Situational crime prevention (SCP) seeks to reduce the number of crime events by focusing on limiting the opportunities for crime to occur. The approach typically uses an action-research model and assumes that offenders make decisions that are broadly rational. It is generally designed so that individual offenders do not have to be identified for the measures to be successful. It draws theoretical support from a number of frameworks that developed independently in the 1970s and 1980s, but which share a focus on the importance of analyzing either crime events themselves or the environments in which these events take place. Measures for blocking crime opportunities are classified according to how they tend to affect potential offenders. Currently, twenty-five categories of techniques have been identified, encompassing five main means by which they operate—increasing effort, increasing risk, reducing reward, reducing provocation, and removing excuses. While SCP can be carried out by anyone, the focus has been on developing measures that can be implemented widely by policing and other governmental and nongovernmental agencies, businesses and manufacturers, and others who control activities in particular environments such as public transport systems. Evaluations of measures have often been designed to look for both crime displacement and diffusion of benefits. Because the approach does not seek to change the long-term motivation of particular offenders, the possibility exists that crime will be displaced to other potential victims or targets, places, times, or types of crime, or that other methods will be used. Likewise, the measures may extend their benefits to nontargeted victims, places, times, methods, or crimes. SCP has been criticized on ethical and political grounds, in terms of its efficacy and the quality of its methodology, and as a move away from policies that have the achievement of social justice as a core goal.
There are several general overviews of situational crime prevention (SCP) by Ron Clarke that have been published over three decades. To understand the development in this area, Clarke 1980 and Clarke 1995 are essential works. Clarke 2009 provides an updated, concise, and easy-to-understand perspective on the SCP approach, with examples of the key concepts, including a discussion of adaptation, which is not considered another form of displacement. Lab 2010 and Tilley 2009 have easily accessible summaries of SCP that appear as part of general overviews or presentations of crime prevention, the former focusing on the United States and the latter focusing on the United Kingdom. Pease 1994 and Brantingham and Brantingham 1990 summarize the SCP perspective while also presenting examples of its relevance, allowing the modern reader to gain historical insights into its development and the state of crime prevention in the United Kingdom and Canada at the times they were written. Brantingham and Faust 1976, a seminal work applying the disease-prevention approach of public health to crime prevention, and Laycock 2005, an explanation of crime science, provide differing frameworks for viewing SCP within the broader context of crime prevention.
Brantingham, Patricia L., and Paul J. Brantingham. 1990. Situational crime prevention in practice. Canadian Journal of Criminology 32:17–40.
This work presents the SCP approach and applies it to the Canadian context of crime prevention by providing examples of its use in ongoing business enterprises and in the planning stages of new public and private building projects.
Brantingham, Paul J., and Frederic L. Faust. 1976. A conceptual model of crime prevention. Crime and Delinquency 22:284–296.
This groundbreaking work uses the public-health model of disease prevention to explain three different approaches to the prevention of crime, primary, secondary, and tertiary crime prevention.
Clarke, R. V. G. 1980. “Situational” crime prevention: Theory and practice. British Journal of Criminology 20:136–147.
This widely disseminated article presents discussions of the term “situational crime prevention” and sets out the arguments in support of that approach that are still relevant to SCP today.
Clarke, Ronald V. 1995. Situational crime prevention. In Building a safer society: Strategic approaches to crime prevention. Edited by Michael Tonry and David P. Farrington, 91–150. Crime and Justice 19. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.
This essay presents a comprehensive description of the situational approach to crime prevention, including a number of theories that focus on the importance of crime opportunities in producing crime events; a method for analyzing problems, identifying solutions, and evaluating results; and a set of techniques shown to be successful in reducing crime.
Clarke, Ronald V. 2009. Situational crime prevention: Theoretical background and current practice. In Handbook of crime and deviance. Edited by Marvin D. Krohn, Alan J. Lizotte, and Gina Penly Hall, 259–276. New York: Springer.
This work summarizes the approach of SCP in general, including a discussion of adaptation, and sets out some of the factors recognized as inadvertently creating crime opportunities, such as criminogenic products, poor management, badly designed buildings and places, “leaky” systems, and criminogenic laws.
Lab, Steven P. 2010. Crime prevention: Approaches, practices and evaluations. 7th ed. Albany, NY: LexisNexis Anderson.
Primarily an undergraduate text on crime prevention, this publication provides a chapter explaining situational crime prevention, its theoretical underpinnings, history, and examples of its use.
Laycock, Gloria. 2005. Defining crime science. In Crime science: New approaches to preventing and detecting crime. Edited by Melissa J. Smith and Nick Tilley, 3–24. Cullompton, UK: Willan.
This article sets out the definition of a new paradigm called “crime science,” which includes SCP and crime detection, has a wide multidisciplinary methodological and knowledge base, and incorporates the standards and values of the natural sciences as a key component.
Pease, Ken. 1994. Crime prevention. In The Oxford handbook of criminology. Edited by Mike Maguire, Rod Morgan, and Robert Reiner, 659–703. Oxford: Clarendon.
Looking at SCP and other forms of crime prevention as primary, secondary, or tertiary prevention, this work examines the theoretical underpinnings and the background and development of the situational approach, contrasts it with contemporaneous perspectives, and examines its future in the context of Britain in the 1990s.
Tilley, Nick. 2009. Crime prevention. Cullompton, UK: Willan.
This accessible text on crime prevention has detailed, up-to-date chapters on situational measures and mechanisms, implementation, and evaluation that could provide an overview for university students, particularly in the United Kingdom, as well as those new to the field.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions and individuals. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article
Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.
If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email email@example.com to express your interest.
- Active Offender Research
- Airport and Airline Security
- Alcohol and Drug Prohibition
- Alcohol Use, Policy and Crime
- Animals, Crimes Against
- Bail and Pretrial Detention
- Biosocial Criminology
- Black's Theory of Law and Social Control
- Blumstein, Alfred
- Boot Camps and Shock Incarceration Programs
- Burglary, Residential
- Capital Punishment
- Chicago School of Criminology, The
- Chinese Triad Society
- Civil Protection Orders
- Collateral Consequences of Felony Conviction and Imprisonm...
- Collective Efficacy
- Commercial and Bank Robbery
- Communicating Scientific Findings in the Courtroom
- Community Change and Crime
- Community Corrections
- Community Disadvantage and Crime
- Comparative Criminal Justice Systems
- Confessions, False and Coerced
- Contextual Analysis of Crime
- Control Balance Theory
- Corporate Crime
- Costs of Crime and Justice
- Courts, Problem-Solving
- Crime and Justice in Latin America
- Crime Control Policy
- Crime Control, Politics of
- Crime, (In)Security, and Islam
- Crime Prevention, Situational
- Crime Trends
- Crime Victims' Rights Movement
- Criminal Career Research
- Criminal Decision Making, Emotions in
- Criminal Justice Data Sources
- Criminal Justice Ethics
- Criminal Justice System, Discretion in the
- Criminal Retaliation
- Criminology and Political Science
- Criminology of Genocide, The
- Critical Criminology
- Cross-National Crime
- Cultural Criminology
- Cultural Theories
- Cycle of Violence
- Developmental and Life-Course Criminology
- Digital Piracy
- Driving and Traffic Offenses
- Drug Control
- Drug Trafficking, International
- Drugs and Crime
- Environmental Crime and Justice
- Experimental Criminology
- Family Violence
- Fear of Crime and Perceived Risk
- Felon Disenfranchisement
- Feminist Theories
- Firearms and Violence
- Forensic Science
- Gangs, Peers, and Co-offending
- Gender and Crime
- Genetics, Environment, and Crime
- Green Criminology
- Hate Crime
- Hate Crime Legislation
- Healthcare Fraud
- Hirschi, Travis
- History of Crime in the United Kingdom
- History of Criminology
- History of Police
- Homicide Victimization
- Honor Cultures and Violence
- Hot Spots Policing
- Human Rights
- Human Trafficking
- Identity Theft
- Immigration, Crime, and Justice
- Incarceration, Mass
- Income Tax Evasion
- Institutional Anomie Theory
- Integrated Theory
- Interpersonal Violence, Historical Patterns of
- Investigation, Criminal
- Juvenile Delinquency
- Juvenile Justice System, The
- Kornhauser, Ruth Rosner
- Labeling Theory
- Labor Markets and Crime
- Lead and Crime
- Local Institutions and Neighborhood Crime
- Lombroso, Cesare
- Mandatory Minimum Sentencing
- Mapping and Spatial Analysis of Crime, The
- Mass Media, Crime, and Justice
- Measuring Crime
- Mediation and Dispute Resolution Programs
- Mental Health and Crime
- Meta-analysis in Criminology
- Motor Vehicle Theft
- Narrative Criminology
- National Deviancy Symposia, The
- Nature Versus Nurture
- Neighborhood Disorder
- Neutralization Theory
- Offender Decision-Making and Motivation
- Offense Specialization/Expertise
- Organized Crime
- Panel Methods in Criminology
- Peer Networks and Delinquency
- Performance Measurement and Accountability Systems
- Personality and Trait Theories of Crime
- Phenomenological Theories of Crime
- Police Administration
- Police Cooperation, International
- Police Effectiveness
- Police Misconduct
- Police, Race and the
- Police Use of Force
- Policing and Law Enforcement
- Policing, Community and Problem-Oriented
- Policing, Privatization of
- Policing, Proactive
- Prison Gangs and Subculture
- Prison History
- Prisoner Reentry
- Prisons and Jails
- Property Crime
- Prosecution and Courts
- Psychiatry, Psychology, and Crime: Historical and Current ...
- Psychology and Crime
- Public Criminology
- Public Opinion, Crime and Justice
- Public Order Crimes
- Punishment Justification and Goals
- Race, Ethnicity, Crime, and Justice
- Racial Threat Hypothesis
- Racial Profiling
- Rape and Sexual Assault
- Rational Choice Theories
- Religion and Crime
- Restorative Justice
- Risk Assessment
- Routine Activity Theories
- School Bullying
- School Crime and Violence
- Seasonality and Crime
- Self-Control, The General Theory:
- Sentencing Guidelines
- Sentencing Policy
- Sex Crimes
- Sex Offender Policies and Legislation
- Sex Trafficking
- Sexual Revictimization
- Situational Action Theory
- Snitching and Use of Criminal Informants
- Social and Intellectual Context of Criminology, The
- Social Construction of Crime, The
- Social Control of Tobacco Use
- Social Control Theory
- Social Disorganization
- Social Ecology of Crime
- Social Learning Theory
- Social Networks
- Social Threat and Social Control
- Solitary Confinement
- South Africa, Crime and Justice in
- Sport Mega-Events Security
- Stalking and Harassment
- State Crime
- Strain Theories
- Street Code
- Street Robbery
- Substance Use and Abuse
- Surveillance, Public and Private
- Sutherland, Edwin H.
- Technology and the Criminal Justice System
- Terrorism, Criminological Explanations for
- Testimony, Eyewitness
- Therapeutic Jurisprudence
- Trajectory Methods in Criminology
- Transnational Crime
- Urban Politics and Crime
- US War on Terrorism, Legal Perspectives on the
- Victimization Patterns and Trends
- Victimization, Repeat
- Violence Against Women
- Violence, Youth
- Violent Crime
- White-Collar Crime
- Wilson, James Q.
- Wrongful Conviction