Situational Crime Prevention

Situational Crime Prevention Is An Effective Guide For Security Practice
By: Lim Cheng Leong Wilson, MSc


Crime appears to be a commonplace as it is rudimentary that grave offense against morality or social order may occur any time and at any place; and without warning most of the time. It is clear that all security professionals and practitioners employ effective guide using efficient cum well fitted modes of crime prevention to preclude; if feasible, the violation of a rule, regulation, propriety, and so forth; especially a breach of the law.

This is inherent because situational crime prevention, also known as ‘primary crime prevention’ which University of Leicester, Centre for the Study of Public Order (CSPO); now known as Department of Criminology, (1998: 321). It has well indicated ‘that it is the prime and principal techniques involving altering the condition in which offences are committed.’

Such preventive measures are excellent operatives as they are targeted to arrest any transgression by removing the chance to commit it.

The technology of situation restraint have had become the main instruments for security practice.

Moreover, it stresses that opportunities for the commission of crimes can be made less desirable by ‘increasing the effort required to commit the offence, increasing the perceived risk of being caught, or reducing the anticipated rewards; and also inducing the guilt or shame involved in committing the offence.’

The systems of increment of perceived effort are target hardening, access control, deflecting offenders, and controlling facilitators. The methods of the growth of perceived risks come in the form of ingress cum egress screening, formal surveillance, surveillance by employees, and natural surveillance. The procedures for diminishing expected rewards can be efficaciously undertaken by target removal, identifying property, reducing temptation, and denying benefits. The final category of technique is the inducing of guilt or shame that includes rule setting, strengthening moral condemnation, controlling disinhibitors, and the facilitating of compliance.

The importance of such circumstantial offence inhibition can be seen as productive cum efficacious lead for security practice, because many of these crimes can be well prevented if primary measures are in place;

As CSPO Text (1998: 7); quote ‘Some of the more basic functions of security such as awareness, avoidance, planning, protection, alarm, deterrence and reaction appear to be as old as mankind. They originated in the survival instincts and the related impulses of self-defence.’

Increasing the Perceived Effort

The increment in the degree of such awareness, through the senses, (i.e. see, hear, feel,) in order to expend any or even much more physical and mechanical energy to get illegal things done and/or produced by exertion would be a prudent move. The solidification of target is well recognised and applied for such basic prevention, as cash and precious consignments can be guarded by strengthened safes and toughened glass; while motor vehicles can be hardened by using reliable locks, approved and tested steering column locks, and graded immobilisors. The chief aim of such strengthening is to deter, thwart and prevent the commissioning of crime.

The birth of the Cash In Transit (CIT) is very effective as the Auxiliary Police in Singapore are armed with hand weapons and armoured vehicles are used to convey cash and precious goods.

Access control is also one of the historical form of primary crime control; namely fences, gates, locks, bars, and grilles. Such methods involves the exercising of authority over any act of coming near a passage or approaching an entrance; so as to be able to restrain, curb, regulate or verify bona-fide access.

Fences are basically structures of rails and wire erected as an enclosure, barrier, or boundary. Gates are movable barriers that closes or opens, as a passage through the fences or walls. Locks are mechanical fastening devices having bolts secured or released by keys, dials, and the like, to occlude unauthorised entry. Bars are commonly evenly shaped metal long in proportion to its width and thickness, widely used as levers, barriers, and fasteners. Grilles are gratings and open metalwork, frequently serving as screens, and dividers.

Deflecting of offenders are ideas to make offenders turn aside or causing them to swerve from their course of felony, and such measures are tender form of access control. Efficient guides to foil any intrusion would be the effective grooming of territoriality, natural surveillance, safe image, and; a steadfast and protected milieu. (CSPO: 326). Territoriality is employed to limit the jurisdiction of a locality and being well organised for security defences. Examples are: constricted street entrances, dead ends, and blind alleys, Natural surveillance belongs to or exists in its nature of good architectural design such as overlooked entrance lobbies and well-placed windows, which permit one to identify and observe movements. (Ibid: 327).

Matt Hopkins (1998: 301) states that ‘if incidences of abuse and violence do occur in the business, the shop layout may be altered to protect members of staff. For example, the shop counter may be raised and made wider to create greater physical space … …’ It was opined that such modifications could enhance natural surveillance. A safe image is rather indispensable, as it is the way a territory or locality should be popularly perceived as safe and secure.

Moreover, a safe environment and surroundings that are well separated to preclude, lessen, or isolate intruders, would be competent. Effective traffic controls like the systems of barriers and one-way manoeuvre can lessen the quality or condition being permitted to gain access. (CSPO: 327).

The installation of road humps and anti-speeding strips are worthwhile measures.

Facilitators are elements make easier or convenient, and it does assist the ease of committance of offences. Therefore, removal or restraint of such element would increase the exertion to expedite. Weapons like handguns or pistols shall be duly prohibited as a sentence of ‘outlawry’. (Ibid: 329).

However, Michael North (1998: 314) argues ‘A gun in the hands of a good person is no danger to anyone except the bad guys … … It is impossible to predict if, when and for how long a “good man will turn bad”.’

Increasing the Perceived Risks

The continuous growth of sensed chance of encountering harm, peril, hazard, or any loss incurred while committing the offence are capable tactics to hinder would be offenders.

This is largely due to the fact that such preventive measures are capable of being persuaded or submissive to concealed working and schemes for crime prevention purposes. (CSPO: 330).

Entry and exit screening are useful forms of guarding, security and protection. The automatic car park barriers is one sophisticated system that count on egress screening techniques; capable of tracking the elapsed time, payment due and the authentication of the driver and vehicle’s owner, and the like.

Comparatively, as for the retail trade, the advent of electronic article surveillance (EAS), commonly known as ‘tagging’, are essentially security items supplied, adorned, fitted, or marked, to merchandise for protection against pilferage, and akin crimes. However, its limitations are probably observed in busy stores where entrances and exits are always crowded; and it can be hard to find out; even by experiments and/or preliminary investigations when there are activation of alarms. It was evaluated that EAS, when effectively deployed and exercised can occlude unnecessary decrease in value and/or quantity of goods, for example, which has an understandable profit being reaped. (Ibid: 330).

Bamfield (1994: 159) highlighted that ‘Some shoplifters may be deterred by any EAS system; but other more skilled or more daring thieves will be much more resistant to change in their criminal behaviour.’

Formal surveillance that are based on established methods or forms of vigil cum close watch kept over one, as a suspect; to increase the risks of prospective offenders.

It was seen that bobby on the beat; which was analysed as functional as they are able to screen through by vehicle or foot in a locality, for the purpose of guarding or inspecting.

Security monitoring via camera, especially by Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) as a good course of action complemented with other forms of physical and manpower security were seen to have deterrent cum detective credits.

However, it was evaluated that if CCTV of lower end value were procured and installed; and mediocrely superintended, the decadence of preventive measures will preponderate. (CSPO: 335). Beck and Willis (1994: 193) states that ‘Nearly three-quarters of customers (73 per cent) stated that they were reassured by the presence of CCTV. This is a considerable vote of confidence.’ It was evident that; ‘91.9 per cent of staff attitudes towards CCTV after its installation were very reassured and assured.’ (Ibid: 196).

Disputedly; ‘If would-be shoplifters are able to calculate that the chances of apprehension are very small or negligible, the deterrent potential of CCTV is reduced.’ (Ibid: 198). The authors discussed that; ‘CCTV may be seen as operating to the detriment of privacy, free association and other civil liberties. This study offers evidence that shoppers and retail staff alike generally find CCTV reassuring and perceive it to be an effective weapon in the fight against store crime and shoplifting.’ (Ibid: 200).

Burglar alarms are of paramount value in arresting crimes; especially thefts, because it is able to draw or cause ‘gatekeepers’ in the control room or personnel on prowl to respond.

Such physical force will enable the apprehension or cessation to unwarranted actions that are dangerous or unlawful. The arrival of panic or duress buttons and alarm monitoring systems, reinforced by the round the clock operations control room and the alarm response teams deserve credits.

There are also disadvantages if the response time exceeds the time taken to commission the offence and flee from the scene. (CSPO: 335-336).

Surveillance by employees are vital as the yieldings from positive gate-keepers, for example; if ‘passive’ roles are materialised, that it would be effective to prevent shoplifting; frequently resulting from one’s own impulse; since staff of a retail establishment are vigilant on duty. It was also noted that blind corners of a store might be less robustly monitored. (Ibid: 336).

It was argued that many incidents of abuse and violence occur when employees are alone. An easy solution to this would be to reduce the times that they are alone, thus increasing guardianship and deterring assailants.

However, for small businesses this may be difficult due to a limited number of staff, though steps could be taken to ensure that workers are not alone at times when the business feels there may be high risks of abuse or violence occurring (Matt Hopkins, 1998: 301-302). It is obvious that more staff on duty would increase the effectiveness of employees’ surveillance.

Employees are frequently allocated to act as ‘place managers’ if CCTVs are installed to improve the security effectiveness; because employees feel more assured. Conversely, if CCTVs are deployed without in-depth analyses, it definitely bound to be destined for failure (CSPO : 337).

Natural surveillance can be achieved through ‘defensible’ space and ‘Watch’ schemes.

Defensible space is a good cum structured form of natural vigilance as it is capable to defend and/or protect an area or interval between points, localities, and objects; from perils.

But, it is not useful if employed in industrial estates because it tends to be forsaken and ‘abandoned’ during hours of darkness. (Ibid: 338).

‘Watch’ schemes are renowned as these projects and systems are able to look after a locality attentively and also constantly be on the alert.

However, such schemes are to be assisted by the local police; if not it is deemed ineffective. (Ibid: 339-342).

Reducing the Anticipated Rewards

Precautions to cut down expected rewards are to be employed to make offenders cease from committing crimes.

Reward reducing strategies are target removal, denying benefits, reducing temptation, and identifying property. (CSPO: 342).

The system of target removal lies behind the precaution to decrease; for example, the amount of cash in the safe or tills against burglary or robbery.

However, such measures can be inefficient if it is not accompanied by conspicuous notices and/or signages; which are formal written or printed communication publicly displayed in the act to forewarn in order to make aware of a caution of diminished returns if robbery strikes.

Denying benefits are essentially, the refusal to give profits to the offenders’ advantage and a long term of withholdment in general.

Cash; for example, can be competently secured using safes and/or brief-cases capable of covering their contents with permanent ink, leaving marks or stains which are very difficult to erase. The set back is that even the cash in the safe can be ineffective if it is poorly secured or located. (Ibid: 344).

Reducing temptation is fundamentally the decrease in the act or state of being tempted; i.e. a direct or indirect attempt, to coax one to do something wrong, unwise or illegal, etc.

The concealment of valuables in the cars’ boots and to carry along the parking ticket instead of leaving it in the vehicle is in fact prudent preventive measures. (CSPO: 346). Moreover, the limitation of the former is that if burglars who have trail the victims and are keys and locks masters, then leaving cash and precious items in the cars’ boots will defeat conditional crime prevention. Moreover, it would be diligent for Singapore’s goldsmiths and jewellery shops practice situation crime prevention by not printing their trade names onto the hand-carriers for their customers because it can divulge tell-tale signs of precious items are its contents.

The identification of property is one sure way of lessening the value of property and/or goods using permanent markings.

The engraving the vehicle’s registration onto the front and rear window screens to ascertain as being the particulars and/or description for recognition; and also serving as means of identifying it.

Inducing Guilt or Shame

The induction of guilt or shame is the causing to act by convincing or coaxing; in order to influence feelings of remorse arising from a real or imagined commission of an offence.

It could also be a painful sense of degradation caused by conscious of guilt or anything unworthy or immodest; i.e. the ability to induce regret or disgrace, etc. The various types of these preventive techniques are: rule setting, strengthening moral condemnation, controlling disinhibitors, and facilitating compliance.

It was noted that such shame-inducing, must be complemented with other forms of situational measures; if not; it would not be productive. (Ibid: 347).

Fiddles such as under ringing, and bar padding are being committed by the employees; who is/are usually the sole beneficiary. These fiddles are not tolerated by employers as they are recognised as being fundamentally against the organisation, and if discovered, it usually result in instant dismissal. (K.M. Gill, 1994: 128).

The act of rule by way of an authoritative direction respecting the doing namely: workplace punctuality, overtime and mileage claims, misuse of computers, and the like.

Essentially, it is a prescribed form of set of regulations and/or rules. (CSPO: 348). It would be unsynergised if there is/are no proper enforcement by the workplace management. Moreover, periodic briefings and newletters can incorporate the rules to abide as refresher, apart from the employees’ handbook; (which lays the rules and regulations to abide), distributed during the orientation programme when the employees were recruited.

Strengthening moral condemnation is the encouragement and growth of guilty feelings related to misconduct, misdemeanor, or mortal sin.

Signages at the supermarket; for example, can forewarn that “shoplifting is an offence, and offenders shall be handed over to the Police”; can be very effective and influential.

Bamfield (1998: 259) states ‘Civil recovery is rather practical and functional as it is able to forewarn offenders of payment in reparation to the victim, in accordance with theories of restorative justice. Therefore, notices erected to warn shoplifters of it would be effective.’

Controlling of disinhibitors is vital as it impedes anyone who does not qualify to procure the particular item.

One example is the licensing of shops selling liquor and tobacco products. Facilitating compliance is fundamentally the promoting of ease cum convenience of the act of obeying, yielding, or conforming, etc. (Ibid: 350). In Singapore, the broadcasting authority has included the payment of vehicle radio licences by incorporating it into the road tax payment, which is regulated by the Land Transport Authority; which is a Statutory Board. However, it would be ineffective if there is/are inadequate enforcement against vehicle owners who choose not to pay the radio licence fee or those who claim that radio are not installed or they merely have CD player and the like.


The effectiveness of increasing perceived effort through target hardening, enforcing access control which are acceptable and functional, efficacious dissuading of offenders, and resultant control of facilitators are choice modes of precautions to partake. Crime, nuisance, and criminal threats are prevalent; hence, research evidence suggests:

Beck and Willis (1995: 5) ‘as regards the use of security shutters in town-centres, both town-centre managers and the shopping public see them to be an effective security option.’

Managing crime prevention conditionally and competently is by applying the techniques of increasing the perceived risks and hazards. And also, by applying good screening systems; formal, natural, and staff surveillance.

With the reduction of expected returns to criminals through procedural target removal, denying benefits and the like; would be excellent suppressive actions to arrest transgression and its recividism. Its importance can be envisaged as appended:

As Johnston, Leitner, Shapland and Wiles (1994: 106) state ‘It is known that one expensive burglary could be devastating for a small business.’

The fruitful induction of guilty feelings and painful degradation can be, as the concerted efforts by discouraging anyone who wants to break the rules. Security practices ushering effectual circumstantial crime precautions would be able to curb crimes, nuisances and pollution. It is obvious that the basis for the commission of crime is/are motivated offenders, complemented with appropriate cum worthwhile targets, the absence of reliable security personnel and vigilant staff who are unable to exercise due diligence.

Hence, it would be prudent to overcome these obstacles by applying and adhering and practising situation crime prevention that is remarkably deemed an effective guide and pathfinder.


Adrian Beck and Andrew Willis, (1994), ‘Customer and Staff Perceptions of the Role of Closed Circuit Television in Retail Industry’ in M. Gill (ed.) Crime at Work: Studies in Security & Crime Prevention, Leicester: Perpetuity Press, UK.

Adrian Beck and Andrew Willis, (1995), ‘Crime and nuisance in context’ in Crime and Security: Managing the risk to safe shopping, Leicester: Perpetuity Press, UK.

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Johnston, V., Leitner, M., Shapland, J. , and Wiles, P. (1994) ‘Crime, Business and Policing on Industrial Estates’ in M. Gill (ed.) Crime at Work : Studies in Security & Crime Prevention, Leicester : Perpetuity Press, UK.

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