Crime Prevention through Sport and Physical Activity

Article excerpt

Crime prevention is not the primary objective oí sport and physical activity, but it might be an extremely positive byproduct. This paper examines a variety of sporting activities that appear to have had a beneficial effect in helping young people steer away from trouble. It examines wilderness programs, programs in which youth participate and learn skills, and programs in which the sense of belonging reduces vandalism and develops other pro-socia1 behaviours.

Of particular interest are sports carnivals in Aboriginal communities. When the carnivals (organised and run by Aborigines for Aborigines) are held, they act as catalysts for social and traditional cohesion. Harmful behaviours such as petrol sniffing, heavy drinking, and violence are prohibited for the duration of the canti ? al, and the prohibitions hold in the short term.

At another level, elite sporting clubs can reach out into their communities. The example in this paper is the (British) Liverpool Football Club, which has had successes in quit smoking programs, coaching, truancy reduction, and even reducing the number of hoax calls to the local fire brigade.

This is the first exploratory paper for a project in conjunction with the Australian Sports Commission. The Australian Institute of Criminology would welcome comments on this paper, and would like to learn about any activities that may have an implicit or an explicit crime prevention outcome.

Adam Graycar

Director

Can sport and physical activity be used as strategies for crime prevention? The evidence is encouraging; it suggests that with careful planning, sport and physical activity have crime prevention potential. Young people can personally benefit from these programs. This paper outlines some processes by which this may occur, and makes the following conclusions.

* Sport and physical activity can combine with other interventions to reduce crime in particular groups and communities.

* It appears that sport and physical activity can reduce crime by providing accessible, appropriate activities in a supportive social context. In other words, sport and physical activity must be connected positively within the social fabric of groups and communities.

* Sport and physical activity-based interventions must be conducted in collaboration with a range of other strategies and sectors.

* Elite sporting bodies can be involved in programs directly aimed at particular crimes or communities.

* It is essential to consider how the design, location, and funding of sporting and recreational infrastructure contributes to social cohesion, and avoids taking sport and physical activity out of its social context.

* The cases do not suggest "one size fits all" strategies; instead, they represent the value of community development approaches to tailor programs to particular needs. Nevertheless, this should not prevent us from suggesting common strategies and processes, and collecting examples of good practice.

* Recreation and sport programs established for the explicit purpose of crime prevention should be subject to rigorous evaluation.

Meaning of Sport and Physical Activity

Sport and physical activity play a significant role in contemporary society. Indeed, sport and physical activity have great meaning for many people. Groups of people come together around team activities such as netball, football, and rugby. Some activities are more individualised, such as surfing, skateboard riding, and ballet. Participants may experience rewards from strenuous activity, but there can be other rewards as well.

Sport and physical activity have the potential to improve the quality of life. In the 19th century, Thomas Arnold made sport a central part of the education curriculum for boys in England, in the hope that moral education could be imparted, and as a form of "character building". At the time, women were also pushing for the same educational and athletic opportunities as men. …