Cooling hot property? an assessment of the impact of property marking on residential burglary crime reduction, crime displacement or diffusion of benefits and public confidence
Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis
For the year ending March 2014 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated there were 573,000 domestic burglaries in England and Wales. Using the Home Office Integrated Offender Management Value for Money Toolkit valuation (2011) the cost to society of this is £1.9 billion. The financial and resulting emotional cost is a heavy burden for the UK. Better understanding crime prevention approaches and their impact on reducing residential burglary is of obvious relevance to policing, government and society as a whole. This study examined the wider impact of traceable liquid property marking strategies on reducing residential burglary and other acquisitive crime. It monitored levels of crime in trial areas. It observed if crime displacement or diffusion of benefits effects occurred to a distance of 750m, in 250m intervals, surrounding the trial areas. By doing so it added to the body of knowledge that surrounds situational crime prevention. It also surveyed households, which were participants of the trial, some 6 months following the deployment to measure any impact on their confidence in policing and on their fear of crime. To do this, 10 x London trial sites, comprising of 500 households areas were purposively selected that had both a persistent and a long-term chronic residential burglary offence rate. Two such sites were selected on each of five London Boroughs. The residential homes within these areas were then visited by a police officer or a PCSO and occupants had their property marked using a unique traceable liquid property marking solution. This strategy was supported by stickers saying their property had been marked being placed on external display on front and back doors and windows, signs being put up on street furniture in the surrounding area telling people they were entering a property marked area and the use of press and media releases to wider market the approach to offenders. Trap cars and houses were utilised and arrests advertised to ‘prove’ the approach to offenders. Finally control areas of similar characteristics to the trial areas were identified and observed on each of the 5 x borough sites. Once the marking had been implemented to the point of 85% saturation (where able), key data was observed over a 12-month period and compared against the previous year. These included: o Residential burglary crime levels within the target area. o Residential burglary crime levels in displacement zones of 250m, 500m, and 750m, surrounding the targeted area. o Robbery, theft of motor vehicle (M/V), theft from motor vehicle and total notifiable offences (TNO’s) offence levels within the target and displacement areas to measure displacement effects. o An online survey of the trial households of police satisfaction and fear of crime levels. o Interviews with key staff that implemented the trial. The study deduces that the following effects occurred within the trial areas: o A 45% reduction in residential burglaries, a 21% reduction in robberies, no significant change in M/V crime and 22% less TNO’s. Once offset against the control area performance the results indicated: o Overall average residential burglary was reduced by 21% with the best BOCU achieving an 88% reduction. o Personal robbery offences reduced by 16% and overall TNO’s by 20%. o There was no statistically significant change in M/V crime offence levels. o There was no significant crime or offence displacement within the target areas and indeed clear diffusion of benefits effects occurred. When the trial areas were widened to include the 250m, 500m and 750m displacement zones the following results were found to 750m: o A 23% reduction in residential burglaries, a 15% reduction in robberies, a 3% reduction in theft of M/V, 1% reduction in theft from M/V and a 9% less TNO’s. Once offset against the control area performance the results indicated: o Residential burglary reduced by 12% in the 250m-displacement zones, increased by 7% in the 500m zones, decreased by 19% in the 750m zones and cumulatively resulted in a 17% reduction. o Robbery increased by 8% in the 250m-displacement zones, decreased by 7% in the 500m zones, increased by 13% in the 750m zones and cumulatively resulted in a 5% increase. o Theft of M/V increased by 27% in the 250m-displacement zones, increased by 4% in the 500m zones, increased by 5% in the 750m zones and cumulatively resulted in a 10% increase. o Theft from M/V increased by 24% in the 250m-displacement zones, increased by 16% in the 500m zones, increased by 11% in the 750m zones and cumulatively resulted in a 15% increase. o TNO’s increased by 3% in the 250m displacement zones, decreased by 4% in the 500m zones, increased by 5% in the 750m zones and cumulatively resulted in a 1% increase. The results of the on-line survey found the following: o 51% of householders felt safer in their area. o 52% of householders felt safer in their home. o 33% had an improved opinion of the police. The study concludes that traceable liquid property marking is highly effective at reducing residential burglary. It found that when deployed with high levels of saturation to an area, diffusion of benefits effects for this crime type are likely to occur out to at least 750m from that area. This strategy led to a reduction in the fear of crime and if distributed by the police family, leads to an increase in public confidence for at least 6 months after the distribution period. However in achieving these positive impacts there will be offence displacement outside the targeted area, where offenders will move from residential burglary to other offences types. The most likely change is into theft of and from M/V crime. These crimes are arguably less harmful and impactive on crime victims and occurred at a lower rate than the residential burglary offences prevented. Finally, the study concludes that the psychological effects of the strategy magnified the effectiveness of the approach in reducing offending and so significant was the importance of this that the author believes it should be specifically be added to the existing model of twenty-five techniques of situational prevention (D. B. Cornish & Clarke, 2003) in the following way: (see pdf).
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