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Crime Prevention - Criminology Dip 8.
***Before you continue to read this Hub may I mention that this is my work, written in my words for my Criminology Diploma. By all means read the Hub and absorb it's content but please don't plagiarize my work and present it as your own work towards your own diploma. This has been added as a request from a tutor/examiner of the Criminology Diploma program.***
8.1 Analyse the importance of focussing on the causes of crime and using problem solving tools.
The importance of focussing on any issue within any topic is to gain an understanding of that issue with intent of either totally eliminating the issue or reducing any risk caused by that issue. So in the case of crime, rather than focus on the effects that the crime has caused, one would need to go back and focus on the actual cause of the crime. Once the cause has been identified and understood, one could then seek methods or means to either significantly reduce any factors that that have led to the crime being committed or even totally eliminate them.
Crime prevention can be categorised into three stages, primary, secondary and tertiary prevention.
Primary crime prevention would be the ideal in any situation as is an act intended to prevent any crime before it actually happens. Focussing on situational factors, strengthening the community and social structures and reducing possible opportunities for crime. Tackling issues such as poverty and unemployment is an indirect example of actually reducing crime due to the fact that these issues do influence one’s likelihood to commit crime.
Secondary crime prevention seeks to change people, particularly those in high-risk areas who could end up being the criminals of the future. Focussing on high-risk neighbourhoods and effective intervention at early stages such as in schools or creating youth programmes.
Tertiary crime prevention focuses on the operation of the criminal justice system dealing with offending after it has happened, which actually makes it a cure as opposed to prevention. The idea is to intervene with and educate past offenders in an attempt to prevent them from re-offending.
A methodical process for problem solving that has now been used for some time in relation to crime prevention is SARA, a simple plan that when followed, can assist in the identifying, understanding and tackling the problems.
The stages of SARA are: -
· Scanning. Spotting problems using knowledge, basic data and electronic maps.
· Analysis. Using ideas and information technology to dig deeper into problems characteristics and underlying causes.
· Response. Devising a solution, working with the community wherever possible.
· Assessment. Looking back to see if the solution worked and what lessons can be learned.
The scanning process gathers information from sources such as police data and intelligence and from reported incidents from members of a community and groups this data into similarly related/recurring clusters that can be dealt with collectively.It would be pointless to begin the scanning of a “one-off” incident that may never occur again, it also makes more sense to use time and resources to attempt to rectify long-term problems. An important stage of the process that could begin scanning over a wide area of seemingly unrelated incidents but could discover links that do attach incidents together.
The second stage is to analyse the results of the scanning process by examining the characteristics and impact of the problem in much greater detail. Analysis may involve gathering historically detailed information on the offenders and the victims, times and locations of such incidents, possible motivations, gains and losses of either party along with any other evidence/information that could prove useful in eliminating the issue.
Accurate analysis is necessary and again is an important factor of the process, as the results are then used to decide the reactive response, in this case a response is any action taken to try to address a problem. Often, the reactive response will combine actions to tackle more that just one aspect of the problem identified through the previous stages. In selecting the response or responses it is crucial to work out in detail how they may develop to produce the desired effects.
The final stage of SARA is the assessment, reviewing the situation at a later date to evaluate how successful the process had been. There are three main reasons as to why the assessment phase is of high importance: -
1. To find out if a particular problem still exists and if it requires further attention. This being important in deciding whether or not to continue to deploy resources to respond effectively to the problem.
2. To improve problem-solving skills by finding out what seems to work in differing circumstances. Creating records to refer back to when studying similar issues.
3. To enable effective problem solving to be recognised, both within the police service and in other organisations, acknowledging individuals efforts.
Any assessment can prove difficult to do well and as a result is often overlooked; it needs to be accepted as a routine feature in any problem-solving structure. It also needs to be noted that this assessment is not an evaluation of the performance of those involved but a study of the results of the responses to the problem being tackled.
Some assessments conclude that a problem has been dealt with successfully but it is important to understand that this does not necessarily mean that the problem has been totally eliminated. A successful result could be: -
· The problem and its impact remain the same but the volume of police effort needed to respond to it may be reduced.
· The harm to the public may be reduced even though the number of incidents remains the same.
· The number of problem incidents may be reduced.
· The problem may be entirely eliminated, the ideal goal.
Good assessment needs: -
· A clear definition of the problem and a description of how it is being addressed in order to focus measurement where success is most realistically to be expected.
· A good description of what was actually done and when it was done, as there is often difference in what was planned and what was actually done.
· To identify whether a response failed to achieve its outcome either because it was not applied as it had been intended or whether it genuinely failed to make an impact.
· A collection of incident and other data about the problem before and after the response and the identification of the precise action taken to resolve the problem, rather than basic before and after measures at an aggregate level.
Each step of the SARA process is equally as important as each of the other steps, if problems are not scanned correctly then analysing the issues could provide false results. Response to false results could provide adverse effects and therefore assessing the outcome would be a pointless exercise.
SARA it is simply a guide process, it will not provide answers to all problems even in the best of circumstances, as it can be limited in its effectiveness if it is employed in too mechanistic a fashion.
Poor usage of SARA include: -
· Not making full use of historical data available when scanning.
· Not doing in-depth analysis because it is felt that enough is already known about a problem to understand it without any special research.
· Not keeping the phases distinct from each other.
· Using it to justify an already chosen solution, rather than as a means of gaining deeper understanding of what is happening.
Although SARA can be an effective tool in crime prevention, it is always beneficial for anyone given the task of solving a problem; to research deeper; to find similar situations and investigate the actions and outcomes of these; to apply lateral thought in developing innovative solutions; to involve others and openly discuss situations.
Another problem solving tool similar to SARA or which could be used alongside SARA to enhance possible results is PROCTOR.
· PRO. Problem. What is the problem?
· C. Cause. What caused the problem?
· T. Tactic/Treatment. What actions could be taken to treat the problem?
· O. Output. How to administer the treatment
· R. Result claimed. What was the actual result following the treatment?
Using SARA and PROCTOR together it becomes possible to identify many sources of problem-solving failures and weaknesses, to mention but a few, these include: -
· Weaknesses in identifying the actual problem.
· Failure to check that nationally identified problems exist locally.
· Failure to check out systematically that the perceptions that problems exist is accurate.
· Failure to check the scale of a problem.
· Failure to examine the genesis of a problem.
· Weaknesses in working out possible solutions.
· Weaknesses in implementation.
· Weaknesses in lessons learned from previous experience.
Any probable tools or assistance that can be used to either highlight the causes of crime or to improve crime prevention deserve some research, if the cause of a crime can be understood there are possibilities to eliminate it.
Any comments appreciated?