Sunday, October 6, 2013

The decline of crime prevention

Curtailing UK crime prevention funding - photo by IgnisFatus, Creative Commons

Calvin Beckford is one of the founder members of the UKs Designing Out Crime Association. He joined the London Metropolitan Police Service in 1978. He was one of the UK representatives for a European project on good practice models of crime prevention across Europe. In 2005 he joined ACPO Secured by Design, a police initiative for designing out crime. He currently runs The Crime Prevention Website.


The Metropolitan London police now employs 32 Crime Prevention Design Advisers, one per London Borough, and there are perhaps 6 or 7 'old fashioned' Crime Prevention Officers left. Crime prevention advice is now delivered by way of leaflet, website (including mine as they link to it) and by a visit from a Police Community Support Officer, who try their best, but are largely untrained.

The economic depression, I think, simply speeded up the process of downsizing the police crime prevention service here, but I'm still not entirely sure why it's happened.

My own experience seems to have been different from my contemporaries insomuch that I had tremendous support from my Commanders and essentially became one of the 'right-hand men'; especially in respect to partnership working with local authorities and other partners.


The rot really started during my 5 years working for ACPO's Secured by Design (2004 - 10).  During that period most of our supportive senior commanders across the country began to retire and the ones coming up behind seemed to know next to nothing about the positive effects of CPTED or even good old fashioned Situational CP.

Then the depression hit and then we had a change in government to a Conservative led coalition who don't like anything to stand in the way of making money.

For example, in spite of our efforts and evidence that building secure (SBD) homes was profitable they only see SBD as an obstruction to house building and have been less than supportive. They got rid of a raft of planing guidance (which included our CP stuff) and I know that SBD are fighting a rear guard action to keep crime prevention on the agenda.


While this was going on the Community Safety Departments at our Local Authorities have been stripped to the bone. When I worked in Camden in central London I had two planning officers assigned by the local authority to help me 'design out crime' across the Borough - we did a huge amount of work, which i know has prevented a lot of crime.  These positions are long-gone.

How can our government do this?  Well they have the current luxury of falling crime figures, which I am sure has a lot to do with reduced opportunity, so this is the very moment they can do these things.

These are difficult times.