7 Comprehensive burglary reduction strategies
Many of the studies reported in the literature reviewed for this work were designed to assess the effectiveness of burglary reduction strategies composed of more than one intervention. Table 3 presents an overview of some of the multicomponent strategies that have been referred to in this literature review and summarises the interventions applied and the overall effectiveness of each strategy.
These strategies integrate a number of the targeted interventions described individually. These were often selected after analysis of the burglary problem in a specific area and in conjunction with other interest groups in multi-agency approaches. This is particularly true of the UK projects where a large amount of research and evaluation effort has been put into burglary reduction initiatives over the last 20 years-as in the RBI launched in 1999 as part of the CRP (nearly 250 projects funded) and the much earlier Safer Cities Programme launched in 1988 (some 3600 schemes funded, of which around 500 were aimed at tackling domestic burglary).
The scale of these national programmes has enabled comparative research into and the formulation of guidelines for:
- multi-agency partnerships
- comparative cost-benefit analyses
- investigation of the impact of programme intensity
- the role of publicity in programme outcomes.
A brief outline of each national crime reduction initiative is presented, followed by discussion of the lessons and findings of comparative studies on burglary reduction initiatives.
The RBI was launched in 1999 as part of the Home Office Crime Reduction Programme. The aims of the RBI were to:
- reduce burglary nationally by targeting areas with the worst domestic burglary problems
- evaluate the cost effectiveness of different approaches
- find out what works best where.
Summaries of five RBI projects are included in Table 3.
Local Crime and Disorder Partnerships were invited to identify areas of 3,0005,000 households with a burglary rate at least twice the national average. Nearly 250 burglary reduction projects were funded across three phases, covering over 2.1 million households that suffered around 110,000 burglaries per annum. Activities typically included a combination of:
- target hardening of vulnerable premises
- improved street lighting
- high-visibility policing
- promotion of neighbourhood/home watch
- work with repeat victims
- publicity campaigns/awareness raising
- youth diversion initiatives
- security patrols.
Three regional university consortiums have conducted evaluations of the first round of 63 RBI projects, and a range of publications have reported (and continue to report) their findings (Home Office 2004).
A summary outcome evaluation of 55 of the phase one projects compares the residential burglary rates before and after project implementation with those in comparison areas (Kodz and Pease 2003). Relative decreases were found in 40 of the projects, with relative increases in 15. The number of burglaries per month across the 55 projects was calculated to have fallen by 20%, compared to a fall of 13% in the comparison areas.
Queensland Criminal Justice Commission 2001
Pilot project: 12-month enhanced police response to residential burglary in an area with above average rate
Police project officer
|Tea Tree Gully and Norwood, Adelaide, SA
South Australian Crime Prevention Unit 2002
Pilot project: volunteer services to repeat burglary victims-14-month project
|Aimed to provide interventions within two weeks of the offence:
||Local community volunteers, screened and trained to deliver interventions
Crime Prevention Unit
Police planning, information and support
Victim Support Services
|Safer Towns and Cities, Ashfield and Mid North Coast, NSW
Taplin et al. 2001
Introduction of burglary reduction strategies as part of standard police response-12-month project
|Boggart Hill, Killingbeck Estate, UK
Farrell, Chenery and Pease 1998
Problem-oriented crime prevention project-burglary reduction through 'crackdown and consolidation strategy'
||Leeds Safer Cities
Leeds Department of Housing Services
Community good neighbours scheme
Bennett and Durie 1999
Crime audit and partnership approach to reducing residential burglary-14-month project
Programme implemented in identified 'hot' locations and 'hot' spots
Potential capable guardians:
|Domestic Burglary Task Force-representing City and County Councils, police,
Probation Service, Victim Support, Cambridge University
Council project worker
Detached community development youth workers
Evaluation concluded that programme contained the right elements to be effective, but was of insufficient intensity to make an impact-right medicine, wrong dosage.
Biting Back initiative
Chenery et al. 1997
Preventing repeat burglary and motor vehicle crime as a standard mode of crime prevention in a policing area
Three-tiered response to victims (Olympic model):
|Kirkholt Project, UK
Forrester et al. 1988, 1990
Burglary prevention demonstration project based on problem-solving approach in high-burglary-risk housing estate
Phase 2 (Sept.'88-Mar.'90):
Continuation of Phase 1 interventions plus community crime prevention initiatives which included:
Local Housing Authority Department
Gas and electricity authorities
Local victim support organisation
Manpower Services Commission
Community involvement in local crime prevention group
Home Office 2003a
RBI project in a multi-ethnic area with a high burglary rate-area scores high on social deprivation index and has frequent turnover of residents
||Police with in partnership with:
Jointly-staffed project-police and local authority Community Safety Officer
Target hardening by Victim Support volunteers
|Fordbridge, Solihull, UK
Home Office 2003b
RBI project area in four wards with significant economic and social difficulties-with areas of high density housing rented from local authority
||Multi-agency Focus Group jointly chaired by police and local Head of
|Yew Tree, Sandwell, UK
Home Office 2003c
RBI project in two economically deprived estates that are geographically isolated from other urban areas by a canal and a major motorway
|Stirchley, Birmingham, UK
Home Office 2003d
RBI project in nine residential streets of two-storey terraces and old semi-detached housing-burglary rate twice national average
||Police and city council
Consultation with residents
Home Office 2003e
RBI project in three police beats identified as areas with high levels of crime, disorder, deprivation and truancy
||Burglary Reduction Management Group with representatives from Police, Victim
Support, local council
Police Burglary Response Unit
Victim support-target hardening
Local housing authority
Launched by the Home Office in 1988 with £30 million of funding, the Safer Cities programme formed part of Action for Cities, a wider government programme aimed at tackling socio-economic problems within areas of urban deprivation. Covering 20 areas, Safer Cities funded some 3,600 schemes addressing a wide range of crime problems through a multi-agency problem-solving approach. Around 500 of the schemes were aimed at tackling domestic burglary. Schemes generally focused on target hardening measures and/or the encouragement of community-based action such as neighbourhood watch, property marking, and awareness raising.
Two evaluations of the burglary schemes have been conducted. Ekblom, Law and Sutton (1996) conducted a large-scale analysis of the 300 schemes underway or completed by summer 1992. Outcomes were measured in two ways:
- via 7,500 before and after interview surveys, in over 400 high-crime areas in eleven 'safer cities' and eight comparison cities
- via police crime statistics from 700 police beats covering 240 of the schemes, together with city-level statistics in nine comparison cities.
The survey results offered compelling evidence as to the effectiveness of Safer Cities interventions in reducing domestic burglary, findings that were backed up by police data.
Tilley and Webb (1994) examined in more detail the operation and effectiveness of 11 projects that focused on reducing residential burglary with varying degrees of success. Their report is somewhat equivocal about the effectiveness of targeting repeat victims and at-risk households. Area-based measures were successful for fairly high-dosage interventions in small areas and comprehensive approaches to target hardening using specialist advice were beneficial. This report also raises concerns about multi-agency working, finding that multi-agency groups are complex and problematic. Nevertheless, the evaluation overall concluded that focused, high-intensity, multicomponent packages could be effective.
The projects of the RBI were initiated by multi-agency partnerships and the experiences of those involved demonstrate that, while the crime reduction benefits are considerable, working in partnership is complex and demanding. A significant number of the projects experienced implementation problems which included:
- establishing commitment amongst partner agencies
- identifying the nature of the burglary problem
- recruiting skilled and experienced project personnel
- ensuring community involvement and accountability
- monitoring progress (Kodz and Pease 2003).
Jacobson (2003) has put forward key points on what needs to be in place to support partnerships to work effectively, learning drawn from research into the successes and problems of the partnerships involved in 21 of the RBI projects. Three essential prerequisites to effective partnership working were identified as a good practice framework.
- Knowledge-Knowledge refers to the information that a partnership requires about the crime problem being addressed. The framework highlights the need to adopt a problem-solving approach and go through all stages of the problem-solving process-SARA. Most partnerships were committed to this approach in principle but not always in practice.
- Commitment-Whilst there was widespread recognition of the importance of partnership working, levels of practical commitment varied. Partners variously believed that they:
- lacked the capacity to engage in partnership work
- had differing agendas
- had difficulties balancing partnership and 'day-to-day' work
- felt a lack of ownership.
Addressing such issues requires that efforts are made to:
- engage all partners from the outset
- clarify expected inputs from each partner
- encourage open airing of the inevitable tensions and grievances
- encourage intra- as well as inter-partnership consultation to build genuine ownership within agencies
- highlight the benefits of partnership working for each partner.
- Capacity-Identification of the capacity of each partner to contribute to the project is a crucial part of project planning. Regardless of how they are funded, the majority of crime reduction projects require the following resources from partners:
- staff time for strategic and operational work
- staff with the necessary skills and aptitude
- scope for contracting out packages of work
- access to appropriate equipment and facilities
- access to specific information.
7.3.2 The role of publicity
Publicising burglary prevention initiatives may be an important component of a strategy, enhancing the overall impact both by enhancing community awareness and participation and by influencing offenders' perceptions of the risks, the effort required and the probability of decreased returns. For example, an effective publicity campaign and positive media coverage were included in Stockdale and Gresham's (1995) list of the key elements of a successful antiburglary strategy, and a safer cities evaluation reported that well-publicised projects were more likely to be effective (Ekblom, Law and Sutton 1996).
Evaluation of RBI projects supports this. Approximately half of the 21 schemes studied by one evaluation consortium set up local stand-alone publicity campaigns and these schemes tended to be the most successful at reducing burglary, with a clear relationship between the timing and intensity of the publicity and the burglary reduction outcomes (Johnson and Bowers 2003). An 'anticipatory benefit' was observed across 42 schemes, with a significant reduction in burglary in the three months prior to project implementation. The authors suggest that this effect was, at least in part, due to pre-implementation publicity and that publicising burglary reduction projects can, in itself, reduce burglaries. There was no comparative analysis of the types of publicity used and their relative effectiveness, and the report warns that 'consideration should be given to the message delivered-not all publicity is good publicity' (Johnson and Bowers 2003, 4).
7.3.3 Displacement of crime and the diffusion of benefits
In implementing targeted crime prevention and policing initiatives there is a concern that one of the effects may be to simply deflect offenders to other areas, other targets or other types of offending. Alternatively, focused crime prevention activity may result in a 'positive' displacement, a diffusion of benefits, and reduce offending in other geographical areas or crimes (Clarke and Weisburd 1994).
Evaluations of the RBI projects concluded that the total gains achieved across the projects were not at the expense of displacing crime into other areas (Kodz and Pease 2003). Accurate measurement of crime displacement to other geographical areas and to other crimes is demanding and beyond the scope of data available to many evaluations. Bowers, Johnson and Hirschfield (2003) undertook a detailed study of crime displacement in one of the RBI projects, developing tools and techniques to analyse the impact of the scheme. They found evidence of some geographical displacement of burglary into surrounding areas as well as the diffusion of benefits into one area in the close vicinity of the project and to untreated households within the project area. Some offenders may have switched to other types of crime, with theft from cars increasing significantly in the area, but not to theft from persons or car theft. This study highlights the power of using a finely detailed level of analysis in assessing the impact of targeted burglary reduction schemes: a substantial impact on the burglary rate was found for the sub-area in which the interventions were almost exclusively focused, while the change in the burglary rate for the larger scheme area was relatively modest.
Hesseling's (1994) review of 55 published studies which looked specifically for evidence of displacement concluded that displacement is not inevitable, and that if displacement occurs, it will be limited in scope. Most of these studies evaluated the impact of crime prevention initiatives that aimed to:
- increase the effort required to offend (e.g. target hardening)
- increase the risks of offending (e.g. increase enforcement and surveillance)
- reduce the rewards of offending (e.g. make it more difficult to dispose of goods)
- implement a combination of these strategies.
(These studies were not focused on burglary but covered a range of offence types including burglary.) Among the 40% of published studies which found no displacement effect were initiatives using a combination of crime prevention strategies and where the strategies were implemented throughout a whole geographical area. In those reporting some form of displacement, it was found to be quite limited in extent.
Hesseling also reviews six studies with known or imprisoned offenders who were asked how they reacted when they were unable to commit a particular crime. As many as two-thirds of the offenders interviewed in these groups indicated that they would seek alternative targets or other crimes. In most cases, this reported displacement was to the use of different tactics, times or places but was essentially to the same type of crime (e.g. from burglary to other property crimes). Hesseling suggested that those at the beginning of their offending career would probably be much more easily discouraged from crime than offenders in these interview studies who had extensive criminal histories.
The findings of Hesseling's review suggest that including a strategy of targeting known offenders as one part of a crime prevention initiative could substantially decrease any crime displacement that may occur. This suggestion is supported by the outcomes of, for example, the Boggart Hill (Farrell, Chenery and Pease 1998) and the Huddersfield Biting Back burglary reduction initiatives (Chenery et al. 1997), which are described in other sections of this literature review and outlined in Table 3. It is also supported by the crime displacement and the diffusion of benefit impacts from Operation Anchorage, a policing operation targeting property crime offenders in Canberra in 2001, reported by Ratcliffe and Makkai (2004). Their research found no displacement of crime, either spatially or by crime type, and found a diffusion of benefits, with significant reductions in both property and car crime in the parts of NSW which surround the ACT and therefore were outside the area covered by the operation. They suggest that a combination of deterrence, discouragement and the incapacitation of prolific offenders as a result of the operation may be able to account for this 'free policing benefit' for NSW. A deterrent effect could arise from offender perception of the increased risks of arrest during the targeting operation, and discouragement from the perceived need to put more effort into offending successfully with less likelihood of reward. Both perceptions, according to rational choice theory (Cornish and Clarke 1986-cited in Hough and Tilley 1998), make it likely that offenders will choose to modify their criminal behaviour.
Looking for evidence of displacement in the Safer Cities projects, Ekblom, Law and Sutton (1996) observed that, whilst there was some displacement where crime prevention activity was of low intensity, for medium and high intensities the opposite was the case, with a 'diffusion of benefits' to outlying areas.
7.3.4 Programme intensity
Crime prevention initiatives vary in the levels of activity occurring over time, also referred to as the intensity of the programme. Intensity can be thought of as the amount that is put into a project (input measures, e.g. the funds spent in a particular area) and also as the number of programme outcomes that are implemented (output measures, e.g. number of houses target hardened). Both measures can be correlated to the degree of burglary reduction a project achieves. Evaluation of the Safer Cities projects, which were classified as low, medium or high intensity based on the amount of funding per household, found that low intensity schemes reduced the burglary risk by 10%, medium intensity schemes by 22%, and high intensity schemes by 43%, compared with a 3% risk increase in the comparison cities (Ekblom, Law and Sutton 1996).
Evaluations of RBI projects indicated that 'dosage', or intensity of project activity, and speed of implementation had an impact on burglary reduction outcomes. One evaluation concluded that it may be the intensity of action per se which has the greatest impact, rather than any specific intervention. More detailed analysis of 21 RBI projects by Bowers, Johnson and Hirschfield (2004) found that while the success of a scheme in reducing burglary can be directly, and positively, related to overall project intensity, it is the intensity of actual implementation of measures on the ground that significantly predicts any changes in burglary rate. The study also suggests that although the most successful schemes were also the most intense, this did not necessarily make them the most cost-beneficial. While these findings may seem obvious-the success of a programme depends more on the amount of action that is taken (outputs) than on the amount of resourcing (inputs)-the study appears to be the first that has exhaustively documented and analysed both the resourcing (including contributions in kind, sunk costs, training, travel etc.) and the implementation of 'deliverables' to construct measures of input and output intensity to test hypotheses about burglary outcomes.
7.3.5 Cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit
Research on the impact of burglary reduction interventions has concentrated primarily on whether or not an intervention effectively reduces burglaries, rather than on cost-effectiveness (the cheapest way of preventing burglaries) or cost-benefit analysis (whether the costed benefits of preventing burglary are greater or smaller than the costs of the intervention).
Cost-benefit analysis of the Safer Cities burglary reduction projects in aggregate estimated that around 56,000 burglaries were prevented by the schemes, with a resultant saving to the state of £31 million-roughly the cost of the initiative (Ekblom, Law and Sutton 1996).
The RBI projects have been examined from a cost analysis perspective, with evidence that the benefits generated by the projects considered in aggregate exceeded the costs (Bowles and Pradiptyo 2004). Economic evaluation was an integral part of the brief given to each evaluation consortium. Bowles and Pradiptyo have subjected the data generated by these evaluations to cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analyses. Their study is limited by the diversity of intervention and degree of implementation across the RBI projects evaluated and by variations in the way project impacts have been estimated. Efforts at cost-benefit analysis by intervention type were compromised by these variations and also by the absence of estimates of future benefits. This skews economic analysis in favour of short-term crime prevention initiatives that will give quick results, and against longer-term interventions aimed at criminality prevention.
With these provisos, the study yielded a generalised conclusion that projects with a benefit/cost ratio greater than one were those where the principle interventions were:
- location-specific (target hardening of households)
- stakeholding (publicity and educational campaigns, watch schemes and resident involvement)
- enforcement- and offender-focused (directed policing, intelligence, disrupting offender behaviour).
The remaining interventions were characterised as:
- area-wide (environmental or CPTED improvements)
- offender-based schemes (diversion, drug rehabilitation and offender treatment programmes)
- property marking
- other (victim support, improved management and interagency working).
This second group of interventions includes those which cannot be expected to give quick reduction in burglary but which can plausibly contribute to longer-term solutions to burglary problems. For example, the American cost-benefit analysis of offender and non-offender treatment programmes (Aos et al. 2001) shows that specifically targeted programs can cost-effectively reduce criminality. (It is intended to extend this analysis to include the effectiveness of other crime prevention approaches, including policing resourcing and practice.)