Environmental Crime Prevention – Definition, Examples and Evaluation

Environmental Crime Prevention strategies include formal and informal social control measures which try to clamp down on anti-social behaviour and prevent an area from deteriorating. They emphasises the role of formal control measures (the police) much more than situational crime prevention theory.

Examples, some of which are dealt with below, include Zero Tolerance Policing, ASBOs, curfews, street drinking bans, dispersal orders and the three strikes rule in America.

These strategies are associated with Right Realism and are based on Wilson and Kelling’s Broken Windows Theory – the idea signs of physical disorder give off the message that there is low informal social control which attracts criminals and increases the crime rate.

Zero Tolerance Policing

zero tolerance policing

Zero Tolerance Policing involves the police strictly enforcing every facet of law, including paying particular attention to minor activities such as littering, begging, graffiti and other forms of antisocial behaviour. It actually involves giving the police less freedom to use discretion – under Zero Tolerance policy, the police are obliged to hand out strict penalties for criminal activity.

The best known example of Zero Tolerance Policy was its adoption in New York City in 1994. At that time, the city was in the grip of a crack-cocaine epidemic and suffered high levels of antisocial and violent crime. Within a few years of Zero Tolerance, however, crime had dropped from between 30 – 50%. For an overview of ZT in New York and criticisms see this video (and love the ‘tache). 

In the UK Zero-tolerance policing allegedly slashed crime in Liverpool, a city historically blighted by antisocial behaviour and violent assaults, following its introduction in 2005. Overall recorded crime fell by 25.7 per cent in the three years to 2008 with violent crime falling by 38%.

It was not only the likes of drug dealers and burglars who were targeted. Boys kicking footballs against an old lady’s fence, litterbugs and graffiti louts were also on the police’s radar, and twice a month hundreds of officers flooded the streets to hunt suspects who had jumped bail or those wanted for a particular kind of offence.

Antisocial Behaviour Orders

ASBOs are one of the best known crime control methods in the UK – they’re probably best described as bring related to Zero Tolerance techniques – in that you can get an ASBO for antisocial rather than criminal behaviour, and go to jail if you breach it, thus they police minor acts of deviance, although they’re not a perfect fit as the police have little to do with imposing them – that’s down to the local magistrate.

ASBO

Antisocial Behaviour Orders were introduced in 1998 in order to correct minor acts of deviance which would not ordinarily warrant criminal prosecution. Anyone over the age of 10 can receive an Antisocial Behaviour Order, and about half of them have been handed out to 10-17 year olds  or’juveniles.

(In 2014 ASBOs were replaced by Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs), but more on those later.)

According to the gov.uk website ‘behaving antisocially includes:

  • drunken or threatening behaviour
  • vandalism and graffiti
  • playing loud music at night

Getting an ASBO means you won’t be allowed to do certain things, such as:

  • going to a particular place, eg your local town centre
  • spending time with people who are known as trouble-makers
  • drinking in the street’

25000 Antisocial Behaviour Orders were administered between the year of their introduction in 1999 and the end of 2013, but how effective were they at reducing and controlling deviant behaviour?

Some (relatively) famous case studies of recent ASBO recipients

In 2013 the so called ‘Naked Rambler‘ received an ASBO stipulating that he had to cover his genitalia and buttocks when he appeared in public, apart from in a changing room. The 53 year old was jailed for 11 months, after he defied the banning order.

naked rambler

In 2014 Jordan Horner, 20, a Muslim convert from northeast London was ordered to stop preaching in public,as part of a campaign for a sharia state in Britain.

muslim ASBO

 

Criticisms of Environmental Crime Prevention Strategies

  • Zero Tolerance Policing in New York resulted in a lot more people being arrested for possession of marijuana – 25 000 a year by 2012 (one every ten minutes) – some of those people lost their jobs or rental houses as a result (the human cost of Zero Tolerance)
  • ASBOs give people a criminal record for not actually doing anything criminal – You could (past tense!) get an ASBO for being loud, which isn’t in itself criminal, and then go to jail for breaching the ASBO – by being loud again.
  • Zero Tolerance methods are not necessary – As the video above points out, despite the claims of the right wing governments who implement them, crime has gone down in cities in the US and the UK without the widespread use of Zero Tolerance techniques. This excellent article points out that ZT was never adopted widely in the UK or the Netherlands but both countries have witnessed a decline in crime in recent years. The simple truth is that crime has been going down for other reasons, ZT policing has little to do with this.
  • It creates a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy – ‘If police concentrate their patrols in a certain area and assume every young man they see is a potential or probable criminal, they will conduct more searches — and make more arrests. Which means a high percentage of young men in that neighborhood will have police records. Which, in turn, provides a statistical justification for continued hyper-aggressive police ­tactics.’ (It’s time to rethink ZTP).
  • It might be racist – the above two articles also deal with the fact that somewhere in the region of 85% of people dealt with under Zero Tolerance in New York were/ are black or Hispanic

 

Work in progress, to be updated….

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One Response to Environmental Crime Prevention – Definition, Examples and Evaluation

  1. Pingback: Zero Tolerance Policing – An Evaluation | ReviseSociology

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