Early in the last century sociologist Emile Durkheim, expressed the view that crime is not preventable. It would be easy to agree with his functionalist view of crime and deviancy and end this article now.
Larry Quinn MSc; F.Sec.II; HDip.SM; Dip.Ed; CPP Crime and deviancy allows society to develop methodologies to impose its will on constituent members and maintain its own good order. They act in setting baseline norms for societal behaviour and as a safety valve. They establish clear rules, bringing society together to act against criminal elements by highlighting problems. Normality and conformity are defined and in effect become ‘photo negatives’ of crime commission. Crime and society, both place pressure on public representatives to ensure societal expectations are upheld and met. This is especially true in anarchic societies, where all the norms of behaviour have broken down, as in areas of Limerick and Dublin. This is caused by a breakdown between culturally valued goals and perceived ability to achieve those goals. The resultant behaviour is an indication of the modes of adaptation by people in those environments, to circumstances that prevail. Such behaviour can be sub-cultural (gang) led conformity, innovation, ritualism and rioting and/or a disregard for ‘normal’ society behaviour in taking advantage of situational circumstances. In today’s society as community and practitioners attempt to prevent crime we must first heighten our understanding of the main reasons for crime commission and most commonly used prevention methodologies. Even society’s concepts of what constitutes criminality are influenced by upbringing, education, social and employment environment, age, peers and jurisdiction. These impact on demands for specific levels of crime prevention to exist in our environment. Many reasons are given for the commission of crime from societal deprivation to greed. But crime has existed since the start of time and so also has the need to develop methods to prevent it. Even extreme measures of response such as public
humiliation, torture, maiming, banishment, death and even eternal damnation have failed to prevent its occurrence. The Bible indicates the earliest recorded crime and punishment ...‘and Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him’ ...‘and the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him’ (Bible KJV, 2007:5). Today we talk in slightly less biblical terms but still have very strong expectations of solutions.
Current primary or physical crime prevention, which is the most common methodology, relies on making the environment unsuitable to crime commission. It uses access control, target hardening, territorial definition, natural surveillance, image and safe environment. It attempts to project the premise’s positive personality in an attempt to lower levels of potential opportunity and benefits to a criminal by raising real or perceived possibilities of detection and apprehension. But does this prevent crime or does it do something different like deflect it?
For successful crime prevention programmes to really exist and be effective, society must allow its guardians the means of prevention and understand the consequences.
If we have such belief in crime prevention methodologies then why do we as a society hedge our bets committing trillions of Euro each year to the insurance industry?
If as Durkheim suggested crime is not preventable then we must question our expectations of modern concepts and practices within primary, secondary and tertiary crime prevention. These function on the societal belief that a safe zone should exist to ensure crime risk can be prevented within personal and organisational spaces. This expectation can result in preventive measures being intrusive, causing a greater loss of a ‘sense of wellbeing’ than the crime. But if we continue to attempt to isolate crime commission, how does this affect our responses. Have we an over reliance on the ‘ordinariness’ of crime and can we afford to have our responses based on this reliance? Should we embrace crime and commit to a multi layered preventive approach?
For successful crime prevention programmes to really exist and be effective, society must allow its guardians the means of prevention and understand the consequences. Yet as a society we have unspoken acceptable levels of crime. It is only when those crimes become unacceptable through violence and/or volume that we demand crime prevention programmes to challenge the perpetrators. We fail to accept our responsibilities as crime pollution causers through our actions or production of desirable products. But if stolen we leave the end user, insurer or society to pay for the crime. This facilitation of crime requires as part of prevention methods that the crime polluter should pay through penalties and even prison. In responding governments, organisations and individuals at local and national levels allow themselves to become paralysed from taking action. This can be through fear of industrial action in business, retaliation in private areas and overly controlling or repressive state especially involving minority groups. Ideally prevention and subsequent methods to achieve it would be viewed the same in governmental, business and private sectors.
risk manager magazine spring 2011