Ways to Reduce Crime

No society is free from crime and it is to be accepted that “crime is an ever-present condition, even as sickness, disease, and death” (Tannenbaum, 1943:2 as cited in Teeters, 1995:63). In Malta and elsewhere there is widespread agreement about few things. One area which everyone agrees about is crime prevention, especially since it is beneficial to society in general as this leads to a reduction in crime. As opposed to the commission of crime, methodological crime prevention techniques are not as sensational to merit much attention. In this article we propose ideas which the state, society and citizens themselves could consider in preventing crime. Traditionally, societies relied heavily on the criminal justice system as the major solution to this problem, but little importance was given to social solutions such as education. People tend to think of police work as only entailing the investigation and prosecution of criminal offences. However, the police are also bound to prevent crime by being involved in the social fabric of a country through a pro-active educational role. While most people are aware of techniques to prevent burglary, not everyone is cognizant of methods that can reduce the possibility of being a victim of modern high-tech crimes. In this way, the police have a major role to play in teaching people ways to avoid falling prey to cyber-stalkers, for example. Apart from being law enforcers and teachers, in many instances the police also act as akin to social workers in an attempt to either prevent further crimes or to discourage certain individuals from indulging in criminal behaviour. This social aspect of policing can also contribute to community policing where citizens themselves join forces with the police in protecting their neighbourhood. Given that crime is embedded within the fabric of society, the police cannot universally prevent crime and consequently they have to investigate committed crimes and charge offenders in Court. It follows that the Law Courts have a role and duty to reduce crime. The Courts must ensure that citizens do not look at them as purely punitive but rather as contributing towards the overall enhancement of society. Like the police, the Courts too can play an educational role in prevention. This can be done through judgements where, rather than pronouncing legal punishment, they seek to rehabilitate both the convicted person and society in general. By this we mean programmes such as community work where society can benefit through the honest efforts of the offender, who would feel useful in his or her contribution. Rapidity in criminal proceedings can also indirectly reduce crime. It reduces frustration and exasperation as those charged in Court will have greater respect for justice which serves as a deterrent to re-offending. Tackling the root causes of crime is an important way to go about reducing crime. Crimes can vary in their typology and methods of execution. Notwithstanding these differences, most crimes are the result of certain risk factors, such as poverty, unemployment, lack of meritocracy and unreasonable taxation. Other less obvious causal factors of crime include low quality tourism and the influence of violence in movies and computer games. Some of these risk factors can be addressed by a number of crime prevention initiatives which may include activities targeting the most vulnerable. Research studies indicate that intervening early in one’s life diminishes the likelihood of embarking on or persisting in a criminal career. It is proven that activities such as organised after-school programmes have a positive impact on reducing crime. In the United States, a four-year programme which provided after-school activities, including peer tutoring, homework assistance and community services, resulted in a 71 per cent drop in arrests (UN, 2000). Social prevention might involve a range of simultaneous initiatives. It is a multi-disciplinary approach transcending various fields of the welfare system and beyond, including health, housing, education, civil society groups and so on. A good educational system coupled with no job prospects leads to nowhere. Hence, social prevention necessitates a support network from the community, school, family and broader social infrastructure. Such a multi-agency approach to crime prevention does not call for a reduction in existing functions of the criminal justice system, but rather seeks to re-engineer the roles of the Courts and the police in tackling crime and delinquent behaviour at its roots. References: Teeters, N.K. (1995) ‘Fundamentals of Crime Prevention’ Federal Probation 59 (3 63-68. United Nations (UN) (2000) Tenth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders: Preventing Crime and Cutting its Costs, www.un.org/events/10thcongress/2088c.htm#top. (ac­cessed May 3, 2012). Dr Licari is a university lecturer and holds a doctorate on Social Commitment in Literature. Police Inspector Gafà is a member of the Malta Police Economic Crimes Unit. He holds a Masters degree in public policy and is currently reading for a Masters in security and risk management. Credit : Times of Malta