Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary

Publicity campaigns have had mixed success when used in crime reduction programs. Perhaps publicity campaigns fail in delivering their intended message because of poor design or implementation, and hence, it may be premature to dismiss campaigns as ineffective crime prevention tools. While publicity attempts have had little success in changing victim or offender behavior, they should not be abandoned; rather, the police should refine them. The challenge lies in finding the proper ways to influence citizen behaviors. Finding ways to reach the public is a key component. For example, if we know that elderly women living alone have a greater fear of crime, police should seek greater campaign efficiency by addressing this group more directly.68 Police in England reported that only 29 percent of residents had heard about an anti-burglary initiative they conducted.69 In this case, it is clear that the publicity component did not reach the intended audience.

In order to achieve the intended goals, police publicity campaigns should do the following:

Design

  • Focus on a specific crime type.
  • Avoid judgmental or patronizing messages.
  • Provide clear and simple steps to change behavior.
  • Appeal to a very specific group.
  • Use a logo that people can easily recognize and relate to.
  • Avoid scare tactics or images that may increase citizen fears

Implementation

  • Be limited to specific geographic areas.
  • Be implemented in bursts over time (avoid long, continuous campaigns).
  • Be closely monitored to ensure exposure.
  • Rely on multiple dissemination methods to maximize coverage.
  • Seek realistic goals and outcomes.
  • Ensure that the message does not lose its relevance.
  • Change message format regularly to avoid boredom and overexposure.

Evaluation/Assessment

  • Measure the crime problem before and after the campaign.
  • Identify conditions leading to success or failure.
  • Have an evaluation plan to measure success or failure.