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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

3 Most Effective Crime Prevention Strategies

by Ralph October 13, 2021

Out of the countless crime prevention strategies, three stand out as capturing the breadth of techniques and security objectives. With an understanding of these crime prevention strategies, you should know where to begin with achieving your security goals.

The top crime prevention strategies include:


Can you truly ever prevent a crime?

Many believe that if a criminal wants to do something bad enough, there is no way to stop them. This is not true. With security that provides time to respond before the act is carried out and a network of reliable respondents, crime can be prevented.

What is the easiest crime prevention strategy?

The simplest and most effective way to prevent crime is to display an intention to protect. Start with basic maintenance, demonstrating the area is not neglected or abandoned. The more occupied an area looks, the more a criminal assumes someone will interfere or stop them.

Are high-security locks enough to prevent crime?

In some instances, high-security locks will be enough to deter crime or stop a crime from being successfully carried out. However, the best security practice is to layer multiple crime prevention strategies. And in some cases of situational crime prevention, locks may not be the highest priority.

Is crime control different from crime prevention?

The department of justice’s office of justice programs (OJP) considers crime control methods to be the punishment for crimes once committed. Crime prevention strategies are intended to stop a crime from ever being committed, so punishment and damages can be avoided entirely.

Can one crime prevention strategy prevent every type of crime?

Crime prevention strategies are multifaceted, with the capability to be applied to a variety of criminal threats. CPTED is designed with general crime prevention in mind, but situational crime prevention would require you to target the specific crimes you are looking to prevent.

What is the most common crime in the USA?

Theft makes up almost 60% of all reported crimes in the United States, followed closely by burglary (PEW). Because property crime is rarely resolved and property is seldom recovered, crime prevention is paramount to combatting this criminal threat.

Environmental Design (CPTED)

The popular CPTED method, which stands for “Crime Protection Through Environmental Design,” originates from the architect, Oscar Newman. In his 1972 work commissioned by the National Institute of Justice, he devised the concept of urban spaces that discouraged crime.

However, it was Dr. C. Ray Jeffery who literally wrote the book on CPTED in 1991 and breaks crime prevention through environmental design into five main objectives:

  1. Access control
  2. Surveillance
  3. Activity Support
  4. Motivational Reinforcement
  5. Territoriality 

1. Access Control

The most basic crime prevention strategy is physical access control. It restricts the number of people allowed in a space based on the necessity of them being there. Access control is done most simply with strong doors, high-security locks, and window protection.

These physical barriers are not effective when it comes to crime prevention in public spaces, but there are methods for access control beyond physical security. However, you can extend barriers out to form gated communities or even use geography to restrict access.

The idea of access control in public spaces is to discourage visitors who do not intend to interact with the community. The more out of the way, and harder to reach a location is, the more specific intention is needed to end up there. Those wandering without intention stand out.

2. Surveillance

When most people think of surveillance, they consider organized surveillance tactics, such as security guards, law enforcement, and installing security cameras. This type of surveillance strategy will vary in effectiveness depending on the speed of response.

There are many circumstances where security cameras are not protecting your property, or paid respondents are unable to arrive in time to thwart a crime. This is why crime prevention through environmental design also stresses the importance of natural/spontaneous surveillance.

Crime prevention through natural surveillance comes from designing structures and outdoor spaces so foot traffic provides bystanders who can report crimes. You want to direct a large number of pedestrians to at-risk areas so they outnumber the criminal element.

3. Activity Support

The purpose of activity support is to strengthen the community of a given location. By creating activities and events that unite a group, you set up reliable channels of communication and outreach. With those channels in place, social management is more effective.

In terms of crime prevention through environmental design, locations for public meetings are designed with specific activities in mind. For example, a jungle gym for children would have seating with clear lines of sight so parents can monitor their children.

Other activities such as checking in on the elderly, disabled, and potential criminal elements, must be supported. This type of crime prevention is working off the idea of communicating to the criminal element that vulnerable people are still hard targets in this community.

4. Motivation Reinforcement

The motivational reinforcement is directed at criminals or potential criminals, to both disincentivize criminal behavior and encourage social responsibility. This approach stresses the limits of criminal activity through socialization and community standards.

For this to work, there can be no question that criminals will be captured and prosecuted. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) states, “Research shows clearly that the chance of being caught is a vastly more effective deterrent than even draconian punishment.”

So rather than selling the severity of punishment, you must ensure that everyone believes that criminals do not get away. Then sell the positive aspects of community involvement, which are strengthened and maintained through activity support. This goes beyond passive or active security.

5. Territoriality

The goal of territoriality is to get the community to take ownership of the protection of their space through actively shaping their shared identity. This is perhaps the least grounded objective of crime prevention through environmental design, as it deals with intangibles.

The concept blends the idea of rational self-interest with the idea that the more you invest in a thing, the more you care about it. If individuals within a group can feel as though their environment is a reflection of them, they will guard it. And the more effort they put into building and maintaining, the more effort they will put into protection.

This type of mental frame is believed to also discourage social isolation and estrangement from a community, which leads to criminal behavior. So as people participate in determining the community they live in, they watch over it and do not harm it themselves.

Situational Crime Prevention

As opposed to the community planning and lofty goals of crime prevention through environmental design, situational crime prevention is more targeted with its approach. But due to its specificity, it ends up being one of the most comprehensive crime prevention strategies.

Situational crime prevention works off the concept of target hardening. This is the attempt to assess areas with a high risk for crime and lower their vulnerability to the most likely risks. With this type of crime prevention, you are relying on the data from your security assessment.

A neighborhood where criminals are kicking doors down should replace solid core or hollow core doors with solid wood doors and secure them properly. Whereas an office with concerns about seriptious theft of company info may be more concerned with preventing criminal lock picking.

You are looking at your industry trends, local criminal strategies, and past instances of crime you have experienced. An example of this would be if you can tell if your lock has been picked, you need to prevent that crime from happening again.

Situational crime prevention is about finding a problem and pairing it with a preventative tactic. Address the most pressing threat and decrease the odds of a criminal being successful with their chosen method.

Security By Design

No matter which one of the crime prevention strategies you use, security by design always plays a role. This is the base level of crime prevention that most people use. It consists of most of what was outlined in the section on access control: barriers, locks, and security procedures.

Other crime prevention strategies are concerned with convincing criminals an attack is not worthwhile. Security by design focuses on preventing crime from being successful once it cannot be initially discouraged. This is done by using the right locks and improving existing barriers.

Neglecting a necessary lock change is one of the most common crime prevention mistakes. There are many instances when you need to change locks to prevent being targeted by criminals. The strength of your security acts as crime prevention by stopping crimes that are attempted.

In Closing

The most commonly discussed and implemented strategy is crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED). Beyond the comprehensive and multifaceted approach of CPTED, you should be aware of the concepts of situational crime prevention. 

But the base level of all crime prevention is security by design. Whether you are trying to stop employee theft or prevent a home invasion, the first step is designing your foundational security. So when you need new or better locks, see if United Locksmith serves your neighborhood.

Category: Crime, Safety & Security

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