Transforming Piecemeal Social Engineering into “Grand” Crime Prevention Policy: Toward a New Criminology of Social Control

Freilich, Joshua D., Newman, Graeme R. | January 1, 2015

This Article focuses on the Situational Crime Prevention (SCP) approach in criminology, which expands the crime reduction role well beyond the justice system. SCP sees criminal law in a more restrictive sense, as only part of the anticrime effort in governance. We examine the “general” and “specific” responses to crime problems in the SCP approach. Our review demonstrates that the most serious barrier to converting SCP techniques into policy remains the gap that exists between problem identification and problem response. We discuss past large-scale SCP interventions and explore the complex links between them and SCP’s better known specificity and piecemeal approach. We develop a graded framework for selecting responses that acknowledge the local, political, and organizational issues involved in identifying and choosing them. This framework determines when SCP interventions and policies can be crafted on the macro level to eliminate or greatly reduce the problem everywhere, and when interventions should be limited to a piecemeal, local approach to eliminate only the specific problem. Finally, we situate this analysis within the general context of the relationship between science and policy, noting the challenges in converting scientific observations into broad social policy and the expansion of crime control beyond criminal justice into the realm of government regulation and partnerships with nongovernmental agencies.