Benjamin Franklin said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and this quote remains relevant, particularly regarding crime prevention. Not only does crime prevention help keep communities safe, but it also can save lives and save money. Crime prevention principles are implemented in many ways, but it takes everyone’s participation for robust crime prevention programs to work.
“Crime prevention cannot work without you. The importance of crime prevention comes from the involvement of the community working together with law enforcement and criminologists,” says Richard Arrington, chief executive officer for the Crime Prevention Center for Training and Services.
October is Crime Prevention Month and is about advocating for reducing crime and personal safety. Sponsored by the National Crime Prevention Council, this month is important to increase awareness with legislators, other decision-makers, and the general public to ensure that crime prevention continues to receive funding and support.
Continue reading to learn from a foremost expert in crime prevention on what it is, how it is implemented, and how to get involved with National Crime Prevention Month.
Rick Arrington is the chief executive officer, founder, and lead consultant/instructor of the Crime Prevention Center for Training and Services. He has over 26 years of experience in crime prevention in various capacities, including as a military policeman and for the City of Roanoke and the Virginia Police Department. He was first certified as a specialist in 1996. He was certified in the early 1990s in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) at the University of Louisville, KY, National Crime Prevention Institute.
Mr. Arrington has published numerous articles on CPTED and other prevention applications in various trade periodicals. He was published twice in 2020 in Police Chief Magazine, and in 2021 in Police1 News.
To understand why crime prevention is important, it is necessary first to understand what it is. “Crime prevention was defined in the 1970s at the National Crime Prevention Institute as the anticipation, recognition, and appraisal of crime risk and the initiation of some action to reduce or remove it,” says Mr. Arrington. “Once we identify what is likely to happen, we can apply all of the crime prevention strategies we have to prevent the crime before it ever happens.”
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “prevention is the first imperative of justice.” They employ multiple strategies to help stop crime before it even starts, including working with government leadership, socio-economic development and inclusion, cooperation and partnerships between government agencies and the community, and increasing the knowledge base with proven practices.
Preventing crime has a wide array of benefits to individuals, communities, and the government. “First off, crime prevention is cheaper than the alternative,” shares Mr. Arrington. According to a 2021 survey by Vanderbilt University, the more than 120 million crimes committed in the US in 2017 created a financial impact of over $2.6 trillion.
Mr. Arrington continues, “Secondly, it is more acceptable to prevent something rather than punish it. It is just like going to a physician to prevent getting sick. Because when we do get sick, we end up with pain, ongoing problems, and a big bill. Crime prevention does the same thing as preventative medicine only on the criminology side of things.”
There are many different methods to approach crime prevention.
According to Mr. Arrington, “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design is one of the best methods because it addresses social interaction to make a space an unattractive target.” The International Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Association defines Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) as “a multi-disciplinary approach of crime prevention that uses urban and architectural design and the management of built and natural environments. CPTED strategies aim to reduce victimization, deter offender decisions that precede criminal acts, and build a sense of community among inhabitants so they can gain territorial control of areas, reduce crime, and minimize fear of crime.”
While it is often underutilized, CPTED can be relatively easy to implement. “One example is where we might redirect people using control access mechanisms such as shrubbery, lighting, and pathways to control the users of the space and direct them to where we want them to enter. Then the entry can be easily observed. So, we have taken a potential victim and moved them to a safer entry point, which makes it more difficult for the criminal to find them because they don’t want to be seen,” explains Mr. Arrington.
Other crime prevention techniques can be as simple as working with local citizens. “A great technique is community engagement. Community engagement is the process where the community is involved in solving crime problems,” shares Mr. Arrington. “It works because of trust that has been established between the community and law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement does have a part in it, but the community has a role to play as well.”
He continues, “One of the outcomes of a community engagement program is improved trust in the police. And once you enhance trust, you also enhance what I call a force multiplier. The community trusts the police enough to call, so they’re more likely to observe things happening and notify authorities knowing that it’s going to be handled appropriately.”
Crime prevention can be everyone’s responsibility, and getting involved with Crime Prevention Month is an excellent place to start: “Many law enforcement agencies have volunteer programs where you can specifically ask to volunteer in crime prevention. They will train you to do simple assessments, like home assessments for security,” encourages Mr. Arrington.
“There are other things you can do, such as start your own neighborhood watch. Law enforcement will come and train you and your community to do this. You can also get involved in your local government and ask them to do a crime prevention assessment of your neighborhood or community.”
However, when volunteering, it is important to know what you want to d to be the most useful and engaged. “I would tell anyone who’s going to volunteer to tell the department what you are specifically interested in doing. Don’t just say, I want to volunteer, because you may end up sorting papers, which might not be what you want to do. You want something that excites you,” Mr. Arrington suggests.
Another way to get involved with Crime Prevention Month is to get educated. Mr. Arrington recommends researching “the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing. They have a wealth of information about general crime and crime prevention through problem-solving.” Housed at Arizona State University, the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing covers all types of crimes, from gangs to robbery, misuse of police resources, and fraud. For each crime, they have aggregated resources and knowledge on how the police can reduce the harm caused by that crime.
If you or someone you know is a victim of crime, there are resources available to help. Contact your local police department or the National Center for Victims of Crime at 1-800-FYI-CALL for more information.
Kimmy Gustafson’s expertise and passion for investigative storytelling extends to the world of forensics, where she brings a wealth of knowledge and captivating narratives to readers seeking insights into this intriguing world. She has interviewed experts on little-known topics, such as how climate crimes are investigated and prosecuted, and has written for ForensicsColleges.com since 2019.
Kimmy has been a freelance writer for more than a decade, writing hundreds of articles on a wide variety of topics such as startups, nonprofits, healthcare, kiteboarding, the outdoors, and higher education. She is passionate about seeing the world and has traveled to over 27 countries. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. When not working, she can be found outdoors, parenting, kiteboarding, or cooking.