.g. through smaller classes in schools to cut down vandalism;
• restricting access to facilitates or means of committing crimes, e.g. by placing a ban on aerosol paint sprays to juveniles;
• restricting access to disinhibitors such as alcohol which might lead some people to commit crimes, e.g. by banning the sale of alcohol at football games.
Protect targets by:
• target hardening through using vandal-resistant materials in public places, installing burglar-proof barriers in taxis;
• restricting access to places where crime could be committed, e.g. by placing entryphones on entrances to public housing to keep out intruders, and erecting barriers at bus queues to discourage pickpockets;
• reducing the value of the target, e.g. by inscribing belongings with identification numbers, and limiting the amount of money in cash registers;
• reducing visibility, e.g. by not undressing in front of a lighted window or by making sure a house looks occupied.
Enhance guardianship by:
• increasing surveillance, real or apparent, e.g. through Neighbourhood Watch, illuminating the inside of banks at night;
• assigning responsibility, e.g. by training employees to challenge potential offenders;
• increase the capability to intervene, e.g. through radios for bus drivers.
2. The Economic Theory of Crime
Among the criminological theories specifically applicable to crime prevention, the economic theory of crime proposed by Becker in19681 asserts that potential offenders constantly move between legitimate and illegitimate activities, depending on the results of a cost-benefit assessment. While making the decision, as whether or not to undertake illegitimate actions, they calculate the risk of being apprehended as costs against the economic benefit if the action is successfully concluded. This theory starts from the assumption that the offender's behaviour is induced by the desire of economic gain. In order for a crime of this type to be committed, three elements are determinant: the presence of a suitable target, skill and opportunity.
According to his theory, further developed by Ehrlich , the offender represents the supply side of the crime market. The supply of crime will be based on the costs (the probability of being caught, the amount of sanction envisaged for that particular crime and all possible intervening variables). Depending on the level of the cost, more or less crimes will occur. Such "costs" very much depend on deterrence determined by effective law enforcement.
3. Rational-Interactionist Model
The Rational-Interactionist model developed by van Dijk also envisages a "crime market", but the presence of motivated offenders is defined as the demand side and the availability of suitable and poorly protected targets as the supply side. Although motivated by the same assumption of the existence of a "crime market" as was the case for Becker and Ehrlich, van Dijk reverses the parties and describes the victims as "reluctant suppliers" of opportunities for crime: "The criminal opportunities offered by potential victims are an undesired side-effect of their possession of certain goods". The theory keeps the focus on the offender's behavior and the cost-benefit analysis which motivates the decision of whether or not to commit a crime. However, in this paradigm, higher opportunity costs for the offender are determined by better protection of suitable targets and increased self precautionary measures adopted by potential victims (target hardening), rather than effective law enforcement alone. In this respect, more attention is paid to the prevention of crime rather than the punishment of the offender once a crime has already occurred. Potential victims are involved in the scheme, thus shifting from a specialized role for the police in crime prevention to community-based crime prevention. The rational-interactionist model helps to understand crime phenomena, which are similar in many countries and are of high concern to the international community, this model is applicable to crimes against the household, but also to property and economic crimes in which shops, office buildings and corporations are increasingly becoming the victim. In both cases - crimes against individuals or households and crimes against business – target hardening is up to the potential victims.
Crime Prevention Programs in various countries
Preventing inner-city youth crimes in France
Following an epidemic of attacks on cars in the ghettos of Lyons and Marseille in the summer of 1981, the new Socialist Government introduced été-jeunes - a major program of summer camps and activities for young people - and set up a commission and two committees of inquiry into the underlying causes of youth unrest.
Both committees stressed the importance of improving the physical and social environments of major cities, particularly in depressed neighborhoods with high immigrant populations, poor schools, high unemployment rates and poor housing conditions.
The report of the commission of mayors - the Bonnemaison Report - went much further and launched a multi-faceted attack on crime and its causes, urging immediate, decentralized state action. While a large number of the committee's recommendations were aimed at discouraging or controlling criminal behavior, many were also concerned with housing policies and with protecting valuable sections of the population.
The recommendations were designed to encourage social harmony in the cities, communal life, and support for victims, the young and social outcasts. They were also intended to reduce tensions between races and generations by promoting cultural pluralism and encouraging people to participate in the life and decision-making of their community.
The initiative for setting up local committees was left entirely to local councils. Two-thirds of towns and cities with populations between 9,000 and 30,000 complied.
The summer camps/activities program was born out of two different approaches to crime prevention in deprived inner-city areas. The first, associated with children's judges and traditional social work, sees crime prevention as protecting young people from the dangers of their moral and social environment and poor living conditions. The second, a more political response, sees the answer in revitalizing the inner cities by restoring community life and improving the physical and moral environment.
The summer camps combined these two approaches: they removed young people from trouble and kept an eye on them; and allowed them to take part in activities which interested them and gave them a positive image of themselves and their society while protecting them - at least temporarily - from their deprived environment. This approach piloted in the summer camps program was later to form the backbone of France's crime prevention policies.
Changes to the administrative structure, made law in 1983, ensured that power and funding were devolved to the local level, and that national and local politicians became committed to making the crime prevention program succeed. Though social integration was the main objective, petty crime in all major cities has declined.
2. United States of America
Community Crime Prevention Programs in the United States
In the mid-1970s, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) funded and published a series of national evaluations of specific crime prevention strategies such as citizen patrols, citizen crime reporting projects, Operation Identification and security surveys. This made crime prevention programs more visible.
Since then, citizen involvement in programs such as Neighborhood Watch, Operation Identification and Home Security Surveys has become a national phenomenon.
In 1977 the US Government funded a consolidated effort in community crime prevention to the tune of $30 million with the inauguration of LEAA's Community Anti-Crime Program. The money was to be used to 'assist community organizations and neighborhood groups to become actively involved in activities designed to prevent crime, reduce fear of crime, and contribute to neighborhood revitalization' (US Department of Justice 1978 in Rosenbaum 1986). The Justice Department's assumption was that 'the formal criminal justice system by itself cannot control crime without help from neighborhood residents in fostering neighborhood-level social controls'.
Police have also recognized that police and citizens share responsibility for crime prevention. Many police departments are now exploring alternative strategies that encourage police to collaborate with neighborhood residents, for example foot patrols, door-to-door contacts, store-front offices and security surveys.
There have been a number of major American community crime prevention programs:
• The Seattle Community Crime Program was initiated in the early 1970s and staffed entirely by city employees. It attacked the problem of residential burglary with door-to-door organizing of Seattle neighborhoods.
• The Portland (Oregon) Anti-Burglary Program was implemented in 1973 as part of the LEAA-funded Impact Cities Program. It focused on citizen efforts to protect themselves and their neighbors from victimization.
• An innovative and highly-publicized program to reduce crime and fear of crime in Hartford (Connecticut) in 1973 used a three- pronged approach involving changes in the physical environment, changes in police service, and efforts to organize
3. United Kingdom
i. The UK's Standing Conference on Crime Prevention
Following a report on crime prevention - by the Cornish Committee, 1965 - a Standing Conference on Crime Prevention was established in the UK Home Office. It carried out a series of initiatives and demonstration projects.
The Standing Conference is an advisory body made up of representatives from local and central government, the police, the voluntary sector, the business community and industry. Its goal is to involve all sections of the community in the prevention of crime.
To address specific crime prevention questions, the Conference holds annual Working Groups drawing its membership from experts in that field.
Working Groups report on such areas as residential burglary, commercial robbery, car security, and violence associated with licensed premises and shop theft.
As well, crime prevention programs involving changes to the physical environment of public housing estates have been mounted, for example, at the Hillfields, South Acton and Lisson Green estates. And a major property marking program was carried out in South Wales between 1983 and 1985 with a view to reducing burglaries.
In 1975 the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO) launched a pilot project in a badly vandalized housing project in Cheshire, and this marked the beginning of the neighborhood approach to crime prevention. Its distinctive features were consultation with tenants and the involvement of a number of agencies in improving the social and physical environment of public housing estates.
More recently, NACRO has begun to develop a notion of 'community safety', emphasizing the positive aspects of community involvement.
iii. Local Initiatives
At the local level, Crime Prevention Panels have been in operation in some areas for over twenty years. These groups comprise members of the public and were originally chaired by police. On the recommendation of a Working Group of the Home Office Standing Conference their guidelines were revamped in 1985 and police were relegated to an advisory capacity.
Neighborhood Watch was introduced in 1982 and has grown to 42,000 groups.
iv. Five Towns Demonstration Project
In 1985, in response to requests from local authorities, police and voluntary organizations for guidance in setting up crime prevention schemes, the Home Office established demonstration projects in five towns - Bolton, North Tyneside, Wellingborough, Croydon and Swansea. Funded for eighteen months by central and local government, the initiative was designed to generate public confidence that crime and fear of crime could be reduced. When central government financial support ran out, the results were encouraging enough to attract funding from a variety of other sources so work could continue, and several towns have reported significant reductions in crime.
v. Manpower programs
In 1987, 8,000 places under the Manpower Service Commission's Community Programme were specifically allocated to crime prevention work. A number of organizations, public and private, run schemes under this Crime Prevention and Community Programme Initiative, involving protecting people and property and developing social and community activities. Examples include lock fitting schemes for old and disadvantaged people; improved management in tower block housing; providing support for women victims of domestic violence; youth activities in disadvantaged areas, and crime prevention advice and publicity material.
In 1988 the Home Office launched a major publicity campaign to promote crime prevention throughout the country. It included a glossy brochure/manual - Practical Ways to Crack Crime featuring advice on keeping the family, home, possessions, neighborhood, community and workplace safe, and two-page advertisements promoting the manual in national newspapers.
The major government support for crime prevention in Canada is provided by the Ministry of the Solicitor General, and the police are the primary organizers of crime prevention programs. With its national scope and clearly-defined administrative hierarchy, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has well-developed crime prevention policies and provides an integrated core for police sponsored crime prevention activities.
RCMP officers work full time on crime prevention activities and operate a national crime prevention training program. Crime prevention practitioners' associations have been formed so crime prevention officers can develop support networks.
The major Canadian crime prevention activities and programs fall into three categories:
i. Community surveillance, most often through neighborhood or block watch;
ii. Property marking through Operation Identification;
iii. Target hardening.
Spurred on by the insurance industry, most state governments have introduced Neighborhood Watch programs - which include target hardening and property marking activities - and the Northern Territory is in the process of introducing a program. There are also moves afoot to set up Business Watch, in New South Wales a Marina Watch is proposed in a south coast resort, and a Stock Watch is being organized to prevent theft of farm animals in rural areas. A Schools Watch is foreshadowed.
The State Rail Authority in New South Wales commissioned a study on vandalism and graffiti from the Institute of Criminology and is implementing recommendations made in the Institute's report. Telecom, the national telecommunications body, together with the Institute of Criminology and Australia's police forces, is currently examining the problem of telephone vandalism and has already initiated a number of changes including modifications to equipment, relocation of some call boxes and better lighting around phone boxes.
Most recently, in response to community concern about a spate of violent attacks on women in inner- Canberra in 1988, the minister in charge of the administration of the Australian Capital Territory instituted a situational crime prevention program aimed at making the streets safe.
Initially the Government will be looking to upgrade lighting in dangerous parts of the city, and cutting down hedges and shrubbery which can hide offenders and shield car parks from surveillance by passers-by. As well, the government will be examining the inner city closely with a view to modifying the environment, wherever possible, to reduce opportunities for criminal activity.
An involvement of the "formal" structures in crime prevention activities is still necessary to address the problems which are at the basis of the offender's behavior. Issues to be addressed include urbanization, migration flows, education and opportunities for employment, especially for young males. Furthermore, urban design, especially in newly built residential areas, should be improved to provide the necessary infrastructure e.g, schools, shops, recreational areas) as well as services (e.g, street lights, public transport and telephones), which would assist in improving the quality of life in the neighborhood and of the people who live there.
• Local initiatives.
• Neighborhood Watch.
• To involve all sections of the community in the prevention of crime.
• Emphasis should be laid on community involvement at the grass root level.
• Reduction of poverty and population control.