Crime Prevention and Control Strategies

There are three main types of crime prevention policy: situational, environmental and social/ community.

The three main types of crime control strategies are situation crime prevention, environmental crime prevention and community or social crime prevention strategies.

  • Situational crime prevention is very local – for example fixing shutters to a shop to make it harder to break into at night.
  • Environmental crime prevention is more regional and focused on a wider ‘problem area’ – an example is increasing Zero Tolerance Policing in a city with an increasing street-crime rate.
  • Community and social strategies are more focused on working with offenders or potential offenders and local communities to reduce offending.

This post has been written primarily as revision notes for A-level sociology students revising the Crime and Deviance topic.

Situational Crime Prevention

  • Includes strategies which focus on the specific point at which potential victims and criminals come together, making it harder for the criminal to commit crime.
  • Examples include ‘target hardening’ – shutters, window locks, anti-climb paint and also CCTV and security guards. Also ‘designing out’ features which encourage criminality – e.g. sloping seats at bus stops.
  • Based on rational choice theory and Cohen and Felson’s ‘Routine Activities’ theory which state that much crime is opportunistic, and if you reduce the opportunities to commit crime, you reduce the crime rate.
  • Appealed to policy makers because target hardening is cheap and simple.

Evaluations of Situational Crime Prevention

  • The Port Authority Bus Terminal Building is an example where this worked.
  • Newburn (2013) points to an obvious link between improved car security measures and reduced car crime.
  • Ignores factors such as inequality and deprivation as causes of crime (Garland 2001).
  • Ignores the role of emotion and thrill as a cause of crime (Lyng 1990)
  • Only tackles opportunistic street crime – won’t work for DV, white collar crime, or state crime.
  • It creates divided ‘Fortress cities’ (Bauman).
  • It leads to crime displacement.

Environmental Crime Prevention

  • Includes formal and informal social control measures which try to clamp down on anti-social behaviour and prevent an area from deteriorating.
  • Emphasises the role of formal control measures (the police) much more than situational crime prevention theory.
  • Examples include Zero Tolerance Policing, ASBOs, curfews, street drinking bans, dispersal orders and the three strikes rule in America.
  • Based on Wilson and Kelling’s Broken Windows Theory – signs of physical disorder give off the message that there is low informal social control which attracts criminals and increases the crime rate.

Evaluations of Environmental Crime Prevention

  • The New York ‘Zero Tolerance’ study suggests that zero tolerance policies work to reduce crime.
  • HOWEVER, Levitt and Dubner in Freakonomics found that this correlation was coincidental – other factors were responsible for the decline in crime.
  • It is more expensive than situational crime prevention – it takes a lot of police to patrol an area and clamp down on anti-social behaviour.
  • Reiner (2015) argues that the police would be better deployed focusing on more serious crime hot spots rather than clamping down on minor forms of anti-social behaviour.
  • From an Interactionist perspective, giving more power to the police will just lead to more labelling and more criminal careers.

Social and Community Crime Prevention

  • Focus on individual offenders and the social context which encourages them to commit crime.
  • There are two broad approaches – Intervention, identifying groups and risk of committing crime and taking action to limit their offending, and Community – involving the local community in combating crime.
  • Farrington’s (1995) longitudinal research comparing offenders and non offenders found various ‘risk factors’ which correlated with crime – such as low education and parental conflict.
  • Intervention programmes based on the above have included pre-school programmes to help with attainment and parenting classes.
  • Examples of this working include the Perry School Project (USA) and the Troubled Families Initiative (UK).

Evaluations of social and community crime reduction

  • If done effectively, these are the most costly of all crime prevention measures.
  • HOWEVER, if done properly, community prevention measures can save hundreds of thousands of pounds, by ‘turning’ a potential criminal into an employed tax-payer.
  • Marxists argue that these policies may tackle deprivation but they do not tackle the underlying structural inequalities in the Capitalist system which are the root cause.
  • Such approaches target working class, inner city communities and do not tackle elite crime.

    Michel Foucalt and David Garland interpret the these strategies as being about surveillance and control rather than real social change which prevents crime.


This post has been written primarily as revision notes for A-level sociology students revising the Crime and Deviance topic.

For more advice on how to tackle the exam paper which this topic is part of, please see the relevant links on my exams, essays and short answer questions page.

For more detailed posts on the above topics please see the posts below…

Right Realist Criminology – includes sections on situational crime prevention and environmental crime prevention.

Environmental Crime Prevention – Definition and Examples – a more detailed post on environmental crime prevention.

Left Realist Criminology – focusses on community interventions

Please click here to return to the homepage –

%d bloggers like this: