About Crime Prevention

Crime prevention reduces the risks for future crime and victimization. But many of the assumptions we make about what works to prevent crime are ill-founded.

A landmark report prepared for the U.S. Congress concluded that some of the most common efforts to stop crime – such as boot camps, police Neighbourhood Watch programs, and drug education classes for children – don't even come close to reaching their objectives.1

However, interventions focused on changing the underlying social conditions of children and youth – such as nurse visits to "at risk" families with infants, parenting classes, availability of recreational programs, and a focus on social competency skills in school, to name just a few – were found to decrease crime.2 This kind of approach is called crime prevention through social development.

The following is an overview of the three major forms of crime prevention:

  1. Police, courts and corrections

    Police, courts and corrections are the most traditional forms of crime prevention – but they don't have to be used in traditional ways. Conventional wisdom may claim that punishment and the fear of punishment are the best deterrents, but this is not necessarily borne out by experience. [continue]

  2. Situational

    Situational approaches seek to reduce the opportunities for crime: they increase the risks to the offender, and minimize the benefits of the offence.3 Examples of this approach to crime prevention include improved lighting in public places and self-defence courses for women. [continue]

  3. Social development

    Crime prevention through social development (CPSD) addresses the social factors which underlie crime. Since the CCSD first published its policy paper on CPSD in 1984, a growing body of research has demonstrated that social development approaches to crime prevention can be effective. [continue]


1Sherman et al. Preventing crime: What works, what doesn't, what's promising. Washington: U.S. Department of Justice. [www.crimeprevention.org], cited in "Most Efforts to Stop Crime Fall Far Short," by Fox Butterfield, The New York Times, April 16, 1997.

2International Centre for the Prevention of Crime. 100 crime prevention programs to inspire action across the world. Montreal: ICPC, 1999. For more information, visit www.crime-prevention-intl.org/publications.php?type=REPORT

3Goldblatt and Lewis. Reducing offending: An assessment of research evidence on ways of dealing with offending behaviour. London: Home Office, 1998.