Friday, November 18, 2011

Preventing crime. Like going to the doctor?

Apologies for some overindulgence. No stories this week. No new observations. Just a rant about calling a thing for what it is.

"Where does it hurt?" asks the doctor.
"Let me see if I can feel where the pain is."
"It started this morning after breakfast."
"What did you eat?"
"Eggs, Here, I brought leftovers."
"I'll send them to the lab. When tests come back, we'll prescribe the right medicine."

It's called allopathic medicine. Symptoms - Diagnosis - Prescription. It's based on symptoms.

Same in crime prevention. Crime shows up. Cops or prevention folk do analysis. A strategy emerges and they try it out. Allopathic crime prevention. We all do it, me included: situational prevention, CPTED, problem-oriented policing, Design Out Crime. Symptoms first! Makes sense, right? Except for what's missing…


Allopathic prevention prevents subsequent incidents and that's good. Just like going to the doctor. But it's not really "prevention" when it hasn't prevented it.

Medicine is growing out of its allopathic adolescence. It is evolving into integrative medicine - nutrition, stress management, alternative therapies (good family medicine probably always did that). It teaches us how to live a healthy lifestyle to prevent illness.

Meanwhile, far too much crime prevention still envisions safety as a product of strategies applied to a problem. Just like allopathic medicine.

Here's the thing; most serious crime emerges from dysfunctional families, broken neighborhoods, and personal troubles like drugs. You prevent it by getting into those places to help neighborhoods help themselves.

Let's call allopathic prevention what it is - crime repression. It represses what emerges and hacks at the branches. Prevention digs at the roots.

Rant over.