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Topic two - Key crime prevention typologies


There are different ways of categorizing crime prevention efforts. Two will be considered here. The first adopts a public health approach and distinguishes between primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. The second, proposed by Tonry and Farrington (1995) distinguishes between law enforcement, developmental, community, and situational prevention.


Public Health Model

The public health model focuses on preventing ill health. Positive health outcomes have been associated with the implementation of strategies to encourage healthy lifestyles, rather than waiting for illness and the subsequent provision of treatment. This logic has been applied to other social policy settings. The potential economic benefits of investing funds early to save costs later, are particularly attractive to policymakers, including in the area of crime prevention.

Brantingham and Faust (1976) advocate a distinction between primary, secondary, and tertiary crime prevention activities:

Primary crime prevention identifies conditions of the physical and social environment that provide opportunities for or precipitate criminal acts. Here the objective of intervention is to alter those conditions so that crimes cannot occur. Secondary crime prevention engages in early identification of potential offenders and seeks to intervene in their lives in such a way that they never commit criminal violation. Tertiary crime prevention deals with actual offenders and involves intervention in their lives in such a fashion that they will not commit further offenses (1976, p. 290).


Tonry and Farrington's Typology

Tonry and Farrington (1995) distinguish between law enforcement, developmental, community, and situational prevention.





A form of early intervention, developmental crime prevention seeks to address the early causes of criminality. This involves reducing community and individual risk factors and increasing protective factors, to help to prevent crime later in life.

The most celebrated examples of developmental crime prevention include parenting programmes, school enrichment initiatives like skills training, preschool regimes, and improvements in transition to school arrangements.

Community / Social

Strengthening neighbourhoods helps to prevent crime. Local communities that have strong bonds and where people know each other are generally less prone to experience crime. Enhancing 'social capital' or the relationships between people can be beneficial in protecting people from crime.

Community building activities, provision of welfare services and increasing community support groups all help to enhance the sense of community and can contribute to the prevention of crime.


Stopping the opportunities for crime is an effective way of preventing crime. Increasing the risks of detection, reducing the rewards for offending and increasing the difficulty of offending are all ways to prevent crime.

Situational crime prevention can be as simple as installing locks and alarms, increasing surveillance through lighting and making buildings harder to enter, damage, or hide near.

Law Enforcement / Criminal Justice

This form of crime prevention is associated with the criminal justice system - police, courts, and prisons - and is the most commonly understood form of crime prevention.

Problem-oriented policing can help prevent recurring problems requiring a policing response through detailed analysis of crime problems and inter-agency responses; community-oriented policing is a strategy for encouraging the public to act as partners with the police in preventing and managing crime; treatment programmes offered through court processes can address causes of crime; rehabilitation programmes in prison can prevent re-offending.

The models outlined above suggest a more rigid demarcation than is true in practice. Various models overlap and have similarities (for example, community and developmental crime prevention). Literature that focuses on one particular approach can leave an impression that the different approaches operate in isolation. This is generally not the case in practice. In any given setting, it is likely that various forms of crime prevention will be operating simultaneously. Security measures may be in place to prevent motor vehicle theft (situational prevention), while community-based organizations work with at-risk young people to encourage their attendance at school. Concurrently, programmes may be on offer to help new parents develop the confidence and skills necessary to raise healthy children, and, of course, it is likely that various policing activities will seek to combat local and regional crime problems.

A further complication to a singular conceptualization of crime prevention is the broad array of crimes that can be committed, and therefore prevented. While 'regular' crime types such as assault, burglary, robbery and vandalism, for example, provide few conceptual challenges to the existing crime prevention literature, the prevention of economic crime and corruption, trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, cybercrime, money-laundering, drug production and trafficking, terrorism prevention, and numerous other emerging and/or complex interjurisdictional crime types tests the explanatory powers of definitions of crime prevention and its typologies.

These issues are raised here but are largely beyond the scope of the Module. Rather, for the purposes of this Module, it is sufficient to highlight that, in practice, approaches to crime prevention operate simultaneously and that there are real challenges in conceptualizing the breadth of what is covered by the term crime prevention.

Next: Topic two continued - Detailed explanation of Tonry and Farrington's typology
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