The Community Crime Prevention Program (CCPP) was created by the Victorian government to avert misconduct and provide effective solutions to crime within the Victorian territory. The program consists a series of initiatives delivered by the state authority which include:
- Graffiti Grants Program (GGP);
- Community Safety Fund (CSF) grants program;
- Reducing Violence against Women and their Children (RVAWC) grants program;
- Public Safety Infrastructure Fund (PSIF) grants program;
- Community Correctional Services Graffiti Removal Program (GRP);
- CCPP Communications Program; and
- Neighborhood Watch Reinvigoration (NWR) program.
Victorian Community Crime Prevention Program Major Objectives
The Victorian Community Crime Prevention Program has three key major objectives namely
- building knowledge of local and other communities about effective ways to reduce crime,
- providing resources that enable communities to implement local solutions to crime,
- and building relationships between community organizations and community members to strengthen local crime prevention responses.
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The backbone of the CCPP is a blend of competitive grants for which a broad range of local government authorities and community organizations are eligible. The program kicked off as an outcome of an election commitment after the appointment of the minister for crime prevention in 2010.
Victorian Community Crime Prevention Program Evaluation
A fundamental obligation of any government is keeping communities safe and the justice system fair. Crime is driven by a range of factors relating to the broader social and environmental context and the characteristics of individuals. Addressing social and economic disadvantage and improving community connectedness can be protective against antisocial and offending behavior as well as the fear of crime. The government believes that early intervention and a comprehensive approach to reducing crime, implemented across the community, is the best defense against a cycle of crime and violence. Effective, evidence-based crime prevention strategies can deliver a range of benefits for the Victorian community, including: reducing the long term costs associated with the criminal justice system, reducing the direct social and economic costs of crime, reducing the indirect costs of crime, including in areas such as health and social services, improving community cohesion and the quality of community life. Effective crime prevention requires individuals, communities, businesses and all levels of government to work together in a coordinated way to develop and implement effective strategies to address the causes of crime.
Crime prevention contributes to community safety as one part of the government’s overarching approach to reducing crime. Crime prevention is defined as “…any action or policy designed to influence the underlying or contributing factors that increase the risk of crime or victimization occurring or improve actual or perceived safety.” The CCPP implements the government’s approach to collaborating with and supporting councils and community organizations to deliver local crime prevention programs through the delivery of a competitive grants program. The grants program engages the community in effective crime prevention action and builds the number and quality of local crime prevention responses across Victoria. The CCPP ensures government and communities can build on, share and enhance the good work that has been done to date.
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Theories of Crime Prevention within Victorian Community Crime Prevention Program
Situational crime prevention
Situational crime prevention is based upon the premise that crime is often opportunistic and aims to modify contextual factors to limit the opportunities for offenders to engage in criminal behaviour (Tonry & Farrington 1995). Situational prevention comprises a range of measures that highlight the importance of targeting very specific forms of crime in certain circumstances (Clarke 1997). This involves identifying, manipulating and controlling the situational or environmental factors associated with certain types of crime (Cornish & Clarke 2003). It is also based upon assumptions regarding the nature of offending and of offenders (Cornish & Clarke 2003). Underlying the situational approach are four key elements, including:
- three key opportunity theories—routine activity, crime pattern and rational choice theory;
- an action research methodology that involves analysing of specific crime problems and contributing factors, identifying possible responses, selecting and implementing of the most appropriate or promising response and evaluating and disseminating the results;
- a classification of 25 situational prevention techniques; and
- a growing body of evaluated projects and examples of different types of strategies (such as those available on the Problem-Oriented Policing Center, which helps to inform the selection and design of specific interventions (Clarke 2005).
The focus of the three key opportunity theories is actually quite different. Under routine activity theory, three critical elements must occur simultaneously for a criminal event to take place—a motivated offender, a suitable target and the absence of a capable guardian (Clarke 1997). The theory seeks to explain how societal changes can impact upon opportunities for crime (Sutton, Cherney & White 2008). Crime pattern theory seeks to explain the influence of communities and neighbourhoods, and focuses on how offenders may come across opportunities for crime in the course of their everyday lives (Clarke 2005). Rational choice theory has a more individualistic focus and explores the decision-making processes that lead to an offender choosing to become involved in crime or specific criminal events, including weighing up the relative risks and rewards associated with offending (Clarke 2005; 1997).
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Situational crime prevention interventions include activities such as improved security through strengthening locks and improving surveillance. Cornish and Clarke (2003) have classified 25 situational crime prevention techniques into five broad categories that are based on the mechanisms underlying the different methods:
- increasing the effort involved in offending;
- increasing the risk associated with offending;
- reducing the rewards that come from committing a crime;
- reducing situational factors that influence the propensity of an individual to offend; and
- removing excuses for offending behaviour.
This relative simple classification scheme provides a useful framework for describing the range and variety of situational techniques on offer to those working in crime prevention (Cornish & Clarke 2003).
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Important lessons for the implementation of situational crime prevention projects (taken from the UK experience where situational approaches have been common), include that it:
- works most effectively when it is targeted at a specific crime problem in a specific context;
- involves a thorough and systematic analysis of current and emerging crime problems and their causes and risk factors that is based on accurate and wide-ranging sources of information and has analysts with the capacity to interpret the data;
- requires appropriate consultation mechanisms to seek input from stakeholders and the community into the development of strategies that are likely to require their action, involvement or cooperation; and
- requires strong project management skills, a comprehensive implementation plan that describes the key stages in project delivery and the interrelationships between different but complementary interventions, and a committee made up of representatives from key stakeholder groups to oversee project development, implementation and review (Marshall, Smith & Tilley 2004)
There is considerable evidence of the effectiveness of situational crime prevention in reducing crime, both in Australia and overseas. Despite there being limitations in the evaluation literature, a review of the evidence by Eck (2006a) showed that opportunity reduction measures can reduce crime in many circumstances with little evidence of displacement. An evaluation of the UK Reducing Residential Burglary Initiative found that areas where more money had been invested in situational prevention rather than offender-focused prevention and those that were flexible in their delivery, were generally more successful in reducing residential burglary (Hope et al. 2004). While there is insufficient evidence to determine the most cost-effective approach in modifying environmental conditions to prevent crime, there is sufficient evidence that situational crime prevention is an economically efficient strategy in reducing crime (Welsh & Farrington 2001).
There are some notable exceptions. A recent systemic review concluded that CCTV has a modest but significant positive effect on crime, but that it is most effective in reducing crime in car parks and when targeted at vehicle crimes (Welsh & Farrington 2008). Further, the cost of establishing, maintaining and monitoring a CCTV system can be prohibitively expensive, and potentially exceed any financial savings that might result from a reduction in property crime (Clancey 2010). Taken together, these results lend support for the continued use of CCTV to prevent crime in public space, but suggest that it needs to be more narrowly targeted than its present use would indicate (Welsh & Farrington 2008).
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Developmental crime prevention
Developmental crime prevention initiatives are becoming increasingly popular in Australia (Weatherburn 2004). There has been considerable investment in early intervention programs in Australia, many of which do not have explicit crime prevention objectives (Homel et al. 1999; Weatherburn 2004). Developmental crime prevention is based on the premise that intervening early in a young person’s development can produce significant long-term social and economic benefits. While there is evidence of the importance of intervening early in life, the focus of developmental crime prevention is on intervening early at any of a number of critical transition points in a person’s development to lead them on a pathway to prevent future offending. Transition points occur around birth, the preschool years, transition from primary to high school and from high school to further education or the workforce (Homel et al. 1999).
Early intervention aims to address risk factors and enhance protective factors that impact upon the likelihood that a young person will engage in future offending behaviour (Homel et al. 1999). Risk and protective factors can be categorised into child factors, family factors, school context, life events and community and cultural factors (Homel et al. 1999). Developmental programs aim to identify, measure and manipulate risk and protective factors that research has confirmed are important in predicting future offending (Homel 2005). In practical terms, developmental crime prevention involves providing basic services or resources to individuals, families, schools or communities to minimise the impact of risk factors on the development of offending behaviours (Homel 2005). Most often these resources and services are directed towards disadvantaged or ‘vulnerable’ families with young children.
Several factors have been identified as contributing to the successful implementation of developmental crime prevention initiatives, including:
- the importance of timing and intervening at critical junctures, such as times of stress or when people are open to external influences (which may not mean early in life);
- the need to target multiple risk factors due to their cumulative impact, with bias towards those factors regarded as having the greatest impact, and to target multiple offence types;
- the need to be sensitive to the needs of the local area (including the need to be culturally sensitive), involve and empower the community (in decision making, as volunteers and as paid professionals) and identify local change agents;
- the importance of detailed assessments of community readiness (the presence of existing partnerships and management structures, leadership stability, community engagement and support for and commitment to prevention), which is a key component of programs such as Communities that Care (Crow et al. 2004);
- the importance of strategies to make programs accessible, keep people involved and to avoid stigmatising at-risk young people or families;
- the value of partnerships and coordination between new and existing service providers, whether they rely on formal interagency structures or more simple arrangements; and
- the requirement for longer term investment, as the benefits of developmental crime prevention are not immediate (Crow et al. 2004; Homel et al. 1999).
Evidence from a small (but growing) number of comprehensive evaluation studies has demonstrated the long term effectiveness of early intervention in achieving significant reductions in participant’s involvement in crime, as well as improvements in areas such as educational performance, child maltreatment, workforce participation, child and youth behaviour, income and substance abuse (Homel 2005). In addition to the obvious social benefits, these outcomes are also associated with significant financial savings, both for the community and the participant (Homel et al. 2006; Schweinhart et al. 2004). The savings produced by early intervention programs include reductions in welfare assistance, decreased need for special education, increases in income tax revenue from the higher wages of participants (due to improved educational attainment), reduced operational costs to the criminal justice system and reduced costs to victims (Homel et al. 2006). Conversely, at least one study has demonstrated long term negative outcomes for participants and the problems of stigmatising participants as being ‘at risk’ or delinquent (Homel R 2005). Further, despite the increased popularity of early intervention as a crime prevention strategy with promising results, evidence of long term cost effectiveness has been limited to a small number of overseas studies and one notable Australian example. Nevertheless, taken as a whole, research into the impact of developmental crime prevention suggests that intervening early in a young person’s development is a promising strategy in improving the life course development of at-risk children and their families, and in reducing the long-term costs associated with delinquency and future criminal offending (Schweinhart et al. 2004; Welsh & Farrington 2001).