When you think of crime prevention, the first things that may spring to mind are the physical measures you can take such as window and door locks, CCTV cameras, alleygating and alarms.
There is clear evidence these prevent offences by making it difficult or unattractive for the offender to commit them. It is also known that for every pound invested in this type of prevention, it is more than recouped.
What is more tricky is putting a figure on the value of initiatives including the Violence Reduction Unit – which focuses on preventing crime not through physical measures, but through tackling why somebody may choose to offend in the first place.
The unit’s research has explored the causes of offending and through this we know that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) – things like domestic abuse, substance misuse, having a caregiver in prison or divorce and separation – increase the likelihood of a young person going on to be an offender. There are also social determinants to consider such as housing, employment and access to education and healthcare.
There are opportunities to intervene in these situations. We work with our partners to reduce the impact these circumstances have on a young person and the path they subsequently choose to take in life. For example, giving skills to a young man who fell out of education because his parents neglected him may lead to employment, income, self-esteem and pride. All of this will reduce the likelihood of offending, and ultimately change lives for the better.
In my policing career I have met countless victims of crime and know that being a victim can and does sadly change lives for the worse – emotionally, physically and financially. Investing in prevention is about protecting future victims, not about ‘going soft’ on potential future offenders.
The Criminal Justice system is expensive too – investigating a crime and bringing an offender to justice costs a lot of money. Preventing the crime from taking place at all will be cheaper in the long run.
All of this is why I support an approach to tackling crime which not only seeks to punish those who offend, but also takes all appropriate prevention measures at the earliest opportunities. It may be hard to put a value on the benefits of this work – but for me, those benefits are priceless.