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Your analysis of your local problem should give you a better understanding of the factors contributing to it. Once you have analyzed your local problem and established a baseline for measuring effectiveness, you should consider possible responses to address the problem.
The responses discussed below provide a foundation of ideas for addressing your problem. These responses are drawn from a variety of research studies and police reports. Several of them may apply to your particular problem. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis.
In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem: you should give careful consideration to who else in your community shares responsibility for the problem and can help police better respond to it. Building a partnership with these various stakeholders can be essential to success. For example, if you decide to target career burglars, you may need the help of parole and probation officers or local prosecutors in securing appropriate prison sentences. If you believe that street lighting must be improved, you will need help from the city and the local utility company. Above all, you will need to persuade individual retailers to take the security measures you will surely find are needed. Local business associations might help you in securing retailers' commitment.
Be aware that chain stores may need to get the head office's approval for any new security measures. Chains are likely to have their own security departments, and security staff will need to be convinced that changes in company practice are needed to meet local conditions. On the other hand, the security departments might help you formulate your response, or put you in touch with local loss prevention specialists.
Several other important considerations should guide your choice of responses:
† For a discussion, see Curtin et al. (2001).
The responses discussed below are organized under three main headings according to the groups with the main role to play in implementing them: the police, retailers and city/local government. It will be clear that research evidence about the effectiveness of most responses is patchy and sometimes inconsistent. If direct evidence of a particular response's effectiveness is lacking, the response assessment is guided by accepted crime prevention principles.
‡ For a recent review and discussion, see Novak et al. (1999).
† For a comprehensive assessment of repeat offender programs, see Spelman (1990).2. Targeting repeatedly burgled stores. There is a large body of evidence that focusing police and crime prevention resources on repeatedly burgled homes can produce substantial declines in burglary. Similar benefits could be obtained by concentrating preventive resources on repeatedly burgled stores.22 The research also suggests that repeat burglaries are frequently the work of highly prolific offenders, who often return soon after the original burglary. Short-term use of measures focused on recently burgled stores might result in arrests of these offenders. As well as the deployment of directed patrols, such measures include the use of high-tech devices such as portable, covert closed-circuit television (CCTV) (which records pictures and sound only during periods of activity); portable silent alarms (which alert the police when activated); proximity alarms (which loudly sound when premises are approached from a particular direction); and "forensic traps" (such as chemically treated mats to pick up intruders' footprints).‡
‡ Experience with these high-tech devices is limited to date, but it appears that they can pose numerous practical problems. For example, store owners/employees often forget to activate the devices when they leave at night, or forget they are activated when they return (Taylor 1999). As with conventional intruder alarms, portable burglar alarms also pose the problem of false alarms (see the False Burglar Alarms guide in this series).3. Disrupting markets for stolen goods. Far too little is known about how offenders dispose of stolen goods, and too little is done to disrupt markets for the goods.§ It is true that in many jurisdictions, pawnshops are required to report the goods they receive to the police. While this requirement's effectiveness has not been properly evaluated, the best programs seem to be those in which pawnshop records are automated, downloaded daily to the police, and automatically searched against the police records database for hits on stolen property. In any case, burglars can dispose of stolen goods in many other ways, including peddling them on the street, selling them to friends or acquaintances, selling them through newspaper ads or in bars and clubs, exchanging them for drugs, and even selling them door-to-door. Burglars also sell goods to small shops, and police in many areas have undertaken "stings" in which they set up bogus fencing operations in used-goods stores. The popularity of these stings appears to have declined. They are expensive and time-consuming, and research suggests that they can lead to an influx of crime into the area around them.23 Alternative strategies to disrupt sales of stolen goods to stores include (1) conducting surveillance of suspect stores in your area to gain evidence of thieves' entering and making sales, so as to prosecute both the thieves and the fences; (2) encouraging stores that buy used goods to display signs stating they are part of a crime prevention program to reduce sales of stolen goods; and (3) implementing local ordinances requiring stores to establish proof of ownership for used goods they buy.24
As mentioned, the research evidence regarding these measures' value is unclear and inconsistent. Burglars say they find these measures of little hindrance, and from a police point of view, they may provide little benefit if they merely displace burglary to other stores. Planning authorities may resist some of these measures, particularly shutters and security lighting, because they can make an area less attractive.27
That said, there is some limited evidence from recent studies that target hardening can be effective in preventing burglary of particular premises and, if perceived to be widespread, can also protect an entire area.28 Which measures to use with which stores depends on a variety of cost, convenience and aesthetic considerations; the advice of a professional security consultant might be required.
While these techniques are good security practice, nothing is known from research about their effectiveness in preventing retail burglaries. However, cash reduction is a well-proven method of preventing commercial robberies, and removal of coin-fed fuel meters in British homes has been shown to prevent residential burglaries.318. Locking escape routes. It is good security practice to make it as difficult to get out of a store after hours as it is to get in. (Fire exits must not be locked during normal business hours or when the store is otherwise occupied). When leaving at night, store managers should cut off the power supply to loading-bay doors, and make sure other doors and windows cannot be opened from the inside.
For an example of how one police department used CPTED to reduce burglary along a commercial corridor, click here.
† State or county crime prevention associations may provide grants to fund lighting improvements.
‡ For a discussion, see Poyner and Fawcett (1995), and Painter and Tilley (1999). See also the Response Guide Video Surveillance of Public Places.13. Promoting "living over the shop." In an effort to restore downtown areas' vitality and provide after-hours surveillance of retail properties, the British government is sponsoring a program to encourage people to live in vacant space above shops. The program, which has been adopted by many towns and cities, has the additional benefit of increasing the supply of low-cost housing.37 A recent evaluation, based on interviews with a variety of interested parties, found that most people supported the program and believed it helped to reduce crime in downtown areas.
† Though not, apparently, of most TCM schemes (Beck and Willis 1995).
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