Planning for Crime Prevention: A Transatlantic Perspective

By Bowers, Kate | The Town Planning Review, December 2002 | Go to article overview

Planning for Crime Prevention: A Transatlantic Perspective


Bowers, Kate, The Town Planning Review


Planning for Crime Prevention: A Transatlantic Perspective, Richard H. Schneider and Ted Kitchen, London, Routledge, 2002, xix + 331 pp., £24.99 (p/b)

This book is certainly timely in its publication and attempts to tackle one of the tougher issues in both planning and crime prevention, namely, how can these two practices be truly integrated? Local authorities and police forces throughout the UK are still grappling with the implications of the Crime and Disorder Act, section 17 of which specifies that local authorities are required to consider crime prevention issues in connection to all their other duties. The general message of this book is twofold: first, it is advocating a partnership approach to `place-based' crime prevention involving both professionals and local communities and, second, it is calling for the accumulation of more empirical evidence in identifying `what works, what doesn't, what's promising' (Sherman et al., 1997) in attempts to reduce both crime and the fear of crime. In delivering this message the authors draw on policy development and case studies from the UK and the US and compare and contrast between the approaches, a theme which is taken throughout the book.

The information is organised into three parts. Part I sets the context and introduces some of the key ideas and theories of place-based crime prevention planning. This kicks off with a general discussion about how important tackling crime and improving safety is for communities, and informs us that this is an important quality of life issue to many people; it explains the difference between peoplefs perception of risk (or fear of crime) and its true levels; and it gives some rather alarming figures on the costs of crime. Furthermore, the reader gets a commentary on the various methods by which crime has been contained: through punishment, through treatment of offenders, through treatment of crime targets and through place-based strategies. We are also given an account of crime rates and trends in both the UK and the US, which concludes that, in general over the last twenty years, the UK has been showing increases, whereas the US has shown decreases. While this is interesting, it leaves the reader a little frustrated since we get little detail of how this varies at the more local level, an issue which is central in the place-based approach.

Chapter 3 is a gem, as it gives a historical account of the way in which humans have built defensive measures into their dwellings since they gave up on being hunter-gatherers. It includes illustrated case studies showing, for instance, the Tower of Jericho, a `motte and bailey' castle construction and the structure of Hadrian's Wall. Chapter 4 covers the definitions of what Schneider and Kitchen term `four theories' of place-based crime prevention; that is, defensible space, crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED), situational crime prevention and environmental criminology. This is a brave attempt to categorise some of the important issues here, but the extent to which environmental criminology can be seen as a `theory' and not a field of study in its own right is debatable to say the least. The chapter is useful, however, for bringing together the information that practitioners, students and academics alike need in order to get a grasp of the philosophies that place-based prevention is built upon.

Having assimilated the contextual information covered in Part I, the reader is keen to get his or her teeth into some meaty examples of policy and practice in place-based prevention and allow the fairly disconnected information from Part I to fall into place. This appears to be the purpose of Part II, entitled `Policy and Practice'. It begins with an account of American policy and practice, which we are informed is fairly fragmented and locally driven due to the structure of the American federal system. This produces great variability in the programmes adopted, which has the advantage that it allows innovation, but the disadvantage that prevention programmes are sometimes not seen as a priority by local agencies. …

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