Transforming piecemeal social engineering into "grand" crime prevention policy: toward a new criminology of social control.

Author:Freilich, Joshua D.

Table of Contents Introduction I. SCP's Specificity Requirement and Effective Prevention Policies A. Levels (Types) of Crime Prevention Policies B. SCP and the Local Level C. SCP and the Macro Level D. SCP and Specific Solutions II. The Twenty-Five Techniques: What Are They, Really? A. SCP's Techniques as Guiding Principles B. The Challenges of Applying the Twenty-Five Techniques C. Developing a Graded Framework for Selecting Local and Macro-Level SCP Responses III. Discussion A. Problem Ownership B. The Government's Role IV. Criminology, Science, and Policy Conclusion INTRODUCTION

The criminal justice system normally focuses on two extremes of public action--large-scale legislation of what is considered a crime, and individual arrests and prosecutions. Situational Crime Prevention (SCP), a leading action-oriented approach in criminology, emphasizes an approach between these two extremes. (1) It focuses on particular crime problems, which may include noncriminal problems, (2) usually on a local level, that generate several different individual criminal cases. Thus, a "problem" drinking establishment may generate a number of alcohol-related offenses in its vicinity. Like its sister field problem-oriented policing, SCP's approach begins by defining a problem as beyond any single criminal act or any particular legal case. Yet a problem is also smaller than the overall disorganization or injustice in a community, society, or the criminal law process itself.

SCP calls for minutely analyzing this specific crime type (or problem) to uncover what situational factors facilitate a crime's commission. Intervention techniques are then devised to manipulate the situational factors. In theory, this approach reduces crime by making it impossible for the crime to be committed or by reducing cues that increase a person's motivation to commit a crime during specific types of events. (3) SCP is more likely to employ civil and administrative law to regulate establishments or individual behavior than to seek to arrest offenders one by one. This strategy has given rise to a retinue of methods that have been found to reduce crime at a local and sometimes national or international level. (4) SCP's focus is thus on reducing crime opportunities rather than punishing or rehabilitating offenders as individuals. In sum, SCP expands the role of crime reduction well beyond the justice system. It sees criminal law in a much more restrictive sense, as only part of the anticrime effort in governance. We come back to this point and expand upon it below.

In this Article, we describe the "general" and "specific" responses to crimes and harmful noncriminal problems that are typical of the SCP approach. We demonstrate that there may be inconsistencies, or at least some ambivalence, regarding when or how the general or specific responses should be applied. We propose a graded framework for selecting responses that acknowledge the local, political, and organizational issues involved in identifying and choosing them. The framework helps determine when interventions and policies can be crafted on the macro level to eliminate or greatly reduce the problem everywhere and when interventions should be limited to a piecemeal, local approach to only eliminate the specific problem. This framework also can determine if a mixed response is needed, since some situationally bound responses require intervention from a distant source.

In what follows, subparts 1(A), (B), and (C) outline different types of policies. Subpart 1(D) reviews one of SCP's "seminal themes," the need to focus on specific crimes (and legal problems) to identify effective prevention policies. (5) In subpart 11(A), we discuss SCP's twenty-five techniques, and in subpart 11(B) we highlight the difficulties in analyzing specific problems that must be overcome to develop large-scale social policies. We also outline the importance of resolving this issue. We discuss past large-scale SCP interventions and explore any contradictions between them and SCP's better-known piecemeal, local approach. Subpart 11(C) sets forth our preliminary framework, encompassing three levels of interventions--piecemeal or local; macro; and mixed--and provides a set of guidelines indicating when and where interventions should be attempted on each level. Next, Part III discusses the significant role SCP has played, and will continue to play, as an action-oriented, policy-driven approach in criminology. Subpart III(A) focuses on the issue of problem ownership while subpart III(B) discusses the role of government. Finally, Part IV places SCP within the current debates concerning the relationship between science and policy in other areas such as environmental pollution, public health and climate change. We demonstrate that whether the SCP approach should be used to prevent or reduce certain types of behaviors related to these issues or problems is a difficult question. The answer to this question cannot easily be found in the SCP approach. The decision to use SCP strategies to reduce or prevent certain behaviors is often value-driven and based upon politics as opposed to science. (6)



      Crime prevention policies could be categorized as supersized, medium-sized, or little. National governments and multinational corporations create supersized general policies. Multinational corporate policies are mostly hidden from the public, except on issues that become a matter of public concern and may directly affect corporate interests. National governments, however, are forced to publicly state their positions or policies. Often, government statements convey an intention to translate their positions into laws and regulations of various kinds, or express laws already written. (7) These government policies are typically divided into two substantive kinds: domestic and foreign. Domestic policies state a government's position on crime, health, the economy, education, technology, and so on. Foreign policies focus on strategic relations with other nations, and include defense, the military, trade, policing of borders, international crime, international health, relations with international bodies, and regulation of international zones such as fishing areas. (8)

      Policies of large corporations and nongovernmental organizations may range from foreign policy (where to locate a new factory) to internal labor relations (sexual harassment guidelines), depending on the size and location of the corporation's operations.

      Policies of state governments and medium-sized businesses fall somewhere between large and small. In the United States, much of the above is repeated at the state level. Although the right of states to conduct foreign relations is limited, there is still considerable activity in that area, especially in enticing foreign investment.

      Little policies are those of local governments, counties, cities and towns. While these are confined mostly to domestic issues, some cities have ranged into the foreign. The New York Police Department, for example, has developed its own antiterrorism organization with operatives placed abroad. (9) But by and large, it is at this level that policies are translated into specific ordinances or regulations. For example, the hour at which a builder may begin his work in the morning in a residential suburb is regulated by many local ordinances.


      It is at this little or local level that, when possible, SCP's responses are usually directed. Tilley explains why this is so by drawing parallels between Clarke's SCP (10) and various strains of Popperian thought. (11) Both perspectives reject schemes to solve large and abstract problems (e.g. "inequality") through grand social engineering initiatives. (12) Popper (13) and Clarke (14) reject revolutions and endeavors, such as the Mobilization for Youth implemented by President Johnson in the 1960s, based on grand ideas of eradicating juvenile delinquency by eliminating poverty. (15) A corollary is SCP's distinctive concern with proximal causes of specific problems in both analysis and practice. This emphasis separates SCP from other criminological theories that often focus on distal causes of relatively wide problems. SCP is also based upon a different view of science and of governance than other criminological frameworks, which usually rely on the justice system to address crime problems. SCP sees an important role for crime reduction for many other governmental departments than the legal system, as well as for quasi-governmental actions by private entities. (16)

      Popper advocated that governments and social scientists tackle small problems one at a time. (17) The central focus of Clarke's approach has similarly been to use situational analyses of when, where, and how specific crimes occur. (18) Cornish's 'script' method, which examines the specific problem or crime in detail, is usually used to identify possible intervention points. (19) As Cornish and Clarke explain, crime "[scripts] ... involve such chains of decisions and actions, separable into interdependent stages, involving the attainment of sub-goals that serve to further the overall goals of the crime." (20) These analyses identify the opportunities that allow crime to occur. Analysts are encouraged to review the empirical literature to identify similar problems and interventions that were used successfully to eliminate or reduce them. (21) If no successful interventions in similar settings are identified, analysts are trained to apply SCP's techniques and principles from related frameworks, like routine activities theory, to generate innovative solutions. (22) Typically, many possible solutions emerge from the literature or are devised through innovation.

      In spite of this demonstrated success in crime prevention, SCP has been criticized by Michael Benson as...

To continue reading