Improving Crime Prevention Knowledge and Practice
Homel, Peter, Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice
Foreword | Research from Australia and overseas consistently demonstrates that the effectiveness of many crime prevention initiatives is reduced by a continual lack of access to adequate crime prevention knowledge and technical skills. In particular, the internationalisation of crime has highlighted the need for renewed effort aimed at increasing the efficiency of knowledge transfer, skills development, project and program management ability, and performance measurement and evaluation capacity. This paper suggests the development of a comprehensive national framework for a technical support program. This will help improve the active dissemination of crime prevention knowledge, including research findings, evaluation and effective interventions; the development of physical and online resources, toolkits and other materials to assist in improving the skills and capacity of those engaged in crime prevention work; identifying and working with key training providers to assist in the development of appropriate content for training and workforce development relevant to the wide variety of crime prevention practitioners; and a program of research and evaluation work directed towards improving the evidence base for effective crime prevention interventions.
Addressing the Security Council in 2004, the United Nations Secretary General observed that '[i]n matters of justice and the rule of law, an ounce of prevention is worth significantly more than a pound of cure... prevention is the first imperative of justice' (United Nations 2004: 1). In other words, the prevention of crime is a keystone requirement for the establishment of a safe and secure society, the achievement of which is a prerequisite for sound economic growth through continuing business investment as well as community wellbeing and cohesion.
Evidence from several countries indicates that implementing and sustaining effective and efficient crime prevention initiatives can contribute significantly to the achievement of safe and secure societies. For example, along with many other developed, Western countries, Australia has experienced significant declines in almost all categories of crime over the past decade. Recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) confirm a continuing decline in crime in Australia, with a drop of around 10 percent in most categories of crime from 2006 to 2007 (ABS 2008). The overall victimisation rate in 2005 was six percent, compared with nine percent in 2002 (ABS 2006). Significantly, the rates for a range of property crimes in Australia are now at their lowest levels since records were first collected (ABS 2008).
A similar picture emerges from other parts of the world. Canada, for example, is continuing to experience a decline in its crime rates. In fact, the most recent figures for reported crime in Canada indicate that the 2007 national crime rate is at its lowest for 30 years, with a seven percent decline during the previous year representing the third consecutive annual decrease (Dauvergne 2008).
Similar patterns exist in the United Kingdom, where figures show that crime in England and Wales has fallen by 42 percent, following a peak in 1995, such that the risk of being a victim of crime is now only 24 percent compared with 40 percent in 1 995 (Kershaw, Nicholas & Walker 2008).
It is more difficult to make definitive statements about recent crime trends in the United States due to changes in data collection methodologies used for the National Crime Victimisation Survey. However, it appears that violent and property crime rates in urban and suburban areas of the United States remained stable between 2005 and 2006 (Rand & Catalano 2007).
A report on the most recent International Criminal Victimisation Survey, conducted during 2004-05, shows that crime levels in 2004 had declined to a level similar to that of the late 1980s (van Djik, van Kestern & Smit 2007). …