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Managing Crime: Situational Crime Prevention

In Britain, during the 1970s, policy-makers grew increasingly sceptical about the capacity of the police and criminal justice system to control crime. It was at a time when the Home Office Research Unit, under the leadership of Ronald Clarke, began to shift the focus of crime prevention away from the offender and towards the offence. The product of this new focus was situational crime prevention. Maguire (1997, p. 147) describes the main thrust of the situational approach as follows:

Eschewing any interest in what Clarke... called 'dispositional theories' (i.e. that certain people have a predisposition to offend and hence that the key to crime prevention lies in changing them), it set out to use detailed crime pattern analysis to pinpoint areas of the environment which could be altered in such a way as to make it less easy or less attractive for potential offenders to commit particular types of crime.

Clarke defines situational crime prevention in the following terms:

Situational crime prevention... refers to a pre-emptive approach that relies, not on improving society or its institutions, but simply on reducing the opportunities for crime... Situational crime prevention comprises opportunity-reducing measures that are (1) directed at highly specific forms of crime (2) that involve the management, design or manipulation of the immediate environment in as specific and permanent a way as possible (3) so as to increase the effort and risks of crime and reduce the rewards as perceived by a wide range of offenders. (Clarke cited in Hughes, 1998, p. 60)

Situational crime prevention essentially encompasses strategies that seek to reduce the opportunities for crime by increasing the risks of getting caught and reducing the rewards from committing the crime. As a crime prevention strategy it does not attempt to understand the causes of crime or the motivations of offenders. It is also directed towards the prevention of specific crimes and the protection of particular locations. It embodies a range of strategies that can broadly be grouped under three headings:

Hough, Clarke and Mayhew (1980) and Clarke (1992) between them have further been able to subdivide these three headings into 12 sub groups (see Table Below).

Before many of the situational crime prevention strategies identified in below are considered it is useful to explore the theoretical assumptions behind the approach.

Increasing the Effort

Increasing the Risks

Reducing the Rewards

Target Hardening

Steering Locks

Bandit Screens

Tamper-Proof Seals

Entry/Exit Systems

Border Searches

Baggage Screening

Library Tags

Target Removal

Removal of Coin Meters

Phone Cards

Pay by Cheque

Access Control

Locked Gates

Entry Phones

ID Badges

Formal Surveillance

Police Patrols

Security Guards

Informant hotline

Identifying Property

Property Marking

Vehicle Licensing

PIN for Car Radios

Deflecting Offenders

Bus stop Placement

Tavern Location

Street Closures

Surveillance by Employees

Park Attendants


CCTV Systems

Removing Inducements

Graffiti Cleaning

Rapid Repair

Plywood Road Signs

Controlling Facilitators

Gun Controls


Plastic Glasses in Pubs

Natural Surveillance

Pruning Hedges

Street Lighting

Neighbourhood Watch

Rule Setting

Customs Declaration

Park Regulations

Library Check-out

Table: Situational Crime Prevention Strategies