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When criminal acts occur the victims in many instances would have preferred if the act had never been committed in the first place. They would have preferred that the criminal act had been prevented. Crime prevention therefore refers to any efforts to stop the criminal or crime from happening in the first place (Braga, 2008). Various institutions conduct crime prevention. The police when they arrest a gang member, a court detaining a suspect to a correctional facility or even a community watches sign on a property. However, it is important to note that these are not the only institutions that work towards preventing crime. Problem-oriented policing initiatives also prevent crime through passing policies that seek to discourage would be offenders from committing the crimes in the first instance (Braga, 2008). Crime prevention therefore offers alternatives to the more conservative ways or approaching and responding to crime.
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There are several ways of classifying approaches towards crime prevention. One way of preventing crime involves the community itself. The community involves itself in crime prevention through setting up of community policing structures and members dedicated to responding to incidences of crime in the community. This is evidenced in the use of Neighborhood watch in many estates in the United States. The other approach is the steps taken by the correctional facilities to try and reform offenders. The institutions are also considered preventive because of their assumed deterrence to would be offenders. The last classification involves the law enforcement officers. This includes both the police and the courts. These two institutions work to prevent crime through identifying potential offenders like gang members or in the case of the courts making decisions on whether to release or continue holding offenders.
The criminal justice system involves both members of the police and courts, the correctional facilities and the community. All members of the justice system respond differently to how they approach crime prevention. Therefore each of these agencies have their own dominant approaches to preventing crime.
This approach assumes that crime rate is lowered by changing potential offenders before they engage into criminal situations. This will involve changing their skills, knowledge, motives and dispositions before they start engaging in crime and criminal activities (Ekblom and Pease, 1995). This is a social approach and it mainly focuses on the long term. The approach seeks to make the whole community less skilled and knowledgeable in crime and criminal activities.
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For example, increasing resilience and reinforcing positive behavior was found to reduce anti-social behavior in children from difficult backgrounds. The program used the approach to address the risk factors that is associated with anti-social behavior. They further developed mechanisms to protect at the levels of individual, community and school. Following this, anti-social behavior fell and school call-outs to the police fell from 24 to four in the second year it was introduced (Gant and Grabosky, 2000).
This is a dominant approach to the law enforcement and courts. Community policing which is also known as home watch or community watch is whereby the community partners with the police to help secure communities. This is especially important because the police cannot be everywhere at the same time. In neighborhood watch schemes, the police provide advice on the needed security measures that citizens can take at home, educating the public on crime prevention and marking property.
Neighborhood watch schemes work to prevent crime by involving residents to watch out for suspicious activities and report to the police, and improving social control and cohesion in the community (Bennet et al., 2006). A review and analysis of the pro gramme found that it reduced crime in communities by up-to 16% compared to communities that did not use it.
However, this approach is dominantly focused in the reduction of crime in correctional facilities. The model mainly focused on environmental factors that affect an offender’s decision to commit crime. The model bases itself on the rationale theory that states that offenders make rational and purposeful decisions to commit crime after analyzing the costs and benefits of the criminal activity (Wortley, 2002).
Wortley divides the approach into two. Controlling regulators, involves, increasing perceived risks, reducing anticipated results, increasing anticipated punishment and increasing the effort to commit these crimes. In addition, controlling precipitators, this includes reducing provocations, controlling pressures and controlling prompts.
The three forms of crime prevention share some similarities in the way they interact with the community. For instance, they all share that element of community. All three approaches focus on how the community can be involved in the prevention of crime and criminal activities (Braga, 2008).The developmental approach focuses on how the community can be changed in the way of thinking to ensure that thy lean away from issues of perpetration of crime. Community policing on the other hand seeks to have community members literally policing their own neighborhoods to help identify and report incidences of crime or suspicious behavior. Situational approach focuses on the need of the community at large to work reducing the opportunities for criminals to commit crimes and to make it harder for them to get away with it.
All the dominant approaches to crime prevention strategies share some differences as well. While these approaches all focus on community, the time it takes for them to bring about change is widely different. While the situational approach will bring about change quickly, developmental approach will take a lot of time to bring about change. This is because; the strategy requires changing entire behavior of a community from the children to adults (Gant and Grabosky). Community policing on the other hand will change the security of a community in the shorter medium term. Community policing will gradually make the members know each other and therefore with time able to tell apart strangers and neighbors easily and therefore be better placed to identify strange incidences in the community.
All the above approaches are effective in preventing crime from happening. However, the situational approach stands out because it not only makes it unfavorable to offenders to commit crimes, but it can also provide better controls to law enforcers in mapping out potential crime areas (Bennet et al., 2006). As law enforcement, you have significant influence over the design of safe environments through zoning, planning and even some influence over the presentation of consumer products that may be tempting to steal or even in the design of tools that may be used to commit crime (Gant and Grabusky). Situational approach therefore is better than both the communal approach to policing and the developmental approach because it is not only fast in providing results but also offers an opportunity to influence the design of potential crime tool as well as limit opportunities for and easy pick for robbers.
Many times after the commission of a crime, the law enforcement agents as well as victims start to ponder how they would have better planned to prevent the crime occurring in the first place. Through some of the approaches listed above, law enforcement agents, the correctional facilities and the community can be better prepared to prevent crime and criminal activities. These approaches use a variety of ways to prevent crime or discourage the potential offenders from committing these crimes. Proper application of these methods will result in the reduction of crime.
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