Andrea Watts

National Crime Faculty, UK

The basic mission for which the Police exist is to prevent Crime and Disorder as an alternative to the repression of crime and disorder by military force and severity of punishment.

(Sir Robert Peel, 1829; cited in Home Office, 1987)

In the UK, the recognition of crime as a political as well as a social problem dates back to the mid-nineteenth century when the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, introduced the Police Service as a crime prevention measure. At that stage the approach of the police was essentially reactive, with 'bobbies on the beat' representing one of the earliest forms of what has become known as situational crime prevention.

Over the years, shifting government agendas have influenced the approach taken to crime prevention, with academic debate often reflecting the socio-political zeitgeist. For example, prior to the First World War, early positivist perspectives that saw crime as a product of individual dispositions, were more acceptable to the Establishment than focusing on the social and environmental conditions that could give rise to crime (Blackburn, 1993). Later, in the United States, the identification of so-called 'delinquency areas' characterised by poverty and decay (e.g. Shaw and McKay, 1931) led to a presumption that targeting school drop-outs, disadvantaged youth, minority group members, etc., would ameliorate the increasing crime rates (Kobrin, 1959). This 'social positivism' was in turn criticised for focusing on conditions that could not easily be altered. In an important paradigm shift, criminologists such as James Q. Wilson (e.g. Wilson and Herrnstein, 1985) advocated the implementation of policies aiming to alter 'objective conditions', for example the reduction of opportunities for offending. This led to the formulation of the 'routine activities' (Cohen and Felson, 1979) and 'rational choice' perspectives (Cornish and Clarke, 1986) which were influential in the development of situational crime prevention measures. In recent

Handbook of Psychology in Legal Contexts, Second Edition Edited by D. Carson and R. Bull. © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

years, however, government thinking appears to have come full circle, with the funding of research to identify 'risk factors' for future offending, and the recognition that intervention at the individual level can be seen as 'doing good now rather than waiting for long-term and uncertain outcomes' (Hope, 2000, p. xxi).

This chapter outlines the major theoretical approaches to crime prevention, citing examples of successful intervention measures, and concludes by offering the possibility of a framework through which the apparent polarisation of the individual versus situational crime prevention perspectives can be integrated. The implications for the criminal justice system of such an approach to crime prevention are also discussed.

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