Crime Reduction through Product Design

By Lester, Andrew | Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, May 2001 | Go to article overview

Crime Reduction through Product Design


Lester, Andrew, Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice


The concept of crime reduction through product design (CRPD) has recently evolved to provide security of physical objects and data against criminal activity. It is argued that protective measures incorporated into products (for example, vehicle immobilisers, tracking systems and even simple locking devices) can prevent these items from becoming targets or instruments of crime.

This paper explores CRPD principles, technologies and issues. It examines crimes which can be reduced, current and future designs for crime control, and considerations such as user acceptance, design effectiveness and crime displacement. The potential for increasingly widespread use of CRPD is also discussed.

Crime reduction through product design offers a new way of thinking about crime prevention. Technological developments will only enhance the capacity of protective designs to act as successful crime reduction tools in the future.

Adam Graycar

Director

Principles of Crime Reduction through Product Design

Crime reduction through product design (CRPD) involves integrating protective features into products in order to reduce their potential to become targets of criminal activity (such as theft, fraud and damage), as well as preventing their use as instruments of crime. The term "product" encompasses any physical property and forms of currency, as well as electronic information and computer software.

Grabosky (1998) has previously examined applications of technological crime control in a number of fields. This paper focuses specifically on measures incorporated into products for security, regardless of the environment in which they are placed and of the persons by whom they can be accessed.

In most cases, the design features are distinct from the core product and are not required for it to perform its intended function (s). As such, security technology may either be combined with goods at their time of production (such as digital watermarks embedded in computer software) or obtained separately and added at a later time (such as encryption methods for data protection). In either case, CRPD emphasises integration between a product and its protective features, which is a more effective and efficient approach than later relying on standard target-hardening measures for security (Clarke 1999, p. 35).

Depending on the particular product and its design features, CRPD is instrumental in either or both of the following:

* prevention of offences; and

* facilitation of an effective and efficient response following an offence.

Most desirably, emphasis is placed upon the first aim, although the second may have a significant role in the deterrence of crime and the apprehension of offenders.

Reduction in the Potential of Products as Targets of Crime

In terms of products becoming targets of crime, CRPD primarily provides counter-measures against the following offences:

* theft;

* fraud, counterfeiting and copyright infringements;

* tampering; and

* graffiti and vandalism.

This facet of CRPD is largely limited to offences against property, although designs reducing the attractiveness of items may indirectly avert violent confrontations such as robbery or home invasions.

Reduction in the Use of Products as Instruments of Crime

Protection against products becoming instruments of crime can impact considerably on offences both against the person and against property, as demonstrated by the following examples.

Technology that renders firearms inoperable by anyone other than their intended user(s) can reduce instances of homicide, robbery, hostage-taking, sieges, gang warfare, suicide and criminal operations such as dealing in drugs or even arms themselves. Additionally, this can prevent police officers' weapons being used against them (Grabosky 1998) as well as linking firearms used in offences to a small number of possible operators. …

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