Enhanced security boosts crime drop, claim researchers

home-burglar-crime-rateDevelopments in car and domestic security are key factors behind falling crime rates, according to one expert. Andromachi Tseloni, professor of criminology at Nottingham Trent University, told SecurityNewsDesk that security has a profound effect on preventing opportunistic crime compared to that of the criminal justice system.

The latest official government data from the Office for National Statistics showed there was an 8 per cent decrease in the numbers of crimes recorded in England and Wales last year. Police recorded 3.7 million crimes, with falls seen in almost every category.

It estimated there were a total of 8.9 million crime against adults in England and Wales in the year ending December 2012, a 5 per cent decrease compared to the previous year. Crimes such as criminal damage were down 15 per cent, while there were also year-on-year decreases in the likes of burglary (13 per cent), vehicle theft (10 per cent) violence against the person (6 per cent) and sexual offences (3 per cent).

With crime figures dropping, Tseloni outlined the viewpoint that it is not just the police and the criminal justice system that is behind the drop, but security has to be taken into consideration as a key component of the reduced level of crime.

“Crime has fallen in a number of countries, countries that have very different policing styles and different imprisonment rates,” said Tseloni. “In my view it has to be something different than the criminal justice system otherwise it wouldn’t affect so many countries with so many different criminal justice systems.

“We thought it is something to do with either public attitudes or security and indeed we have done research that found that car crime drop is due to improved security.”

The category of vehicle theft showed a decrease of 10 per cent compared with the previous year, and a decrease of 75 per cent in total since 1995. Tseloni worked on research on the international crime falls and car crime drop in collaboration with professors Nick Tilley and Graham Farrell and supported by the Economic and Social Research Council.

The research into vehicle crime found improved security resulted in a drop in car crime and having more than one security device provided “excess protection greater than the sum of the individual effects”.

Further work into home security analysed more than 20 years’ of British Crime Survey data and found the richest households with the best security had the second highest burglary rate. However, good security, such as double deadlocks and window bolts, was found to “massively reduce” burglaries for low income households.

Data in the Crime Survey for England and Wales showed a significant 13 per cent fall for burglary in the year ending December 2012 compared to the previous year. Indeed, all sub-categories of burglary showed similar decreases.

Tseloni said:  “We found that good security massively reduces burglaries for low income households, which means that if the offender doesn’t have a high incentive to burgle and they just do it because it’s easy then if you put some security there that would deter a burglary.

“Burglars who target large households are more organised and professional and they are not going to be put off by high technology, as they think they can handle it or have networks that can handle it. Security is more of a deterrent for opportunistic crime, where the gains are not going to be massive anyway and isn’t part of an organised network.”

The crime data showed there was an 8 per cent rise in instances of theft from the person, which the researchers claimed was fuelled by thieves targeting smartphones. The researchers are set to undertake further work on the effect that CCTV and an increased perception of public-facing security has on criminals and their behaviour.

As awareness of public-facing security measures grows and surveillance technology improves, it could be seen to have a similar impact on street crimes as the researcher’s previous work showed with regards vehicle crime and burglary.

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