This chapter looks at how policy and practice in relation to crime and the design of the built environment have evolved in recent years. Britain is distinguished from the USA in these terms (the subject of Chapter 5) by several factors, but one of the most significant is the existence in Britain, particularly during the 1990s, of a strong central government policy thrust in this area, framing and hopefully complementing initiatives at the local level. This chapter therefore has this component running through it as a consistent thread, while Chapter 8 has a more local focus as it looks in much more detail at three case studies of particular types of initiatives.
One potential consequence of the stance adopted for the purposes of this chapter is that it can create the impression that the British experience is characterised primarily by uniformity. 1 In comparison with the American experience which has been described in Chapters 5 and 6, it is undoubtedly true that a primary distinguishing feature of the British approach in recent years has been both a strong central government policy thrust and the creation through legislation of a common framework within which most of the local work in this field is expected to take place; thus in a book of this nature it is both appropriate and necessary for a chapter with the title 'British Policy and Practice' to concentrate largely on this superstructure. However, this should not be taken as implying that the British system is lacking in diversity or in the willingness to experiment at the local level. The differences that exist in British society, not only between its urban and rural areas and its economically well favoured and less favoured regions but also in terms of the very segmented nature of many of its urban areas, in which neighbourhoods characterised by relative poverty frequently sit alongside those marked by relative affluence, inevitably mean that there is both a need and an opportunity to respond in different ways to crime prevention issues. It would grossly misrepresent the efforts of large numbers of people in these localities to imply that all they do is sit and wait for Government directives before taking action in this field. There is, therefore, a very considerable variety of initiatives to be found both throughout Britain as we have defined it for these purposes (and indeed throughout the length and breadth of the United Kingdom), to which it would be impossible to do full justice without the kind of detailed survey information that is not at present to hand.