The Safer Cities Programme (SCP) was part of a larger British initiative, Action for Cities; SCP was designed to address diverse crimes (domestic and commercial burglary, domestic violence, etc.). The main goal of the program was twofold: to reduce crime and fear of crime, and to create safer environments for economic and community life to flourish. Phase 1 of SCP ran from 1988 through Autumn 1995.
Program Components/Key Personnel
Approximately 3,600 schemes, or projects, were funded through SCP. Of these, 500 focused on the prevention of domestic burglary. Comprehensive schemes appeared to be the most effective. Such programs combined:
- Target hardening. Target hardening includes physical security measures, such as door, window, and fencing improvements, alarms, and security lighting. Generally, the purpose of target hardening is to make physical entry more difficult or more risky, which can deter burglars. Target hardening differs in different schemes. Sometimes it is offered to victims, who are at increased risk of being reburgled. Sometimes it is offered to vulnerable individuals (e.g., the elderly or single parents), to "hot spots" (high-risk areas), or even to an entire area (all residents).
- Community-oriented activities. This includes activities to increase awareness and promote crime prevention. The range of activities can be quite diverse, such as providing information on do-it-yourself security installations, developing Neighborhood Watch programs, creating general publicity about the program, or encouraging property marking (which may help with recovery or detection of stolen goods).
Although SCP is a national initiative, the initiative encouraged a local, team-based approach. Generally, a program coordinator was identified, who worked with a small team and steering committee that represented diverse stakeholders (police, local government, commerce, voluntary bodies, etc.). Some of the simpler schemes were implemented without a multiagency management team; they were instead directed by a single organization that had requested funding. Multiple challenges were involved in ensuring the smooth operation of multiagency groups (e.g., spotty attendance by participants at the multiagency meetings, lack of leadership, inconsistent management, etc.). The structure and objectives of the individual schemes in large part determined the mix of project workers.
A problem-oriented approach was used in the development of individual site schemes. Local crime data was used to identify particular crime problems and patterns, objectives were then set, and tailored preventive measures were selected. As programs were implemented, evaluation was encouraged so that changes could be made as appropriate.
The funding levels varied widely across sites. For 300 studied sites, the average SCP money equaled about £8,700, which covered an average 5,200 households per site. Approximately one-third of these sites had other funding available to supplement the initiative funding.
Certain factors appeared to influence the choice of sites for program implementation:
- Sites tended to experience general crime problems in addition to burglary.
- Police perceived burglary to be a particular concern of the area.
- Sites tended to be well-bounded geographical areas.
- Sites generally had a high level of police support.
Tilley and Webb (1994) concluded from the 10 case studies using the Safer Cities Programme (SCP) schemes that whole-area target hardening can reduce local burglary rates. Area-based target hardening can reduce burglary rates when the program is of a sufficiently high intensity. Victim-centered target hardening tends to reduce individual revictimization but does not necessarily affect area rates. Each of the 10 individual schemes had slightly different outcomes.
Primrose Estate Anti-Burglary Project. Target hardening reduced burglary rates in the targeted high-victimization area.
Brackenbank Scheme. During implementation, burglary declined compared to other similar areas, but began to increase a year later.
The Greatfield Estate Home Security Improvement Project. There were no statistically significant effects.
The Meadows Household Security Project. The treatment area experienced an increase in burglary of 9 percent, compared to the rest of the subdivision which experienced a 139 percent increase. Repeat burglaries dropped.
The Belfield and Back O’Th’Moss Safe and Sound Projects. Burglary reductions were achieved in the target neighborhoods, compared to the area as a whole, where the incidence of burglary doubled.
Wardelworth Community Safety Scheme. Burglary was reduced, but community leaders felt that it was still a problem at the end of the program.
Plain Farm Estate Target Hardening Scheme. The part of the estate that was target hardened experienced a drop in burglary rates of 28 percent the 1st year and 35 percent the following year. This is in contrast to the subdivision rates, which rose by 16 percent in the 1st year and 57 percent in the 2nd year.
Tower Hamlets’ Multivictimisation Scheme. Target hardening reduced the rate of revictimization. Overall, the scheme led to a 9 percent reduction in incidence rates for burglaries.
Ekblom and colleagues (1996) found that while comparison cities showed an increase of 15 percent in burglary risk, on average, risks fell by 10 percent in low-intensity areas, 22 percent in medium-intensity areas, and 43 percent in high-intensity areas. The overall reduction was 21 percent. When background crime trends and demographic variables were taken into account, the risk of burglary fell by 24 percent in low-intensity areas, 33 percent in medium-intensity areas, and 37 percent in high-intensity areas. The program thus led to statistically significant reductions in burglary risk.
Target hardening reduced burglary under all conditions. The impact of community-oriented activities on reducing burglary was greater when there was more intense program activity. The most effective schemes combined elements of target hardening and community-oriented activities.
Fear of Burglary
Where action was perceived to be intensive, worry was reduced. Where action was perceived to be low-level, worry was increased.
Displacement and Diffusion of Benefits
Overall, displacement (that is, criminals offending in a different area or switching to a different type of crime) was correlated with low-intensity programs. This increase in crime in adjacent areas offset any benefits gained in the target areas. In contrast, for programs of moderate to high intensity, surrounding areas actually benefitted from the implementation of programs in target areas, so that crime rates dropped in surrounding areas.