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Problem-solving street crime:

practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Nick Tilley Jonathan Smith Stephen Finer Rosie Erol Corrine Charles John Dobby

The views in this report are those of the authors, not necessarily those of the Home Office (nor do they represent Government policy).

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

The Research, Development and Statistics Directorate

RDS is part of the Home Office. The Home Offices purpose is to build a safe, just and tolerant society in which the rights and responsibilities of individuals, families and communities are properly balanced and the protection and security of the public are maintained. RDS is also part of National Statistics (NS). One of the aims of NS is to inform Parliament and the citizen about the state of the nation and provide a window on the work and performance of government, allowing the impact of government policies and actions to be assessed. Therefore Research Development and Statistics Directorate exists to improve policy making, decision taking and practice in support of the Home Office purpose and aims, to provide the public and Parliament with information necessary for informed debate and to publish information for future use.

First published 2004 Crown copyright 2004 ISBN 1 84473 486 2


This guide is the product of a team effort. The long list of authors could quite easily have been extended to include others who have made considerable contributions. Clare Checksfield did a great deal of work in building up momentum in the early stages by setting up and chairing the project board. The project board Marcial Boo (head of the Acquisitive Crime Team at the Home Office, who took over the chair from Clare), Chris Sims (West Midlands Police and ACPO), Peter Todd (HMIC), Peter Goodall, Michael May (both PSU), Pat Mayhew (RDS), Ian Humphries (Centrex), Judith Williams, Charlie Woolnough, Andrew Hooper and John Waterman (all Home Office) has given us extremely useful guidance and feedback throughout. Louise Hobbs edited the guide and has made it easier to use. The sections on mobile phones and false reporting were heavily based on information provided to us by Eddie Thomson of the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit. RDS would like to thank Professor Gloria Laycock of the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science and Professor Mike Hough from Kings College, London who acted as independent assessors to the report. Nick Tilley is a professor of sociology at Nottingham Trent University, and Rosie Erol is a senior researcher at the University of Wolverhampton. The other authors are based in the Research, Development and Statistics Directorate at the Home Office.

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative



Acknowledgements Introduction The Street Crime Initiative: background information How to use this guide Part One: Developing strategy and assessing outcomes Section 1 Section 2 Section 3 Selecting effective methods to reduce street crime Reducing street crime basic mechanisms Practical guide to evaluation

Page i 1 2 4

5 13 17 23

Street crime problem-solving checklist Part Two: Applications problem-solving and specific street crime scenarios Section 4 Section 5 Section 5.1 Section 5.2 Section 5.3 Section 5.4 Section 5.5 Section 5.6 Section 5.7 Section 5.8 Section 5.9 Glossary Practical analysis: understanding street crime problems Common problem scenarios for street crime Student robbery Robbery of school-aged children Robbery at cash machines Public transport and street crime Robbery and problem drug use Bag snatches and dips from elderly women Commercial robbery Mobile phone robbery False reporting

25 35 37 43 53 59 67 75 79 85 91 95


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative



This practice guide draws together and builds on the experience of the Street Crime Initiative and on previous relevant research. The purpose is to feed back lessons learned to local policy-makers and practitioners to inform strategy and tactic development. No magic bullets have yet been found that eliminate all street crimes in all places and for all time. It is unlikely that there are any such panaceas to be found. Street crimes and their situations vary. Tactics and strategies need to be selected intelligently in view of the circumstances. Hence the emphasis in what follows is on getting a grip on the nature of the problems confronting local practitioners and on methods of deciding what can most appropriately be done to address them. The evidence drawn on in this document comes from several sources. These include published studies, reports to the Street Crime Initiative, a digest of tactics produced by the Home Office Police Standards Unit, and advice received from practitioners and policy-makers. In many cases it has not been possible to ascertain the effectiveness of interventions. There are either no data or the data are inadequate to ascertain with any confidence what the results of efforts have been. Overall patterns of street crime have been carefully monitored throughout the Street Crime Initiative and show success in driving down the crimes targeted. Less has been done to assess the effectiveness of particular measures. Thus, in many cases the best that can be said about the outcomes is that anecdotal evidence suggests that the measures may be effective. Use has been made of the best evidence available even where this is very limited. It is hoped that the suggestions for improvements in evaluation that are made towards the end of Part One, will be followed to create a firmer evidence-base. This guide focuses on what managers and practitioners can do to reduce street crime in the relatively short term. Clearly much of their work takes place within a social and economic context over which they have no immediate control but which may to some degree be open to their influence. However, the particular focus of this guide is on the practical measures that crime reduction agencies such as the police can do to reduce street crime. References to the literature are scattered sparingly in the following document. This is in the interests of brevity and readability. The authors have been encouraged with some reluctance to minimise the normal freight of references acknowledging indebtedness to previous researchers. This paragraph will have to suffice in making it clear that this guidance is entirely rooted in others work. The authors are indeed indebted. Their only originality lies in any errors inadvertently introduced. This guidance pulls together what has been learned so far. Further local innovative analysis, creative response, and systematic evaluation should lead to a growth in understanding of the ways in which differing varieties of street crime problem emerge and may effectively and ethically be controlled.

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

The Street Crime Initiative: background information

In March 2002, in response to sustained and accelerating increases in annual levels of robbery in England and Wales, the Government launched the Street Crime Initiative (SCI). The initiative, which is ongoing, covers the ten police force areas that together accounted for 83 per cent of recorded robbery in 2001/02. These include the Metropolitan, West Midlands, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Merseyside, Avon and Somerset, Nottinghamshire, Thames Valley, Lancashire, and South Yorkshire. The SCI involves a wide range of agencies working in partnership, delivering a programme of practical measures developed through a crime reduction group chaired by the Prime Minister. In addition to the main stakeholders traditionally involved in crime reduction the Home Office, the police service, the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts other government departments have also contributed to the delivery of the initiative. The Departments of Education, Health, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister have all been involved, as have the Youth Justice Board, probation, prison and youth services and Connexions. Through these agencies, the Street Crime Initiative has introduced a broad range of measures aimed at reducing street crime. The first aim of the initiative was to bring robbery under control within six months, and figures October 2002 show that there were ten per cent fewer robberies in the ten SCI forces in the six April to September 2002 compared to the previous year. Two years into the initiative, figures 2003/4 show that robbery is 24 per cent lower in the ten forces than it was in 2001/2 and lower across England and Wales as a whole. published in months from for the year 17 per cent

Street crime definitions

Street crime, although not a standard Home Office term, is usually taken to mean robbery and snatch theft combined. Robbery is defined in English law as follows: A person is guilty of robbery if he steals, and immediately before or at the time of doing so, and in order to do so, he uses force on any person, or puts or seeks to put any person in fear of being then and there subjected to force. Home Office counting rules draw a distinction between personal robbery and commercial robbery. Personal robbery is defined as a robbery where the goods stolen belong to an individual or group of individuals, rather than a corporate body, regardless of the location of the property or whether the personal property actually belongs to the person being robbed. Commercial robbery is defined as a robbery where the goods stolen belong to a business or other corporate body, regardless of the location of the robbery. Goods that are the property of the business but would generally be regarded as personal property, such as laptops and mobile phones, are regarded as personal property if robbed from the person. Some definitions of street crime exclude commercial robbery. However, this guide includes discussion of commercial robbery (which accounts for about ten per cent of all robbery) because the Home Office street crime target relates to all robbery.


Snatch theft is not a standard Home Office offence category but a subcategory of theft from the person. The definition used for the purpose of the SCI is an offence where property is stolen from the physical possession of the victim and some degree of force is applied to the property but not the victim. There was no explicit mention of snatch theft in the aims of the SCI, nor had there been any in Home Office targets prior to the SCI. However, because of the similarity of the crime to robbery, it was monitored to ensure that efforts to reduce robbery did not lead to displacement to snatch theft, and also to provide a fuller picture of street crime trends. Further information about the Street Crime Initiative is available at

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

How to use this guide

It is not expected that anyone, except perhaps analysts, will want to read the guide from start to finish at a single sitting. Rather it has been designed to be dipped into according to need. Each section is self-contained though linked to others. Those who do eventually read the whole document will, however, obtain a richer picture of what is entailed by problem-solving in relation to street crime. Readers who like to start with concrete practical examples should begin with some sections in Part Two before turning to Part One. Analysts in all settings should find the whole document of value it will indicate how they can add value to the work of the agencies they serve. A glossary is included at the back of this document to explain all acronyms and technical terms used in the text.

Part One: developing strategy and assessing outcomes

The first part should be of particular interest to those with a role in developing strategy, whether as senior managers or as senior analysts, at national, force, Crime and Disorder Partnership or Basic Command Unit level. Sections 1 and 2: these sections briefly lay out some well-established principles and methods of crime control and problem-solving. Section 3: this section addresses issues of evaluation. A problem-solving checklist completes Part One of the guide.

Part Two: implementing strategy

The second part should be of interest to those attempting to devise tactics to deal with specific street crime problems. Section 4: offers practical illustrations of how data that are readily available to the police can be used as part of the problem-solving SARA process. It demonstrates how the street crime problem can be broken down into easily identifiable sub-sets of problems that may then be easier to translate into tactical police-led responses. Section 5: presents a series of scenarios found specifically for street crime problems, illustrating responses that have already enjoyed some success or show promise. The scenarios presented are intended to complement the sections on principles and problem-solving. They can help local decision-makers to make informed decisions about how to identify and address particular street crime problems. Analysts will need to determine the degree to which their situations match the scenarios presented here. In some cases the scenarios relate to quite broad categories of street crime problem that will need further separation into sub-sets for individual strategy-development. Other scenarios are much more specific and represent detailed analyses that have been undertaken to inform particular interventions.

Part One Developing strategy and assessing outcomes

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Section 1:

Selecting effective methods to reduce street crime

The processes described in this section are consistent with the National Intelligence Model (NIM), so will be familiar to police services. Following the steps set out below will contribute to strategic assessment of local priorities, tactical assessment of what to target and what responses to apply, and problem profiling the analysis of distinctive features of the problem to be addressed. The work should inform the deliberations of both the strategic and the tactical tasking and co-ordination groups. Likewise the approach outlined in this section should play a part in informing the work of local Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships. There is no single method for reducing crime. The Street Crime Initiative has generated a large menu of responses, catalogued in Tactical Options, available to police forces from the Home Office Police Standards Unit. The issue faced by those developing a strategy to tackle street crime is choice of tactics: these need to be tailored to the particular problem at hand. Later sections of this practice guide present a series of street crime problem scenarios and the tactics appropriate to them. This section is about how to choose between them to develop strategies with realistic prospects of success. Often schemes which appear to have been successful have been found to have been less successful when robust evaluation has eventually been applied. Crime prevention efforts have been found to fail for five main reasons, as shown in Box 1.1.

Box 1.1:
q q

Why preventive efforts fail

The presenting problem is inadequately analysed and inappropriate measures are put in place. The evidence-base for crime prevention is inadequately understood and ineffective measures are put in place. The presenting problem is so new and knotty that novel preventive efforts are being trialled, some of which turn out to be unsuccessful. Potentially effective crime prevention measures are inadequately implemented. Offenders innovate and adapt, undermining the effectiveness of measures that have been put in place.

q q

Problem-solving approaches
Various problem-solving approaches have been developed to improve the chances of success and lessen the risks of failure. These are shown in Box 1.2. Of these, the SARA model is the best known in most countries, especially in police services, and forms the organising basis for the scenarios shown in Part 2. The 5 Is is increasingly used in the UK, notably within the Home Office. NIM is now used in all police services in England and Wales as a means of providing a structured framework in which problem-solving can be applied. Its strength over other problem-solving methods is that it has a systematic approach that demands standard products and consistent methods of working, which ensures high levels of ownership and accountability. All problem-solving approaches work within the NIM framework.

Box 1.2:
q q

Models for problem-solving

The SARA process. This refers to Scanning, Analysis, Response and Assessment. The preventive process. This involves obtaining data on problems, analysis and interpretation, devising preventive strategies, implementation, evaluation and feedback via continuous monitoring of crime.

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

q q q

PROCTOR. This refers to PROblem, Cause, Tactic/Treatment, Output and Result. The 5 Is. These refer to Intelligence, Intervention, Implementation, Involvement, and Impact. The National Intelligence Model. This provides for evidence/intelligence-based decisions about problems to tackle, tactics to put in place, tasking the implementation of particular measures, and the assessment of results achieved. The NIM approach complements other problem-solving models such as SARA.

What these models have in common is more important than what distinguishes them. They all call for problems to be looked at in detail, and for analysis to proceed to the point at which a promising and plausible practical intervention emerges what is sometimes referred to as a pinch-point. Pinch-points describe steps in the causal chain or necessary conditions for crime that are open to intervention. They can often be very simple and commonsensical, such as ensuring that two staff are always on duty in small shops at times when crimes, including robberies, are most likely, since offenders face much greater risks under these circumstances. The pinch-point is not necessarily a root cause. The root causes of inclination to offend are hard to identify with any confidence. They can then be very difficult to change. Crime is not simply the result of an individuals motivation to offend. For offences to occur, the conditions for offending also have to be right. All the models also call for properly planned implementation of the intended interventions, good mechanisms for tracking progress, and for honest evaluation of impact. Finally, all models call for feedback loops so that findings at later stages inform refinements in the earlier stages. Problems become better defined, interventions become better targeted, measures are implemented more efficiently and changes in problems requiring altered tactics and strategies are identified. In more detail, if less memorably than described in the models listed in Box 1.2, Box 1.3 shows the required steps.

Box 1.3:

What is required of problem-solving in crime reduction

1. Identify a broad problem that needs to be addressed, for example student robbery. 2. Break the problem down into separate types, for example sub-sets of student robbery could include: male students late at night outside pubs; robbery within the first few weeks of the academic year; robbery during the day along routes between university sites and student accommodation. 3. Find out how the crime sub-types are committed from start to finish, by whom and why. 4. Make use of the analysis and previous evidence on what has been effective, identify the best short- and long-term pinch-points those practical and ethical points of intervention that will produce greatest leverage on the problem. 5. Find out who is best placed to apply pressure at the most suitable pinch-points. 6. Mobilise pinch-point pressure. 7. Track implementation of the application of pinch-point pressure. 8. Adjust implementation as necessary. 9. Track the crime problem to see if it has changed at the times and places and amongst the groups expected to be affected, and adjust the preventive efforts accordingly. 10. Track potential side-effects, for example adaptation and adjustment of offenders, and adjust preventive efforts accordingly. The problem-solving approach to crime prevention is common sense. It also has a strong pedigree in effective crime prevention. It is surprising to find that it has seldom been properly put in practice, as revealed in recent HMIC

Section 1: Selecting effective methods to reduce street crime

and other reports. The systematic application of problem-solving depends on strong and coherent leadership, access to detailed, skilled and informed analysis, openness to the findings of analysis and monitoring, and determination to oversee and keep sight of the process through its various stages and feedback loops and adjustments. This calls for skill, determination, intelligence and management continuity to ensure that interventions stay on course.

The problem-solving approach applied to street crime

The problem-solving approach to personal robbery is laid out in Home Office Development and Practice Report 5. This emphasises the need to match tactic to circumstance and lays out systematically a framework for doing so. A modified version is shown in Box 1.4, drawing where possible on the Tactical Options developed within the Street Crime Initiative and available to the police from the Police Standards Unit. The importance here, however, lies less in the details than the emphasis it places on thinking through the specifics of the problem being addressed, and the ways in which potential tactics are expected to work to produce the targeted outcome. The material on enforcement in Box 1.4 is better developed than it is on other elements of a strategy, perhaps reflecting the emphases in the approach to street crime at the time the report was written. The selection and design of non-enforcement tactics would also need to be precisely expressed in any strategy to address a specific street crime problem. The development and implementation of nonenforcement tactics is also likely to involve the participation of non-police agencies. Careful consideration should also be given to the need for adequate dialogue and consultation with local communities prior to and during street crime reduction initiatives (see Smith 2003, 65). Local partnerships addressing particular street crime problems should find it useful to go through this table to work out suitable tactics to consider.

Box 1.4:

Matching tactics to local personal robbery problems

Aim of intervention Establish offender identities Examples of tactical options Covert surveillance; stop and search; rapid unknown response initiatives (e.g. robbery car); field questioning; use of known informants; informant hotlines; covert CCTV; anniversary visits; mobile suspect photo albums HVP including special constables and wardens; overt CCTV; bus riding by obvious figures of authority; pulse patrols; security guards; ANPR; highly publicised crackdowns Keep areas open; remove trees and shrubs; close streets; bus stop/cash machine redesign; lighting upgrades; partnership work with/leverage on those responsible for hotspot locations; pub watch; city centre radio links Leafleting; mobile police points; mobilisation of schools, universities, post offices etc. as appropriate; signage warning of risks

1. Hotspot* evident but identity of offenders

and immediate action needed to deter offenders

Deter would-be offenders from operating in hotspots

..and it appears as if features Address aspects of the of the location attract robbery environment that facilitate robbery

and it appears that lack of Promote potential victim public awareness encourages awareness robbery

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

and it appears as if other criminal/nuisance activity nearby contributes to robbery

Disrupt other criminal and nuisance activities

Disperse offender groups; target drug offences; clean up areas; prostitute outreach

and it appears as if the public Provide high profile intervention HVP; publicity; overt CCTV; mobile police are anxious and need reassurance stations; mobile crime prevention vans 2. The identity of frequent/prolific offenders has been established ...but it has proved difficult to catch them in the act but victims are not willing or able to identify them Apprehend offenders Covert surveillance of known offenders; stings

Encourage help and participation Victim handling protocols; VIPER use; from victims identity parades; CCTV videotape scrutiny; witness albums; anniversary visits; onestop investigation cars Build the case against arrestees Use robbery forensic kits; warrants/ fingerprints/SICAR trawls on suspects; crime scene preservation; DNA sampling; rapid entry and warrant execution; thumb print signatures with credit cards; rigorous pre-trial case checks; applications for AntiSocial Behaviour Orders Prevent post-arrest offending Refuse bail; impose bail conditions; bail condition checks; bail check warnings; offender visits; curfews; stop checks; warning messages in custody suites; post-charge prioritisation for prolific offenders Tougher sentencing; reparation orders; curfew enforcement; judiciary sensitisation to local offence seriousness; use of ASBOs

but it has proved difficult to gather additional evidence to secure criminal conviction

but they have been released pending trial, and started to re-offend

but experience has been that Argue for appropriate local courts seldom remove sentencing them from circulation, and they resume offending but even when incarcerated on release they start re-offending

Prevent resumption of offending Provide prompt post-release treatment with alternative option of close police attention; target surveillance on likely repeat offenders; mobilise informal social control; offender birthday and Christmas cards; name and shame persistent offenders; provide realistic alternatives to offending Reduce the economic incentives Stolen goods market reduction - target for robbery receivers, surveillance of suspect retail outlets, retailer visits, property marking, test purchase operations; partnership/ leverage on designers of goods taken, e.g. phone companies; checks on and warnings about false reporting/insurance frauds; mobile phone test purchases to check on reprogramming Education; schools liaison; mediation and reparation/restorative justice schemes

3. Despite action directed at hotspots and known offenders, robbery continues to resurface as a problem locally because it is a reliable way of making cash

because most young people Liaise with schools and youth dont see the offence as serious service

Section 1: Selecting effective methods to reduce street crime

because a clearly identifiable Tackle likelihood of offending group of young people locally by at risk young people take up this crime because there are plenty of suitable victims Reduce victim vulnerability

Diversion; Sure Start; youth inclusion projects; mentoring Guidance to small businesses; improved security for victims and repeat victims; student transport provision; provision of attack alarms; cash in transit patrols; advertising campaigns to provide advice on personal security

*For these purposes hotspots may be defined in a wide variety of ways. They may, for example, describe transport routes, residential areas, areas round stations, schools or hospitals, town centres, trading estates, or red light districts.

Some practical aids to problem-solving

Hot times and places
It is useful also to look at the intersection of hot times and hot locations, and at the degree of heat within hotspots and hot times. Box 1.5 (page 10) shows how this can be done and indicates how tactic choice can be informed by doing so. It indicates also how a single tactic, say high visibility patrols, will need to differ in its implementation depending on the time and space distribution of street crimes within an overall hotspot. Clearly detailed analysis is needed in looking at a specific problem and at potential solutions. These might include, for example, physical design changes or place management strategies (allocation and acceptance of responsibility for oversight and guardianship of areas by specific people, agencies or organisations).

The crime triangle

The crime triangle is often used in crime reduction as a means of understanding problems and identifying potential preventive points of intervention. It is rooted in routine activity theory (see Felson 2002), which specifies that for a predatory crime to occur three basic conditions are needed. There must be:

a likely offender, someone who is capable of committing the crime and is either intent on doing so or open to temptation or provocation; a suitable target, a person or property available as the object of the crime, and; a lack of capable guardianship, a situation where nothing or no one is present effectively to stand between the likely offender and suitable target.

q q

Many crime patterns have been explained in terms of the supply, distribution and movement of likely o ffenders, suitable targets and capable guardians. The crime triangle, applied to street crime, asks, analytically:

Who is liable to commit street crimes, what makes them likely to offend and what brings them to encounter suitable victims? Who are suitable victims of street crime, what makes them suitable, and what brings them to encounter likely offenders? Where and when is capable guardianship absent in places and at times when likely street crime offenders are liable to encounter suitable victims?

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Box 1.5:

Choice of tactics and street crime concentration patterns by time (temporal) and location/space (spatial)

Adapted from J. Ratcliffe (2004) The Hotspot Matrix: A Framework for the Spatio-Temporal Targeting of Crime Reduction, Police Practice and Research, vol. 5

For strategy development, the crime triangle suggests three points of intervention. The key questions are, therefore:

What scope is there for reducing the supply of street crime offenders for example through their demotivation, incapacitation, diversion, deterrence, or treatment? What scope is there for reducing the supply of suitable victims for example by making them less numerous, less attractive, less easy, or less accessible? What scope is there for improving guardianship where and when street crimes tend to occur for example by targeting it better, by re c ruiting more guardians, by converting non-guardians into guardians, by reducing the price of capable guardianship, or by creating impressions of strong guardianship?

Crime sets
Crime sets describe groups of crimes which are sufficiently similar so that analysis of them will identify points of intervention (Poyner 1986). The idea is to describe in detail how offences of interest were committed, including the lead-up to the incident, the environment of the offences, what occurred as the offence took place, and actions immediately following the crime. From this it should be possible to tease out substantially similar sets of offences open to the same preventive tactics.

Section 1: Selecting effective methods to reduce street crime

Poyner suggests tracking the precise behaviours and locations of offenders, victims and witnesses. This can be done case by case until patterns begin to emerge. Poyner concedes that in many cases the necessary details will not be present in all crime reports. He suggests an approach analogous to that used in archaeology, where on the basis of many cases partial sets of broken pottery can be reconstructed to obtain a reliable picture of the whole. Likewise the partial pictures of individual crimes can collectively be built on to create robust accounts of crime sets. Poyner illustrates the method in relation to a snatch theft problem at city centre bus stops in Coventry and Birmingham, as shown in Box 1.6 (page 12). This was one of a series of sets looking at street crime in 1982. It shows common characteristic immediate antecedents and after-events for a sub-set of snatch theft incidents. On the basis of this, Poyner is able to identify various conditions that might be changed in the interests of prevention. These include re-siting bus stops into bays to make it more difficult for offenders to watch the queue at a distance, putting in screened bus shelters again to make it more difficult for the offenders to look out for potential victims, and removing direct access to the bus through a queue-marshalling arrangement which would prevent offenders dashing onto and away from the bus boarding platform.

Further reading
Clarke, R. and Eck, J. (2003) Become a Problem Solving Crime Analyst in 55 small steps, London: Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science (distributed by Willan Publishing, Cullompton Devon; available at: Felson, M. (2002) Crime and Everyday Life, Thousand Oaks CA: Sage. Morgan Harris Burrows et al . (2003) Tackling Personal Robbery: Findings from the Police and Community Partnerships, Home Office Development and Practice Report 5. London: Home Office (available at: Ratcliffe, J. (2004) The Hotspot Matrix: A Framework for the Spatio-Temporal Targeting of Crime Reduction, Police Practice and Research, vol. 5. Read, T. and Tilley, N. (2000) Not Rocket Science? Problem solving and crime reduction, Crime Reduction Research Series Paper 6, London: Home Office (available at:


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Box 1.6:

Snatch theft crime set

From Poyner, B. (1986) A Model for Action in K. Heal and G. Laycock (eds) Situational Crime Prevention: From Theory to Practice, London: HMSO


Section 2:

Reducing street crime basic mechanisms

This section lays out the main means by which crime may be controlled. These are presented in abstract terms and some readers may prefer to go directly to some concrete examples in Part Two before reading through this material. The following four boxes list the broad means by which crime can be reduced using different approaches. Only the first is largely under the control of the police and other parts of the criminal justice system. Other methods require action by different agencies, often in partnership with one another and the police. 1. Policing and the criminal justice system provide the traditional response to crime. They are deemed to reduce crime in the three main ways, as shown in Box 2.1.

Box 2.1:
q q

Policing and criminal justice system mechanisms for crime reduction

Incapacitate offenders: the imprisonment of offenders who are unable to commit crimes whilst in custody Deter known offenders: the threat of capture and punishment amongst particular offenders, who thereby fear the consequences of committing crimes and hence cease doing so Deter potential offenders: the public perception of risks of capture and punishment, as a result of which those who might otherwise be tempted to commit crime do not do so

2. Social crime reduction methods attempt in various ways to change the underlying social conditions that permit or promote involvement in criminal behaviour. Three main means are shown in Box 2.2.

Box 2.2:

Social intervention mechanisms for crime reduction

Divert from crime: the channelling of activity away from criminal behaviour that could otherwise be expected, into law-abiding endeavours Improve informal social control: the activation of community, family, school or peer group capacities to exert pressure on potential and actual offenders to behave well Integrate into mainstream society: the creation of social ties providing potential and actual offenders with interests in and commitments to behaving lawfully

3. Known individual offenders can be provided with treatment that aims to reduce the likelihood that they will re - o ffend. Three mechanisms through which this can be attempted are shown in Box 2.3.

Box 2.3:

Individual treatment mechanisms for crime reduction

Reduce drug-dependency: the removal of a particular set of needs disposing some offenders to commit crimes Increase the capacity for lawful conduct: the enhancement of options for law-abiding patterns of behaviour, for example, improving employment prospects through training Change thinking about crime: the improvement of cognitive skills amongst offenders in the hope that this will lead to reduced criminal activity

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

4. Situational crime prevention modifies the circumstances surrounding specific types of crime event in a variety of ways that have been found to reduce crime. The five main means by which this can occur are shown in Box 2.4.

Box 2.4:

Situational mechanisms for crime reduction

Increase the risks: manipulation of the situation so that risks to the offenders appear to outweigh potential benefits Increase the effort: manipulation of the situation for crime so that potential offenders are no longer able to commit the crime or perceive the costs to exceed the expected benefits Decrease the rewards: manipulation of the situation for crime so that potential offenders perceive the rewards to be less than those warranted by risks and efforts needed Remove provocations: manipulation of the situation for crime so that potential offenders are not provoked or prompted into committing a crime Reduce excuses: manipulation of the situation for crime so that potential offenders perceive that what they might be tempted to do is inexcusable and they therefore should not do it

Examples: Increase the risks: increase the chance of identifying offenders through improvements to CCTV coverage in and around the university campus Increase the effort: provide late night transport for students so offenders dont have access to them Decrease the rewards: discourage students from carrying high value items at risky times Remove provocations: persuade phone shop workers not to recommend those losing phones to report them as stolen as a way of enhancing their chances of making successful insurance claims Reduce excuses: require victims to sign statements that offences had actually occurred as described, incorporating the reminder that fraudulent reports are criminal The effectiveness of each method depends in part on how well it is targeted and implemented. Much of the Street Crime Initiative has been devoted to the smart, efficient and well-focused application of traditional police and criminal justice system methods of crime reduction. Crime reduction achievements using these methods depend, of course, very much on the quality of the underlying analysis. There is compelling international evidence that conventional policing is not as a rule very effective in reducing crime. At the same time there is evidence that crackdowns and well-targeted patrol can sometimes have an impact on some types of offence, including street crime. The tactics, though, are very costly and the effects are difficult to sustain. Longer-term impact can be achieved where these traditional responses are incorporated as parts of a long-term strategy involving a range of preventive methods. The well-known Tower Project in Blackpool is one example of an initiative that attempts to marry traditional enforcement responses to crime with treatment. Once the incapacitation effects of imprisonment are removed, but whilst still open to leverage through the criminal justice system, the offender is steered into intensive treatment programmes to reduce their dependency on drugs and thereby their need and disposition to commit crime. The strongest evidence so far for the long-term effectiveness of efforts to reduce specific crime problems relates to the intelligent application of situational measures. Some use of the situational approach to crime prevention has been made in the Street Crime Initiative, notably in relation to mobile phones. In the past, situational methods have been effective in substantially reducing commercial robberies, robberies of goods in transit and snatch thefts in street and covered markets. The section on robberies at cash machines (Section 5.3) describes

Section 2: Reducing street crime basic mechanisms

one initiative within the Street Crime Initiative in Manchester where a situational approach has been used to address one specific street crime problem. There may be scope for further use of situational methods, perhaps in conjunction with other approaches, following detailed analysis of specific types of and locations for street crime. Approaches that combine methods, provided that they complement one another and are rooted in evidence, generally have better prospects of long-term success than narrowly focused work. The impact of enhanced enforcement activities alone, especially when enabled only through the provision of temporary additional resources, is likely to be short lived.

Further reading
Ekblom, P. (2002) From the Source to the Mainstream is Uphill: The Challenge of Transferring Knowledge of Crime Prevention through Replication, Innovation and Anticipation, in N. Tilley (ed.) Analysis for Crime Prevention. Cullompton Devon: Willan. Laycock, G. and Tilley, N. (2002) Working Out What to Do: Evidence-Based Crime Reduction, Crime Reduction Research Series paper 11, London: Home Office (available at: Police Standards Unit (2003) Tactical Options, London: Home Office. Tonry, M. and Farrington, D. (1997) Building a Safer Society. Crime and Justice Vol. 19. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative


Section 3:

Practical guide to evaluation

This section suggests some basic elements of evaluation that should be relatively inexpensive to put in place, but will yield fairly reliable findings. It draws heavily on Clarke and Ecks Become a Problem-Solving Crime Analyst, steps 40-48, where more detailed guidance can be found.

The benefits of evaluating interventions

Evaluation offers the opportunity to improve future interventions. Previous mistakes can be avoided and truly effective work can be properly recognised. Just as there may be much work for which unwarranted claims to achievement are being made, it is likely also that effective and innovative work is currently unacknowledged because evidence for it has not been properly assembled. It is important that it is picked up, systematically assessed, and relevant findings disseminated to a wider audience. Little of the Street Crime Initiative has been subject to rigorous evaluation. Where there have been technically competent evaluations quite modest achievements have been claimed. This is characteristic of evaluations that have been conducted stringently. Generally speaking the less robust the assessment the greater the success claims. In determining what investment to make in systematic evaluation, it is a good idea to think about the uses likely to be made of the results. If significant future resource allocations are liable to be informed by findings, it becomes that much more important to invest in a strong, unbiased evaluation. The potential long-term disadvantages of excessive success claims are clear. They risk steering activity in ineffective directions. Whilst rigour, of course, comes at a price in evaluation, lack of rigour can be even more costly. On this basis, carrying out careful evaluation can often be justified. It is also called for in the National Intelligence Model results analysis.

The elements of an evaluation

In order to learn lessons, all the following must generally be attempted in undertaking an adequate evaluation.


A process evaluation

A process evaluation examines what was put in place in relation to what was planned, at alterations needed and at their rationales. It sees, for example, whether the planned interventions were applied in practice, whether there was a breakdown in implementation, whether the original plans were flawed in some way and needed to be modified and whether circumstances changed, requiring a rethink of the original plans.


Measurement of impact, making appropriate comparisons

Once what was actually done is known, its impact can be assessed. Impact will be expressed as the outcome of the initiative, and this will relate to the original aims and objectives of the project. Outcomes will include, for example, how many fewer students are being robbed when coming out of pubs or how many fewer female students have been the victims of bag theft. Outcomes should not be confused with the outputs of the initiative. Outputs describe activities, for example, how many student crime prevention packs were given out or how many students used the late night bus. Suitable comparisons are needed to provide benchmarks against which changes can be measured. It is easy to be misled by apparent drops in numbers of incidents, as shown in Box 3.1.

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Box 3.1:
q q

How apparent crime level changes can be misunderstood

Local crime rates are very volatile and short-term swings can be misconstrued as results of interventions Regression to the mean the tendency of extremes in fluctuating patterns to move back towards the average can easily be mistaken for a real effect General trends affecting rates of crime even when no special measures have been put in place may explain away apparent impact Seasonal patterns can be mistaken for impact, for instance where the high crime time of year for a particular offence is followed by a low crime one Crime rate changes in a locality can alter for reasons other than the particular measures put in place, for example the arrest, movement or death of a particular active offender, the redesign of a road layout, the closure of a childrens home, implementation of revisions to crime recording rules and practices and so on

The canny evaluator has to take all the potential problems shown in Box 3.1 into account. It is generally best to be clear exactly what patterns of behaviour or victimisation are expected and to tailor measurements as precisely as possible to these, making comparisons to others whose experience is unlikely to have been affected by the measure but are likely to have been affected by all else that could plausibly be having an effect. Where possible, the trajectories in the target population and the comparison group should be ascertained for an extended period prior to any intervention to check that the patterns in the two groups ordinarily track one another. Unfortunately, adequate equivalent control groups or areas will rarely be available. The uncritical use of apparently similar groups or areas can be very misleading. It is better to specify comparisons amongst sub-groups in the light of well-defined expected impact patterns from the measures applied. This calls for hard thinking: there is no simple-minded formula. It is possible that interventions have been effective even where levels of crime have increased. This occurs where the appropriate comparison groups crime problems have risen much more steeply. For instance, if the appropriate comparison groups rate of crime has doubled we would expect the target groups numbers also to have doubled. If they have gone up by only 50 per cent, crimes have been saved. So, assuming in the before period that there were 100 offences we would expect there to be 200 in the after period. With a rise to only 150, 50 crimes have been prevented. Equally it is possible that interventions have been ineffective even where the problem declines. This occurs where the appropriate comparison groups problems have fallen much more steeply. In this case suppose the appropriate comparison groups crimes have halved but the target groups crimes have gone down by 50 per cent. Assuming 200 crimes in the before period we would expect 100 in the after. If they have reduced to only 150, in spite of the appearance of success somehow the initiative may have unintentionally generated 50 offences that would otherwise not have happened.


Side-effects: displacement and diffusion of benefits

Crime prevention initiatives can have two main sets of side-effects: displacement and diffusion of benefits. Displacement describes the substitution of one crime for another, and is undesirable. Diffusion describes an aura of positive effects extending beyond the operational range of measures, and is highly desirable. Corresponding types of each are shown in Box 3.2.


Section 3: Practical guide to evaluation

Box 3.2:
Type Temporal Target

Displacement and diffusion of benefits in the Street Crime Initiative

Definition Change by time Change by object of offending Change by method of offending Change by crime type Change in offender population Diffusion effect Reduction in nearby area Reduction at times not covered by initiative Displacement effect Increase in another area Increase at times when measures not operative

Geographical Change by area

Reduction against targets other than Increase amongst those not protected those protected through measure by the measure applied Reduction in street crimes using methods other than those inhibited by measures Reduction in crimes other than those targeted Reduction in population attracted to crime Increase in tactics not affected by measures put in place Increase in crimes other than those targeted Switch in offender population as new members move in


Crime Type Offender

Adapted from Clarke and Eck (2003) steps 12 and 44

In measuring displacement and diffusion of benefits, it is best to begin with the more likely ways they could show themselves. What is most likely will depend on local settings, but high visibility hotspot patrol might, for example, be expected also to reduce car theft, or to shift the location of personal robbery. If the most plausible forms of displacement or diffusion of benefits are not found, they are even less likely to have occurred in other ways. If they are found, then move on to the next most likely until you find no impact. Research has found in relation to situational crime prevention that displacement is rarely complete and often negligible, whilst diffusion of benefits has been found quite widely. These findings contradict common intuitions. Because anxiety about displacement is common it is important to measure it and also to measure diffusion of benefits as a counterweight. Diffusion and displacement can be captured by comparing street crime pattern changes in the targeted and potential diffusion/displacement targets. Some care may be needed to find the necessary comparison groups for estimating overall effects, to make sure they are not likely to have benefited from diffusion of benefits or to have suffered from displacement. For example, in assessing the effectiveness of an intervention to reduce robbery of students leaving pubs, it would appear obvious to compare with robbery against other young people. However, if the intervention has helped to protect this latter group as well as the students, it would not make an appropriate comparison group.


Tests of statistical significance

Because street crime levels fluctuate, in the evaluation of an initiative it is necessary to estimate whether an observed change is simply the result of chance rather than the result of some specific event or programme. We do this by looking at the variation in the before period compared to the variation in the after period. Conventionally, only if there is a less than five per cent probability that the change was due to chance is it said to be statistically significant. The probability that changes are due to chance are measured using p-values. A p-value of 0.10 would, for example, tell us that there is a ten per cent probability that the change was due to chance. Depending on the circumstances and on alternative possible uses of resources, it might sometimes be sensible to continue an intervention even if there is as much as a 15 in one hundred probability (p=0.15) that the apparent effect was due to chance. Establishing p-values is simple using standard statistical packages, though it is easy to fall foul of the assumptions built into those tests. It is advisable to bring in an expert statistician where results are being used to inform important decisions. It must always be remembered that drops in crime that fall short of statistical significance may still be real. Failure to cross a statistical threshold does not equate to initiative failure.

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative


Assessment of costs and benefits

Cost-effectiveness analysis measures the cost per unit of output or outcome, for example the cost per high visibility patrol hour or per crime prevented; Cost-benefit analysis estimates the relationship between the cost of the preventive measure introduced and the value of the utility produced, for example the total cost of an initiative to reduce street crime as against the total tangible and intangible savings from crimes prevented.

There are two main types of economic assessment:

Initiatives can be compared in both cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit terms. Estimations of costs and benefits are tricky. All fixed and variable costs of an intervention need to be included, incorporating both those to the police and those to other agencies. Benefits include main effects plus diffusion of benefits effects minus displacement effects. Cost-benefit analysis needs a measure of the savings from crimes prevented. Several elements need to be included here: replacement of goods lost, repair costs of items damaged, medical costs in the case of injury, work time lost, and personal costs in terms of emotional hurt. Finding monetary values for the intangible amongst these can be very difficult. Their exclusion, however, will produce distorted findings. At the least costeffectiveness measures are needed. Cost-benefit estimates, properly undertaken, will provide a way of establishing the net utility of the preventive interventions. For detailed guidance see Dhiri and Brand (1999). Complicating factors in comparative cost-benefit analysis are the different patterns of set-up cost and the varying timescales of effectiveness of the range of approaches to prevention. For example, high visibility patrol is a high revenue/low capital cost response that may be expected to have a relatively quick but short-lived effect. Situational measures often involve more capital cost and less revenue cost, and may be expected to have a somewhat slower but longer-term effect, though effects do also often fade over time. Social measures will tend to be high on revenue costs and will often be expected to have only a long-term effect. Sophisticated cost-benefit analyses will need to follow discounting conventions in relation to longer-term costs and benefits. Here specialist advice is likely to be needed.

Writing up initiatives
Projects and their evaluations need to be written so that reports are straightforward to read. They need to be clearly written, with a strong structure. Data need to be presented as simply as possible. Accounts of projects, their achievements and their difficulties must also be truthful. The accounts are otherwise worse than worthless. As already stressed, they risk generating waste and failed opportunities for effective preventive work. The problem-solving processes outlined in Section 2 of this document provide a ready-made and logical structure for reports. Many are now turning to the 5Is as a way of describing what has been done and what has been achieved in a standardised way. It should be clear by now that conducting strong evaluations is technically challenging and results are fallible. It can be very helpful (though at the same time slightly threatening!) to have findings peer reviewed. This provides a kind of quality check. Moreover, pressure is frequently put on those conducting evaluations to present initiatives in a favourable light. The use of peer review can guard not only against errors by the evaluator but can also detect points where the report may be presenting exaggerated effects under the sway of powerful stakeholders.


Section 3: Practical guide to evaluation

Further reading
Clarke, R. and Eck, J. (2003) Become a Problem-Solving Crime Analyst, London: Jill Dando Institute of C rime Science ( distributed by Willan Publishing, Cu llompt on Devon; available at: Dhiri, S. and Brand, S. (1999) Analysis of Costs and Benefits: Guidance for Evaluators. London: Home Office (available at: Ekblom, P. (2003) 5IS: A Practical Tool for Transfer and Sharing of Crime Prevention Knowledge (available at: Tilley, N. (2000) The Evaluation Jungle, in V. McLaren (ed.) Crime Prevention: What Works? London: IPPR.


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative


Street crime problem-solving checklist

From scanning to analysis

1. Have you conducted a review of major street crime patterns in your area over at least the past 12 months, including an examination of issues such as the following: a. What was stolen? b. What was the age and sex profile of victims and what is the rate of victimisation by age? c. What were the rates of repeat victimisation? d. Where were offences committed, including types of location, specific areas, specific places, and at what times do these offences in these places occur? e. How were the offences committed? f. What were the main attributes of the offenders?

g. How many offences were detected? h. How many offences were committed by individuals and how many by offenders in groups of various sizes? i. j. How many offenders were detected and how many offences were detected to each? What other known criminal acts had been committed by detected offenders?

2. Have you identified the major categories of street crime in you area, and numbers of offences in each category?

From analysis to response

3. Have you identified sub-sets of offences which seem closely to resemble one another, even if not committed by the same people? For example: a. Late-night armed robberies of convenience stores when there are no other customers; b. Personal robberies of drunken male students walking home alone late at night; c. Attacks from the rear on customers at cash machines; d. Pupils taxed for pocket money when walking home alone after school; e. Snatch thefts from pensioners close to post offices on pension collection day; f. Robberies occurring in the vicinity of drugs markets;

g. Commuters targeted on public transport or upon exiting railway and underground stations.

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

4. Have you identified possible points of intervention for each specific sub-set of offences, relating to: o ffenders and their handlers, and/or victims and their guardians, and/or locations and their management? 5. Have you worked out what preventive methods can realistically be applied in relation to each sub-set of offences for a short-term and long-term impact? 6. Have you consulted the literature on the effectiveness of measures being contemplated?

From response to assessment

7. Have you worked out who will be able to implement the measures you propose? 8. Have you worked out how you are going to persuade those in a position to apply the proposed measures conscientiously, to do so in practice? 9. Have you set up monitoring arrangements to see if the problem profile remains the same and if the proposed measures are being applied as planned? 10. Do you have systems in place to review your efforts to address the problem and to make adjustments as required to motivate implementation or improve effectiveness?

From assessment to lesson-learning

11. Have you thought whether specific problem profiles are likely to be found in other areas? 12. Have you set up systems for the objective evaluation of the efforts to address those specific problems? 13. Have you made provision to track potential side-effects, including relevant forms of displacement and diffusion of benefits? 14. Have you agreed to disseminate findings about the effects of your efforts to deal with problem sub-sets, whether or not they are found to have been effective? 15. Have you established provision for independent peer review of your assessment findings?


Part Two Problem-solving and specific street crime scenarios

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Section 4:

Practical analysis: understanding street crime problems

Effective problem-solving is underpinned by an accurate definition of the problem to ensure that interventions are likely to succeed. Offences of robbery cover many different scenarios for offending. The required response to these differing sub-sets of a robbery problem is likely to differ significantly. For instance, robberies occurring in or around commuter trains or buses at night require a wholly different response from those involving schoolaged children in the late afternoon. Identifying these different sub-sets of the robbery problem is therefore crucial in developing an effective and sustainable response to the problem. This section demonstrates ways to define problems through the analysis of data, while highlighting some common features of street crime to inform your own analyses: these have been drawn from the work carried out by the ten SCI forces for 2002 and 2003.

Analysis can be simple

The examples in this section show that relatively straightforward analyses of basic data common to force information systems can reveal patterns and relationships that suggest sub-sets of problems, and differences in the nature of the problem within force areas. They demonstrate how the street crime problem can be broken down into easily identifiable sub-sets of problems that may be easier to translate into tactical police-led responses. More detailed analyses of street crime problems have required intensive research, sifting through crime reports and witness statements, or talking to offenders. These are the ideal, and there have been many good examples of police engaging with local university departments to produce high quality problem analysis during the SCI. A very meticulous study is, however, also time consuming and expensive and may not always be required. It is relatively easy to break the street crime problem down into sub-sets using the problem analysis triangle, concentrating on victim, offender and location and the relationship between them. This level of analysis will not provide the answers needed to develop a detailed strategy, of course, but it will provide a framework within which intelligent questions can be asked about the nature of problems in local areas. Further analysis of information not routinely codified, such as witness statements, intelligence records, or offender debriefs can then usefully be used to answer remaining questions. Local police officers knowledge - too often dismissed as anecdote - also plays a critical role in filling in the gaps but only when grounded within the analysis.

Note on the analyses in this section

Analysts will have at their disposal a wide range of data. The data available for the preparation of this guide were much more limited. They were confined to street crime type, borough, BCU, age and sex and ethnicity of victim, date, time and location type for offence, and age and sex of offenders for detected offences for the calendar year 2002 and 2003. The analyses in this section offer relatively straightforward approaches to looking at crime data routinely collected on force crime information systems. The quality of the information is not always perfect. Data on age of victims and offender are generally much more reliable than those relating to location or, say, the relationship between victim and offender. There are also problems when looking at patterns between victims and offenders since there may be more offenders than victims and so forth.


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

The problem analysis set out below offers practical illustrations of how data readily available to the police can be used as part of the problem-solving SARA process. It draws on data supplied from the ten SCI forces for 2002 and 2003 (excluding the British Transport Police). It demonstrates how the street crime problem can be broken down into easily identifiable sub-sets of problems. Section 5 provides practical illustrations of common street scenarios identified through the types of analyses undertaken here, and the strategies and tactics that can be implemented to tackle the problem successfully. The section starts by demonstrating how data on age of offender and victim, time and location can be set out and analysed to show helpful patterns and relationships. It then suggests how this approach can be used at BCU level, comparing data from two boroughs in London to illustrate the differences in crime patterns that could be highlighted. Some practical lessons complete the section. Basic analyses of police data, such as the age and sex of victims and offenders, the time of offence and its location, will provide analysts with some indication of the differing offence contexts and offending choices by street robbers and the groups that need to be targeted for police action.

Victim and offender

Figure 4.1: Street crime offences by age of victim per 1000 population in the 10 SCI forces: 2002 and 2003

F i g u re 4.1 looks at street crime (ro b b e ry and snatch theft) offence rates compared to the local forc e populations. Younger victims are at greater risk of street crime, but the risk facing young males is much more marked than for young women. The level of offences per 1000 population is greatest for males aged 15-19 years and for women age 20-24 years. However, women aged 65 years and over are at greater risk than similarly aged males of being victims of street crime, and particularly those aged between 80-84 years. Figure 4.2 compares the age of accused persons charged with a street crime offence, and matches the corresponding information about the victim. The majority of victims aged 17 years and under are targeted by other young offenders within the same age group. Those victims of working age, that is those aged between 18 and 64 years, were markedly more likely to be targeted by older accused, (those aged between 18-24 years and 25-44 years). For elderly victims aged over 65 years, half of accused persons were aged between 25 and 44 years, and only a small proportion of elderly persons were victimised by accused persons under 17 years of age.

Section 4: Practical analysis: understanding street crime problems

Figure 4.2:

Proportion of victims within age group targeted by suspect age group:

Figure 4.2 offers a rough and ready comparison and only counts those cases where an accused has been identified and charged. Nonetheless, it is a valuable starting point since it indicates differences in offender choices of suitable targets. Further work on analysing victim statements and crime reports will provide additional detail on different sets of circumstances. Analysts should use their data to draw inferences from research elsewhere, such as those studies based on interviews with offenders, which could provide useful information to inform a well-targeted response (See Box 4.1).

Box 4.1:

Themes in offender motivation and target selection from interviews with street crime offenders

A number of research studies undertaken during the SCI have interviewed robbers about the reasons behind their offending. The following summarises the key themes from research undertaken in London, Manchester, Bristol and South Yorkshire. Younger offenders aged between 14 and 21 robbed to alleviate boredom, to support their desire for fashionable clothing and to gain street cred. They tended to look out for victims they considered easy to rob or likely to be in possession of desirable goods. They targeted other young people who they saw as low in status, unfashionable, weak, not cool or street-wise, as well off or those who clearly displayed items such as laptops and phones. They also targeted those they thought less likely to report the offence to police (drunken people, kerbcrawlers, drug dealers). Although younger offenders described targeting people thought to be carrying cash (e.g. the unemployed collecting giros from post offices) many were against the targeting of vulnerable victims such as the elderly or women, and believed this to be the sole domain of drug-addicted offenders, for whom they expressed some contempt. Older offenders in their twenties robbed to support their addictions to Class A drugs. They were attracted by property that was clearly on display, its value and how easy it would be to steal. They showed little awareness of victim characteristics or their surroundings. Offenders described robberies they had committed in full view of CCTV and other witnesses. This group commonly described their offending in ways that suggested it was opportunistic, even chaotic, and resulted from desperation for drugs. Many older offenders described a belief that street crime was a low-status, unacceptable, embarrassing, desperate act that was out of character or they were ashamed of. They preferred to avoid confrontation with victims, preferring bag snatches, but many conceded they would rob from vulnerable victims, and were more likely to commit violent and reckless crimes when they were desperate for drugs.

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Analysing the time of offences is critical to thinking about when any response is most likely to have an impact. The analysis presented in Figure 4.3 shows how robbery offences against the person increase markedly in late afternoon from 3 p.m. onwards, with the bulk of offences being committed between 3 p.m. and midnight. Snatch theft offences increase steadily throughout the day: there is an absence of a sharp peak in snatch theft offending though the majority of offences are again committed between 3 p.m. and midnight.

Figure 4.3:

Robbery and snatch theft offences by hour of day

Greater precision can be achieved by comparing the victim and offender characteristics with the time of the offence. Figure 4.4 (page 29) shows how the profile of the street crime problem changes throughout the day as different victim age groups are targeted. The marked increase in offences in late afternoon can be attributed to school-aged victims aged 17 years and under. In the early evening, between the hours of 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., higher offence levels are sustained by an increased number of victims aged between 18-24 years and 25-44 years. This remains the case during the night-time hours between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., with the number of offences involving school-aged victims under 17 years falling markedly. Street crime offences against the elderly (those aged 65 years and over) are concentrated between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., peaking between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Three patterns are evident here: school-aged victims, retired victims targeted during the day, and other adult victims targeted at night.


Section 4: Practical analysis: understanding street crime problems

Figure 4.4:

Street crime victims by age group and time of offence: 2002 and 2003 Location

Specific details relating to the location of street crime will reveal something about victims routine activities that will prove useful in developing a response. Extracting specific information on offence location from force information systems is difficult. The public nature of street crime means that most offences are classified as having occurred on the street, even though the opportunity for the offence will have arisen from the victims uses of specific places, such as bars, retails outlets and transport. Analysis of location is probably better suited to Geographical Information System (GIS) based analyses, which can measure the association of offences around specific locations such as train stations, pubs and night-clubs or schools for example. An example of a GIS analysis is detailed in Figure 4.5 (page 30), drawing on work undertaken by Gavin Hales for the Brent Community Safety Partnership. This shows the density of street crime offences with increasing distance from pubs, railway and underground stations and schools. Scanning suggests that these locations provide the opportunities for offending to occur, such as drunk adult victims leaving pubs at night, and commuters leaving busy stations and being picked off in quieter surrounding streets. This is supported by the analysis in Figure 4.5. Routine locat ion data co nt ained i n crim e reports is not ideal for analysi s. None theless, there are some interesting differences between victims grouped by age when looking at offences occurring within specific categories of location type. Again, this information has the potential to reveal something about victims different routine activities that provide opportunities for offending and helps identify potential pinch-points for inter vention. Figure 4.6 (page 30 ) shows an analysis of offences occurring within specific location types, broken down by age of victim. Further patterns can be distinguished here: young school-aged victims targeted in and around schools, on public transport, leisure and fast-food outlets; young adults around licensed premises, fast-food outlets, banks and cash-points; more elderly victims targeted in and around the vicinity of post offices.

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Figure 4.5:

Street Crime Density With Increasing Distance London Borough of Brent Jan - Jun 2003

Figure 4.6:

Location of street crime offence and age of victim: 2002 and 2003

Identifying differences at BCU level

The analyses presented so far provide quick and easy illustrations of problem-solving within the limitations of police data. Ideally these analyses need to be undertaken at a local BCU level, since important differences will exist in the nature of the street crime problem within police force areas.

Section 4: Practical analysis: understanding street crime problems

Distinctive street crime profiles will exist between different localities within police force areas. Two BCUs are selected here to illustrate this point: the London boroughs of Westminster and Southwark. Even with the limited data at hand, it is still possible to highlight distinctive attributes of the street crime problems in the two boroughs and formulate some questions and hypotheses that might be explored in greater detail with additional data. Table 4.1 shows the total numbers of detected incidents over the two years, by number of accused and number of victims, respectively for Southwark and Westminster. The figures for numbers of victims may be more robust than those for the accused since some cases may be cleared without all offenders being identified. The data suggest that in the overwhelming majority of cases there is a single victim. However, in 18 per cent of cases in Southwark, but only nine per cent of cases in Westminster, there are multiple victims.

Table 4.1:

Detected street crimes in Southwark and Westminster 2002 and 2003

Southwark One Two Total persons accused Westminster Four + Total One Two 5 4 2 2 13 449 66 12 8 535 406 29 2 0 437 105 10 0 0 118

Three 44 13 1 0 58

Three 27 2 9 1 40

Four + 5 0 0 0 5

Total 543 41 11 1 602

Number of One victims Two Three Four + Total

338 42 6 4 390

62 7 3 2 74

Are there differences between offenders and victims in cases with multiple victims and multiple offenders and do these vary by BCU? Table 4.2 shows findings relating to age. These indicate that as numbers of victims in a group increase, so the average age of both victims and offenders tends to diminish. The exception in Southwark, where there are six victims with an average age of 36, relates to a single unusual incident. Also generally, the average ages of Southwarks offenders and victims are lower than those for Westminster.

Table 4.2.

Average ages of victims and accused by number of victims in Southwark and Westminster
Southwark Westminster Victim 26 21 18 16 36 13 14 23 Accused 23 20 16 19 No cases No cases No cases 22 Victim 32 28 17 35 No cases No cases No cases 31 Accused 22 19 16 15 16 15 12 20

Total no of victims 1 2 3 4 6 7 Total

If we now look at time of day of incidents for victims and offenders by age and borough we again find interesting differences. Figure 4.7 (page 32) shows the time of day distribution of incidents by age of victim for Southwark. The midafternoon (going home from school?) spike for victims aged 17 and under is obvious. For those aged 18 to 44, numbers increase somewhat during the afternoon and particularly during the evening. Figure 4.7 shows the same information for Westminster. It is clear that the patterns are rather different. There is still an afternoon increase for victims aged 17 and under, but it is much less pronounced. The early evening (going home?) and night-time (going out?) spikes are apparent among 18 to 44 year-olds and particularly for 25-44 year-olds in the late evening and early hours of the morning.

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Figure 4.7:

Time of day of street crime incidents in Southwark and Westminster by victim age group

This preliminary look at BCU-level data suggests that in several respects the nature of the street crime problems differ in Westminster and Southwark.

Victims and offenders are older in Westminster than in Southwark.


Section 4: Practical analysis: understanding street crime problems

Southwark has a distinct peak for victimisation in mid-afternoon for young victims, not as strongly evident in Westminster. Westminster has evening and early morning peaks for street crime not as strongly evident in Southwark, especially for older victims. There is more group offending and victimisation in Southwark than in Westminster.

Potentially fruitful lines of enquiry from the work so far, to find the sorts of crime set identified in Section 2 of this report, would include:

An examination of potential crime sets relating to robbery of youngsters after school, looking at crimes by groups and against groups as well as one-on-one offences. Greater emphasis would need to be given to robbery of young people and group offending in Southwark than in Westminster; An examination of early evening (commuter) and night-time (social drinkers?) potential crime sets, with greater emphasis on this in Westminster than in Southwark.

The next step for a BCU analyst would involve extracting the detailed crime records for the supposed crime sets to see whether common patterns of action and location could be discerned within them, suggesting potential preventive pinch-points, along the lines shown in Section 2.

Practice notes
A number of practical lessons are clearly evident from these force-wide and BCU-level analyses:
q q

The need to differentiate approaches based on the age relationship between victims and offender; The need to be aware that the nature of street crime changes throughout the day: this analysis would suggest the need to target school-aged victimisation in late afternoon (and to a lesser extent early evening). Crimes committed in early evenings and at night may require a switch of focus to tackle commuters returning from work, and adult victims made vulnerable through a combination of isolation and inebriation; GIS-based analysis can be fruitful in identifying the links between particular opportunity-generating locations such as stations and pubs and the occurrence of street crime; The profile of street crime can vary between different areas within police forces, as illustrated in the analyses for Southwark and Westminster.


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative


Section 5:

Common problem scenarios for street crime

This section offers some practical examples of common problem profiles for street crime offences that exist to varying degrees across the ten SCI forces. Some of the practical and relatively simple examples of analyses offered here can be used to quickly identify which problem profiles could be more relevant to a particular force area. Nine common problem profiles are offered in the following section, along with discussion and examples where appropriate of approaches that have worked or have the potential to be successful. The problem profiles broadly follow the SARA process, with some modifications where firm evidence of success is lacking. Practical learning points are also identified from both successful and unsuccessful initiatives. The problem profiles are not exhaustive and more will be added as the work with police forces progresses. Forces will need to interrogate their own data, using some of the approaches outlined in Section 4 to identify particular problem scenarios relevant to their force area.

Using the scenarios

Each scenario is useful on its own, but you may find it helpful to look at others, as there is a degree of overlap. All the scenarios are underpinned by the guidance given earlier on developing an appropriate strategy, selecting effective tactics, analysing data and evaluating interventions.


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative


Section 5.1:

Student robbery

Offences against students often occur late at night when they are returning from an evening out drinking, and not paying as much attention to personal safety as at other times. Interventions aimed at reducing student victimisation include specific high visibility policing operations and Safer Route schemes, running alongside more general crime prevention advice tailored for students.

Scanning: nature and distribution of the problem

Students in higher education have been identified as a specific group that is particularly vulnerable to robbery. A victim survey of university students in the East Midlands showed that four per cent of students had been victims of robbery or theft from the person (including snatch theft). For a city with 25,000 students, this is equivalent to at least 1,000 offences. Robbery accounts for nine per cent of the crime incidents experienced by students. Another survey regarding concerns about crime around a London-based university reported that being robbed was one of the main concerns of the students studying there. Several police forces in areas with universities in city centres have indicated that over one fifth of robbery victims in the city are students.

Analysis: the source of the problem and potential pinch-points

Victim, offender and offence
Interviews with offenders in Manchester and Sheffield showed that both younger and older offender groups, with their differing motivations for committing robberies, saw students as being easy targets. The offenders gave a number of reasons why students face an increased risk of victimisation of crime, and robbery in particular.

When coming to a new city at the start of the academic year students have little knowledge about the local area, and which routes around the university are safer. They were seen to be clueless, especially during the first few weeks of the academic year. Offenders perceive students to have a lack of understanding about crime in general and a lack of awareness about their vulnerability to robbery. Offenders target students because they often carry desirable items (such as mobile phones, laptops, minidisc players and, more recently, i-pods), have cash on them, or have immediate access to a bank account. Offenders see students as being easily intimidated and prepared to hand over their possessions without a fight. Students are easily identifiable by their clothes, the location they are in and their general manner. Students are perceived as being privileged, causing resentment amongst potential offenders.

q q

Male students are more at risk than females, although there have been specific incidents of bag snatches from lone young female students late at night. As would be expected of the student population, victims are usually aged between 18 and 24. The age, gender and ethnic profile of offenders is similar to that of victims: the majority of them are identified as being white males in their late teens or early twenties. The more vulnerable students suffer more snatch-related incidents in which there is minimal contact between the offender and the victim, leaving the victim little opportunity to be able to identify the offender at a later date. A number of incidents have occurred in which students were stopped and searched for possessions, with

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

the students offering little resistance. Incidents have also been cited of students being marched to cash machines and forced to withdraw cash. Offenders targeting students from one university have been reported often to use pedal cycles to get away from the scene of an incident.

The location of an offence is very much dependent on the time of day it occurs. Data from Manchester show that three-quarters of student robberies occur during lighting-up hours, with a large proportion occurring late at night between 10pm and 1am as students return home from pubs and clubs. In many cities with large universities, the location of pubs frequented by students and the location of student robberies do appear to be strongly linked, suggesting that offenders prey on students when they are drunk and paying less attention to their personal safety. Some city centre-based universities, such as in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool, have identified corridors between the city centre, university campus and student accommodation where students are most frequently robbed on their way home after a night out. They will often take short-cuts through more isolated areas with little natural surveillance. Robbery is less common actually on and immediately around university campuses. Robberies occurring during the day, mainly around midday and in the late afternoon between 4pm and 6pm, are more often along the routes and short-cuts between main university teaching sites and halls of residence or other areas with a high concentration of student accommodation.

Response: strategies, tactics and implementation

A number of initiatives have been set up with the specific aim of reducing robberies against the student population. The approaches used have included trying to deter the offender through high visibility policing in hotspot areas; raising awareness of the risks amongst potential victims; and providing enviro n m e n t a l improvements to reduce the opportunities for offending. The combination of measures used needs to be tailored to the specific problems facing the students in each individual university. Examples of these are given in Table 5.1.1.

Safer routes schemes

Safer or preferred routes schemes have been set up in a number of university cities by partnerships between the university, local authority and the police. The aim is to provide a specified route for students returning home from the university or city centre after a night out, thus deterring potential offenders and reassuring students. Specific measures adopted in safer route schemes include:

High visibility policing patrols around hotspots between the city centre, university and student accommodation; Preferred routes marked with appropriate signage, and those routes made safer with improved street lighting and improved natural surveillance by cutting back trees and bushes; Provision of night buses for students to discourage them from walking through robbery hotspot areas.

In many cases, the route covered by these schemes covers more than one BCU, so, in addition to working with other partner agencies, a joined-up approach within a police force is needed. The safer routes approach is more difficult to implement where university campus buildings are spread over a wide area, or where student accommodation is widely distributed. However, using careful analysis it should still be possible to identify higher risk locations that could be targeted. Similar approaches have been used for schoolchildren travelling to and from school.


Section 5.1: Student robbery

Box 5.1.1:

Leeds Walksafe

This initiative was set up in partnership between the University of Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan University and West Yorkshire Police with the aim of maintaining a safe route between the halls of residence, the main student residential areas, the university campus and the city centre. It involved high visibility police patrols working with university security staff in this student corridor during the first few weeks of term, when students were most vulnerable. Better use of intelligence has also helped target robbery suspects. Further operations have been planned around other events in the university calendar. In addition to this, a night bus has been set up in partnership with a local bus company to run along an extended route between the city centre, university and outer ring road, covering a greater proportion of the student accommodation. Students reported that they felt safer with the visible police presence in the area. During the operation in the first month of term in 2003, it was reported that there were 11 robberies in the area targeted. This represents a reduction of 78 per cent on the previous year, when 50 robberies were recorded during the same period. Reductions were also seen in burglary and vehicle crime during the operation.

High visibility policing

A visible police presence has been maintained around Manchester University over the academic year through the use of the bright yellow Operation Hawk vans. Although this tactic was designed in part to reassure students, evidence pointed to it having been more successful in deterring potential offenders: offenders interviewed were far more aware of the vans than were students. In Salford, high visibility police operations helped reduce the proportion of student robberies around the university, with the largest reductions in robbery being seen in the beat areas where students had been specifically targeted.

Personal safety advice

General crime prevention advice should be provided to students on their arrival at university, and that advice should include specific mention of robbery and personal safety. Students are more likely to take notice of and respond to guidance tailored to the local area and made as relevant as possible to their university. Various forms of publicity have been successful in getting the message of crime prevention across to students, including videos, CD-Roms, leaflets, diaries with advice, emails and newspaper articles. High-profile publicity campaigns with strong brand images, such as Merseysides Be Streetsafe, have been launched in a number of university cities, the most successful of which were developed in partnership with the university and students union. Information sent to students before coming to the university helps to make them aware of potential problems and how to reduce their vulnerability.

Police university liaison officers

Many universities have allocated police liaison officers. In Manchester, two police liaison officers are based within the university to help disseminate advice amongst students and encourage them to report incidents if they do occur. A different approach has been employed in Sheffield, where a security officer from Sheffield Hallam University has been seconded to South Yorkshire Police to work as a crime reduction officer with the robbery team. The security officer uses his expertise and experience of working with the student population to help the police tackle student robbery.

Many initiatives aimed at students focus around the fortnight at the beginning of the academic year, when freshers in particular are at their most vulnerable. This is definitely an important time, but there are also other times when specific measures and operations may be required, such as around major events, end of term parties, the start of house hunting activity and the return after winter and Easter holidays. Again, working in partnership with the universities, plans for police activity should take this into account.


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Table 5.1.1: examples of combinations of interventions to reduce student robbery

City Leeds Initiative Target Walksafe studentcrime7a.htm Summary of measures implemented

q q

Partnership between the universities, student unions and West Yorkshire Police High visibility patrols along the main route between the university and student areas during the first few weeks of the academic year Late night bus service between the city, the university and the student residential areas. Publicity campaign SAFE (Safety Awareness for Everyone) Planning to extend robbery reduction measures throughout the academic year, not just during freshers week Partnership between Merseyside Police, universities in Liverpool and student representative High-profile publicity campaign to raise awareness of personal safety Promotion of the use of local night buses by students returning home from the city and university Police working in partnership with the universities and local authority Signed route between the university and the halls of residence, increased use of CCTV along the route, environmental improvements (cutting back trees and hedges), improved street lighting Dedicated Police Liaison Officers working with the university


Be Streetsafe campaigns/BeStreetsafe/ bestreetsafe.html

Manchester Operation Hawk

Assessment: outputs, outcomes and lessons learnt

The evaluation of the Merseyside student safety campaign showed that there was a 38 per cent reduction in robberies of people aged between 17 and 25 during the initiative compared with the same period in the previous year. Students also reported being reassured through having a higher police presence in traditional student areas. The success of the project and engagement with the relevant partners has ensured its continuance in future years. Similar reductions in robberies against students have been reported by other police forces.

Practice notes
There are a number of practical issues that should be considered when attempting to reduce student robbery. Sustainability. Initiatives and awareness-raising need to be repeated on an annual basis as new students join the university. Action also needs to be maintained throughout the academic year, using analysis of incidents and feedback from the students themselves, to identify times and locations where further action is required. Partnership working. In addition to partnership on an operational level, there should be high-level strategic plans between university officials, police, student representatives and the local authority. This level of partnership will ensure that universities are engaged in addressing crimes affecting their students off campus as well as on campus. Any strategy to reduce crime against students will work far more effectively if there is student buy-in from the start. Funding and resources. Joint funding between all the partners involved should be agreed, with the universities accepting that they have some responsibility in addressing the crime problems faced by their students.

Section 5.1: Student robbery

Information-sharing. Increased contact between the police and students enables the police to gain a better understanding of what students perceive crime and safety problems to be. The police are also able to provide a more accurate indication of what the risks really are within certain areas. This allows both police and students to work at reducing fear of crime or targeting advice towards more vulnerable groups, as appropriate. Drawing up an information-sharing protocol between partners will reduce potential problems resulting from the Data Protection Act. Encouraging reporting. Students should be encouraged to report crime and suspicious incidents to provide the police with up-to-date, relevant information. When re c o rding incidents, police should ensure that the occupation of the victim is recorded correctly to gain a better understanding of the extent of the robbery problem facing students. This will also ensure that the impact of initiatives implemented can be evaluated.

Further reading
Barberet R., Fisher B., Farrell G. and Taylor H. (2003) University student safety, Findings 194. London: Home Office: London. Home Office (2004) Crimes against students: emerging lessons for reducing student victimisation, Development and Practice Report 21. London: Home Office. Police Association of Higher Education Liaison Officers ( Reducing student victimisation Good to be secure ( Student crime reduction website (


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative


Section 5.2:

Robbery of school-aged children

Most robbery of school-aged children is committed by other young people, many early in their crime careers. In addition to enforcement responses and situational measures, an important priority is to stop young people following a crime pathway and to divert those that start down this route. This requires high quality partnership working involving many agencies. A major component of the SCI has involved diversionary activities for young people and placing police officers in schools. Successful strategies have combined these approaches with more traditional disruption tactics, with some forces using situational approaches to reduce the vulnerability of potential victims in places where they are likely to congregate.

Scanning: nature and distribution of the problem

Over one in five robberies are believed to involve victims under the age of 17 years targeted by those people within the same age group. There are some marked differences between force areas in the degree to which robberies involving school-aged children are a problem. Nonetheless, those areas experiencing a robbery problem will almost certainly need responses tailored to tackling youth-on-youth robbery offending with the degree of application dependent on the analysis of the problem.

Analysis: the source of the problem and potential pinch-points

A number of recent studies have explored the involvement of young people in street crime, and have looked in particular at the characteristics of offenders and their motivations. These studies have included analyses of police data, witness statements of victims, and interviews with robbery offenders.

Characteristics of offenders, victims and offences


These offences are more likely to involve groups of young male offenders, more likely to involve the theft of a mobile phone, and more likely to occur in the mid to late afternoon period. Robberies of young people usually occur when the victim is on their way home from school or when they are out socialising with their friends during weekday evenings or in the afternoons or evenings at weekends. Offender interviews from separate studies in Manchester, Bristol, London and Sheffield suggest that young offenders carefully select other young victims and the choice of offending location. Victims are targeted because they are perceived to be easy to rob, unfashionable, uncool, well off and likely to have valuables or cash. Offenders are likely to be involved in committing other less serious criminal acts and in acts of antisocial behaviour (ASB). ASB seems to be regarded by many young robbers as a 'normal' extension of play. There was some evidence from interviews with offenders in Manchester for a progression from shoplifting, joy-riding and minor assault on to robbery, burglary and selling drugs.

Motivation to offend

Perpetrators appear to be motivated by boredom and by the need to obtain money to purchase fashionably conspicuous items such as clothes, trainers, jewellery and mobile phones. They place an emphasis on street culture and hanging out in public areas. Street robbery confers an image of toughness and street cred; the financial gain is often secondary to the buzz of offending. It is used as a means to affirm superiority over other groups of young men or as a mechanism to avoid being picked on themselves.

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Many perpetrators do not appear to recognise street robbery as a serious crime, viewing it more as an extension of bullying behaviour.

Risk factors for young people

There are various personal and situational factors which predict whether young people are likely to turn to acquisitive crime including robbery (see box 5.2.1). It is, therefore, important to consider those factors that might influence whether young people start, and whether they continue, on a crime and robbery pathway. Factors which protect juveniles from delinquency and future offending, which may be related to risk of committing offences that cause high levels of harm, include high IQ, parental expectations of high academic achievement, non-delinquent friends, resilient temperament, positive social orientation, and supportive relationships with peers parents and other adults (Powis, 2002). Ekblom (2001) includes "changing life circumstances to reduce immediate motivation for offending", "reducing their criminal disposition by early action on children's development at home and in school" and "supplying resources to help them avoid crime", in his principles of crime prevention.

Box 5.2.1:
q q q q q q q q q q q q q q q

Risk factors for offending in young people

poor parental supervision and discipline family conflict family history of problem behaviour parental involvement in or attitudes condoning problem behaviour low income and poor housing low achievement beginning at primary school aggressive behaviour including bullying lack of commitment to school including truancy poorly managed schools community disorganisation and neglect availability of drugs disadvantaged neighbourhood high turnover and lack of neighbourhood attachment having friends who exhibit alienation, lack of social commitment and problem behaviour early involvement in problem behaviour

(Based on Beinart et al. 2002)

Response: strategies, tactics and implementation

There has been considerable activity during the SCI aimed at reducing robbery amongst young people and strategies have largely centred on immediate disruption coupled with longer-term diversion. In addition, some forces have adopted location specific situational approaches (see Section 2 of this pack) where the routine activities of young people (such as going to and from school at specific times in the morning and afternoon) provide for identifiable hotspots and pinch-points for action. Diversionary approaches involve working directly with offenders or at risk individuals, their peer group and their families, to provide constructive alternatives to unstructured spare time and, in some cases, remedial support and life direction. They also aim to build confidence in local communities by involving them as part of the response. A wide range of people in society has been shown to be able to make a contribution in this area.

Section 5.2: Robbery of school-aged children

These are potentially powerful interventions as they can help reduce the full range of criminal and anti-social behaviour in the individuals concerned, and avoid others from being negatively influenced by these individuals in the future. The bulk of diversionary activity under the Street Crime Initiative has been under the umbrella of the Positive Activities for Young People (PAYP) programme and the Safer Schools Partnerships (SSP) often referred to as Police in Schools. These schemes bring together a variety of approaches to prevention, including not only diversion, but also mediation, individual treatment and some situational measures. Table 5.2.1. gives an overview.

Table 5.2.1: Positive Activities for Young People and the Safer Schools Partnership
Programme Positive Activities for Young People (PAYP) www.teachernet. management/ Origins and objectives

Activities undertaken

Builds on previous schemes such as Summer Splash and Summer Plus Primary aim is to target young people during school holidays with a comprehensive full-time programme of activity and key worker support to guide them back into education, training or employment. Additional key worker support is available beyond the holiday periods as part of the Behaviour Improvement Progamme (BIP) organised by the DfES. See: uk/studysupport/impact/behaviour improvement/ SSP projects focus on reducing problem behaviour both in and around schools. Build on previous police involvement in schools where police officers have tended to take an essentially teaching role; as part of an SSP their role is more operational. They provide a much fuller level of resource and develop a much closer relationship with the school and its community.

q q

A wide range of diversionary and developmental activities provided on a demand-led basis. Police involvement often minimal. A variety of traditional and innovative activities: sports (football being the most activities: sports (football being the most production, first aid, anger management, preparing a CV, application forms and interview techniques, film-making, IT, one-day trips and residentials.

Safer Schools q Partnerships (SSP) Police in Schools q www.saferschool

Visible presence by police officers, including school grounds, playgrounds, school buildings, perimeter, gates, school buses, and the major routes to school. Anti-truancy patrols also fall into this category; One to one work with specific young people. This could include setting up formal behaviour attendance contracts with young people, and in some cases meetings with parents. Organised group work, often through afterschool clubs and diversionary activities including boxing, car maintenance, trips and residential outward bound type courses Restorative justice: mediating between victims and perpetrators of anti-social behaviour. Preventive activities: taking assembly lessons and talking to whole classes about drugs and alcohol, road safety and so forth, visits to local feeder schools supporting the transition to secondary school, and various meetings with other professionals.


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Imaginative methods are adopted in many diversion schemes for keeping young people engaged aside from the activities themselves. These include the provision of food and chill out rooms on site to guard against participants wandering off with their friends to get food elsewhere, and possibly ending up back hanging around on the streets. Some schemes use incentive cards to promote participation, and young people who attend the project on a regular basis are then given first refusal on the more popular activities such as daytrips. Practical experiences from implementing diversionary schemes suggest that young people switch off or do not attend those activities with an educational element. Innovative and flexible approaches are needed to create high quality and exciting activities that essentially hide the educational or developmental component. A number of street crime specific initiatives illustrate this point. The Home Office in partnership with the Mobile Phone Industry Crime Action Forum have produced an interactive CD-ROM and website on mobile phone safety entitled Out of Your Hands?. A screen shot of the website is shown in Box 5.2.2. It contains practical advice for teachers, youth workers and anyone delivering youth-based work on mobile phone safety and is designed to closely support the needs of the Citizenship curriculum (in particular Key Stage 3, Unit 15 on crime and safety awareness). Each section helps young people to plan and execute an activity designed to raise peer awareness of mobile phone crime and related issues, such as the consequences of offending and being caught, the impact on victims and dealing with peer pressure. The package is designed to equip young people with the skills and understanding to make a difference in their community. Similarly, Merseyside Police has delivered an on-line tool kit for young people. The tool kit a screen shot of which is shown in Box 5.2.3 enables young people to access resources and information on constructive activities. Again the content has been carefully tailored to a youth audience, providing practical advice on social activities in local areas combined with educational advice on crime prevention and appropriate behaviour. The tool kit also provides practical advice on bullying and peer pressure, which sometimes provides the backdrop for instances of phone theft. More detailed guidance on bullying and advice on how these issues can be incorporated into youth-centred and school-based learning is provided by the DfES. TeacherNet now hosts an on-line version of the DfES anti-bullying pack Don't Suffer in Silence, which features advice on formulating a whole-school policy on bullying.

Box 5.2.2.

Interactive website Out of Your Hands on Mobile Phone Safety:


Section 5.2: Robbery of school-aged children

Box 5.2.3:

Youth-based website Be Youth Wise run be Merseyside Police:

Disruption tactics are generally reliant on police enforcement and aim to increase the risks of offending behaviour to such an extent that it prompts, or requires, the offender to consider other life choices. In addition to standard enforcement methods, tactics that specifically apply to young people include the use of curfews, tagging and anti-social behaviour orders, although acceptable behaviour contracts are commonly used as a more informal alternative. Although there may be a drip effect, it is unlikely that offenders targeted in police enforcement interventions are so deterred that they spontaneously choose a life free of crime. Consequently, it is important that disruption tactics are accompanied by diversionary approaches, preferably tailored to at-risk individuals. Otherwise, there is a risk that offenders will simply put greater efforts into their offending behaviour to combat the attempted disruption. It is also important to ensure that any policing input aimed at deterrence supports the overall strategy and does not compromise other initiatives. Box 5.2.4 details recent work in Merseyside, which successfully combined the two approaches of diversion and disruption, co-ordinating a locally driven response within wider strategic diversionary provision.

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Box 5.2.4:

Targeting robbery, theft and anti-social behaviour on the loop-line in Merseyside

The long summer holiday had traditionally seen increases in reported offences along a disused railway track, known locally as the loop-line. This was used by local people walking and cycling and as an access route to nearby amenities. Scanning and analyses identified robbery of young children as a problem, linked to wider issues of anti-social behaviour, with many reported victims being intimidated by large groups of female and male youths drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis. Motorcycles were also driven along the loop-line often in the commission of crimes, much to the annoyance of local residents. Many of the offenders lived locally, carried weapons including baseball bats and knives and waited in unlit areas for unsuspecting victims from late afternoon onwards. A multi-agency response involving a range of partners sought to tackle the problem in a number of ways: enforcement, crime reduction, environment and education. The activities are detailed below. During the initiative, there was a marked decline in reports of robbery, theft and anti-social behaviour along the loop-line. A large number of arrests were made, primarily for drug offences, but also for offensive weapons, theft and going equipped. Large quantities of alcohol were confiscated, with the police using stop and search powers. The police commissioned an independent survey of local public opinion. This showed a high level of local awareness and support for the initiative, and a level of local satisfaction with the police that was twice as high as that indicated by a recent force-wide community safety survey.

Activities undertaken in Merseyside Loop-line initiative

Focus of activity Partner agency Enforcement Police Activity Patrolling the loop-line on mountain bikes; targeting prominent suspected offenders, robust use of stop and search powers; confiscation, seizure and disposal of alcohol; enforcement of bail conditions by door-stepping known loop-line offenders; use of Section 59 Police Act. Enforcement of housing policies for arrested tenants.

Liverpool Housing

Merseyside Fire Service Action on information relating to the sale of petrol to youths who use it to start fires or fuel illegal motorcycles. Crime reduction Police Property marking (inc. cycles and mobile phones); engaging local visitors to loop-line and making house-to-house visits to give advice and gather information on offenders; high visibility patrol at hot times and places. Repairs to track surface, cutting back overgrown vegetation, repair to damaged property, lighting improvements. Using Youth Reparation Orders issued by local YOTs and directing first-time offenders to help clean up the loop-line. Single point of contact team to ensure speedy removal of burnt-out vehicles. Drugs education delivered to schools and individuals; referrals of offenders to local outreach workers from the NHS primary care trust offering treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. Diversionary activities, including Summer Splash/PAYP, local charity events including barbecue, sponsored bike ride for young persons; youth services joint patrolling with police along loopline.


Liverpool City Council Youth Offending Team Liverpool City Council


Drug outreach workers

Connexions, Knowsley Neighbourhood Wardens, Knowsley Rangers, Lamplight Youth Service


Section 5.2: Robbery of school-aged children

Situational approaches. The scope for solely enforcement-based solutions to tackle youth-on-youth robbery is rather limited, as previous research into the problem has noted (Smith 2003). The response to this has been to invest considerable effort on offender-centred diversionary schemes, and with good justification. Some forces have also explored victim-based approaches as part of their problem-solving approach. These have involved a heavy emphasis on analysing victims and potential victims routine activities the everyday activities that present an abundance of opportunity for theft and robbery. Many of these approaches have centred on robberies on public transport, which often involve young people, and the interventions are often location-specific and involve target hardening (See Section 5.4). But in cases where the locations of schoolaged robberies are more diffuse, interventions have had to give much greater emphasis to reducing the vulnerability of the victim to potential offenders. Box 5.2.5 provides a good example of a victim-based approach from the West Midlands.

Box 5.2.5:

Schoolchildren travelling to and from school

King Edward VI Aston School is a private school situated in one of the most deprived areas of the City of Birmingham. Every day over 750 pupils walking between the school and local transport were being subjected to robberies as they walked through various housing estates. Robberies were occurring on average five times a month and involved the theft of mobile phones and similar property. Analysis showed that the robberies were being carried out by local teenagers. The main reason was the easy availability, twice a day, of relatively affluent and naive victims presenting themselves in a high crime area. Under-reporting was a particular feature: the school had banned the possession of mobile phones and some pupils were unwilling to admit they had had one stolen. The police response was to provide a safe route for the schoolchildren. At the same time, some areas were made out of bounds so that action could be taken by the headmaster: it was agreed that the police would provide the names of pupils not staying on the route. The route was established in consultation with local beat officers: it had to be well lit, safe in terms of traffic as well as crime, and short enough to be attractive to the schoolchildren. It also took advantage of future developments, in particular the planned installation of CCTV cameras along part of the route. Pupils were encouraged to walk in large groups, not showing any electronic items (such as phones or Gameboys), and older boys took responsibility for younger children. This ensured that the police could focus high visibility patrols more effectively and for a minimum period. In the seven months following the onset of the initiative, only four robberies were reported. This was set against increases in robbery for the rest of the BCU and force-wide for the comparison period. An additional benefit included other local pupils using the route to get to their school. The demand on police time responding to and investigating these incidents was also reduced. Police follow-up assessments, up to December 2003, confirm the continuing effectiveness of the initiative.

Assessment: outputs, outcomes and lessons learnt

Diversionary approaches
The impact of diversionary and SSP activities on reducing crime, and street crime in particular, is mixed. This partly relates to the difficulties in unravelling cause and effect in high crime areas that will have been subject to many interventions, as has been the case under the Street Crime Initiative. Ongoing evaluations of PAYP and SSP have found that they have been well attended and well received by young people. These schemes are believed by practitioners and evaluators to have had some crime reduction effect, though no systematic analyses of crime trends are as yet available.


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

In the Metropolitan Police, success in reducing street crime between July and September 2002 was largely attributed to sharp reductions in the numbers of school-aged victims; the numbers of adult victims remained static. However, this effect could well be due to a reduced availability of victims on the streets rather than changed motivation to offend. Elsewhere, outside the SCI forces, well organised and creative diversionary and police-in-schools activities are believed to have reduced the level of crime in and around schools and nearby areas and reduced the level of anti-social behaviour. This latter point is important given the evidence of the cross-over between anti-social behaviour and street crime committed by young people. There have been other positive benefits that, although harder to measure, have been identified consistently in evaluations of these activities. These have included improvements in individual (and community) confidence and self-esteem amongst at-risk youths, and a sense of citizenship and empathy for others. School attendance has improved amongst many at-risk youths and this has been accompanied by reductions in the numbers of complaints of nuisance behaviour.

Disruption and situational approaches

The evidence to support disruption tactics as a means of crime reduction is also mixed. Generally the effects of standard enforcement tactics are limited and short-term. There is evidence to support the use of targeted police patrols in high robbery areas as a means of robbery reduction, when directed on the basis of intelligence and good problem analysis (see Jones and Tilley 2004). However, there may be a risk that the effects will be shortlived if police and partners fail to capitalise on the lull in criminal activity following police action to put measures in place that consolidate short-term success into longer-term falls. The examples from Merseyside and Birmingham where situational improvements and diversionary measures were coupled with enforcement for example by devising a safe route for children, which was also to benefit from CCTV provide successful examples of this approach at a local level. Developments in the use of ASBOs and acceptable behaviour contracts (ABCs) have produced promising results. The use of both approaches can lead to reductions in criminality and anti-social behaviour amongst young people (see Bullock and Jones 2003). In a study in the use of ASBOs, it was concluded that the use of a problem-solving approach often led to solutions without recourse to an ASBO, while the use of ABCs offered a more practical and quicker option (Campbell 2002).

Practice notes
There are a number of practical issues that should be considered when attempting to reduce robbery committed by young people. Many of the practice recommendations for tackling student robbery (Section 5.1), such as information sharing, will apply in this context also. Partnership working. A new initiative should have clearly defined roles for each participating partner, including the police, agreed at the start of the project. This includes agreement on common objectives and values, and the responsibilities and accountabilities of each respective partner. One body should take overall responsibility for leadership. Partners should be willing to acknowledge professional territories and potential rivalries. Involving youth. Young people should be encouraged to make suggestions about the type of activities they find interesting and feed back their experiences. This reduces the risk of disruption of activities by them. They should be involved in the setting of ground rules at the beginning, and these should be constantly restated: that these activities are free from bullying, racial tension or physical risk. Exit strategies and consolidation. All initiatives should consider how successful activities can be mainstreamed into existing service provision. Police officers co-ordinating relatively small-scale projects should endeavour to make links with other service providers and programmes (such as BIP, BEST teams, Connexions). Concentrated enforcement activity (crackdowns) should always be followed by longer-term diversionary or situational measures.

Section 5.2: Robbery of school-aged children

Further information
Beinart, S. et al. (2002) Youth at risk? A national survey of risk factors, protective factors and problem behaviour among young people in England, Scotland and Wales, Communities that Care. Campbell, S. (2002) Implementing Anti-social Behaviour Orders: messages for practitioners, Home Office Research Findings 160. London: Home Office. Deakin, J. et al. (2003) The context of Street Robbery in Manchester, Criminal Justice Research Centre, University of Manchester. Ekblom, P. (2001) The conjunction of criminal opportunity: a framework for crime reduction, Home Office Crime Reduction Website ( Goldblatt, P. and Lewis, C. (eds.) (1998) Reducing Offending: an assessment of research evidence on ways of dealing with offending behaviour, Home Office Research Study 187. London: Home Office. Loxley, C. et al. (2002) Summer Splash Schemes 2000: Findings from six case studies, Home Office Crime Reduction Research Series Paper 12. London: Home Office. Powis, B. (2002) Offenders' risk of serious harm: a literature review, Home Office RDS Occasional Paper 81. London: Home Office. Smith, J. (2003) The nature of personal robbery, Home Office Research Study 254. London: Home Office.


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative


Section 5.3:

Robbery at cash machines

Research has shown that, in some force areas, users of cash machines provide an easy target for street crime offenders. Police forces have responded by adopting a relatively simple and cheap situational approach, using the notion of defensible space, to create safe zones around cash machines. Marking a one metre squared box on the ground outside a cash machine, along with other situational measures, has been shown to reduce the number of street crimes.

Scanning: nature and distribution of the problem

Some police forces have reported particular problems with robberies occurring in close proximity to cash machines. The reasons for this are evident potential victims are cash-rich upon leaving the cash machine, and offenders are able to identify and profile victims for potential identity theft and future credit card fraud. Attempts have been made to calculate the incidence of cash machine crime in North America in terms of the number of transactions completed. While no similar data exist for the UK, local analysis by Gre a t e r Manchester Police (GMP) found that approximately one in every four street crime offences (robbery of the person and snatch theft) were geographically connected to cash machines in the GMP area.

Analysis: the source of the problem and potential pinch-points

Research on the characteristics of street crime in Manchester established that offenders select potential victims on the basis of their body language, and whether they appear to be streetwise or aware of their immediate surroundings. Victims using cash machines are concentrating on the task in hand, and so are less likely to be aware of people behind or to the side of them. Street crime offenders capitalise on this decreased awareness and their own low visibility in the methods they use to rob victims.

Offenders have described robbing victims at cash machines using one of the following methods:

standing close enough to the victim to see their pin number (known as shoulder surfing), later stealing their card from them and using it to make further withdrawals; using accomplices to assess how much money has been withdrawn and then later stealing the cash from them in a location some distance away from the cash machine; and hustling the victim from behind, which involves standing directly behind the victim as they are about to make a withdrawal, ordering them not to turn around, displaying or threatening a weapon, then ordering them to withdraw a certain amount of cash and remain facing the wall while the offender escapes.

In both GMP and the West Midlands Police, poor local environmental design has been found to contribute to street crime problems around particular cash machines. The local environment in which a cash machine is situated is highly relevant. The standard of lighting, the quality of natural surveillance or CCTV, the volume of pedestrian traffic and street activity can all have a bearing on levels of street crime around a cash machine. Additional considerations include whether a cash machine is located inside or outside, and its proximity to local drugs and/or stolen goods markets.

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Response: strategies, tactics and implementation

Situational approaches
Research studies and police reports from the US have drawn out a number of environmental strategies for reducing crime around cash machines. These are steeped in the principles of crime prevention through environmental design lighting, landscape and location each need to be assessed and considered, as changes to these aspects of the local surroundings can have a significant impact on street crime around cash machines. Many of these cash machine robbery prevention measures have application in the UK, although their relevance will be dependent on the initial assessment of the local problem. In short, thought should be given to:
q q

Improving lighting at and around cash machines, to include adequate protection from vandalism; Improving visibility, through use of landscaping around the cash machines. Trees and shrubs should be trimmed to increase visibility, obstacles such as benches and walls that obstruct clear views should be removed; Installing rear-view mirrors on cash machines and adjacent building corners allow users to detect suspicious people and behaviour; Relocating, closing or limiting the hours of operation of cash machines at high-risk sites, that is, those close to known drug markets or near to abandoned property; Providing users with safety tips, through, for example, signs displayed at cash machines, messages printed on receipts or messages displayed on screen; Installing and monitoring surveillance cameras at and around cash machines; and Reducing begging next to cash machines, limiting the opportunities for offenders who may loiter close to them waiting for suitable victims.

q q

Implementation of some of these strategies can bring about effective crime reduction, as exemplified by the following case in West Midlands.

Box 5.3.1:

Environmental changes around a problem cash machine: West Midlands Police

A number of violent robberies were committed around a cash machine in a high crime area in Birmingham. The problem had grown, with 13 offences committed within a five-month period, compared to only three the previous year. Several features of the local built environment were seen as contributing to the problem, in part by hampering efforts by high visibility police patrols. The location of the cash machine, on the corner of a main arterial road adjacent to a telephone kiosk and a bench, enabled offenders to watch potential victims and gave them a degree of anonymity. The area around the cash machine was poorly lit, reducing the opportunities for natural surveillance, and although there was an external camera, it was incorrectly positioned and linked to a CCTV system in need of an upgrade. A nearby subway and side road offered easy escape routes for offenders. West Midlands Police worked in partnership with a number of agencies, including BT, the Local Authority Highways/Transportation and Planning Departments, the Local Electricity Board and the Bank owning the ATM. A number of significant changes to the environment were implemented, as follows:

The telephone kiosk was re-positioned; to allow cash machine users to see whether anyone was inside the telephone box; The bench seating was removed; Lighting was generally improved; The external camera was re-positioned to overlook the cash machine and the system upgraded with strict operating and monitoring procedures adopted;

q q q


Section 5.3: Robbery at cash machines

The cash machine was upgraded by the bank: reflective panels/mirrors were installed allowing users to see behind and to the side of themselves; Warning signs were installed, to increase users awareness; A cash machine User Zone was created, based on the principles of personal defensible space (further detailed below).

q q

In the 12 months before the above changes, 14 robberies were committed. In the year following implementation of the changes, only two robberies were reported. Furthermore, customer use of the cash machine increased by 22 per cent, which might reflect an increase in the perception of its safety, and there was no evidence of displacement to nearby cash machines.

Theory of personal defensible space

GMP attempted to tackle the problem using a situational crime prevention technique, based on the notion of personal defensible space. As victims of street crime around cash machines are seen as soft targets in soft locations, GMP decided that the creation of a personal space zone around a cash machine might reduce the number of street crimes committed there, making the user feel more comfortable and making it more difficult for an offender to maintain close contact with a potential victim. A personal space zone might increase the users awareness of their surroundings, as well as increase the awareness of other people nearby (potential witnesses to any offence), making the area offender hostile. GMP undertook a pilot study testing this theory, and three cash machines near each other in a high robbery area in South Manchester were selected. A one-metre box was painted on the ground directly outside the cash machine and the words cash machine area were painted inside the box in yellow paint (see Figure 5.3.1 below). A nearby cash machine was left unmarked in order to test for any displacement, and the remaining 18 cash machines spread across the rest of the South Manchester area were also left unmarked.

Figure 5.3.1: Cash machine zones in Greater Manchester


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Assessment: outputs, outcomes and lessons learnt

Offences committed within 150 metres of each cash machine between December 2002 and July 2003 were counted and compared with offences committed during the same period in the preceding year. GMP found that offences reduced by 66 per cent within 150 metres of the three marked cash machines, and by 34 per cent within 150 metres of the 18 unmarked cash machines. Working to the same principles, West Midlands Police created a cash machine User Zone around a particularly problematic cash machine. Yellow markings were painted in a half-circle on the ground outside the cash machine and other environmental changes were also implemented (see case study above). Robbery next to the cash machine reduced from 14 offences in the 12 months preceding the changes to two offences in the 12 months after. The GMP pilot study suggested that marking a one metre squared box on the floor outside a cash machine led directly to reductions in the number of street crimes committed in close proximity to them, based on the time period studied. CCTV footage of users in the marked cash machines zones suggested that in the majority of cases, the marked box was respected by users, who queued outside the box while waiting for their turn. People were also observed to look around themselves both before and after using the cash machine, suggesting they were aware of their surroundings, which may or may not have been as a result of the marked box. Similar findings were reported by the West Midlands Police.

Learning from the pilot

A number of lessons emerged from carrying out the pilot project. The need to identify who actually owned the land outside the cash machines. In some cases the land was on a public highway so the local authoritys involvement was essential. In other cases the bank owned the land, but were happy to allow it to be marked, once the potential benefit to their customers was explained. The valuable role played by the Architectural Liaison Officer and Crime Reduction Adviser within GMP. Both played a key role in securing the involvement of high street banks and gaining permission from the local authority. Identifying materials used for marking the cash machine box. It cost approximately 75 to mark a box on the floor outside a cash machine, but robustness of materials was potentially a problem as there was evidence of wear and tear at the pilot sites once they had been in place for a while. Design of the ATM box. Marked in yellow paint in the GMP pilot study, the colour can easily be adjusted to suit local environmental conditions, and changes made to the wording, markings and possibly size. For example, the London Borough of Hackney has created similar zones, with the words ATM zone written inside the box and diagonal stripes painted across it. Avon and Somerset police painted a box junction on the floor with diagonal stripes across it and no wording (see Figure 5.3.2 below).

Further reading
Deakin, J., Medina-Arinza, J., Spencer, J. and Ainsworth, P. (2003). Both Sides of the Coin, Greater Manchester Police. Holt, T. (2000). Baits his hook and takes your cash, Unpublished, Greater Manchester Police. Holt, T. and Spencer, J. (2003). Discouraging street crime through the application of personal space, Unpublished, Greater Manchester Police. Scott, M.S. (2002) Robbery at Automated Teller Machines, Problem Oriented Guides for Police Series, No. 8, US Department of Justice

Section 5.3: Robbery at cash machines

Figure 5.3.2: Cash machine zones in Avon and Somerset


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative


Section 5.4:

Public transport and street crime

Most city dwellers rely on public transport for their day-to-day routine, whether commuting to and from work, college or school or journeying into town and city centre area to meet friends. The most common forms of public transport buses and trains and the areas around them tend also to attract and bring together potential targets and offenders.

Scanning: nature and distribution of the problem

Public transport has been shown to attract certain types of acquisitive crime including robbery, pickpocketing and theft of and from vehicles. Research has shown that offenders travel to stations specifically to commit crime. They also use public transport to travel to city centre areas to commit crime but they rarely use it to reach suburban areas beyond their own localities. Station surroundings also attract other undesirable activity, such as ticket touts, and illicit drug markets (see Section 5.5), which are known to be linked to street crime. The following patterns of offender targeting are common to public transport systems:

offenders target passengers waiting at isolated rail stations and bus stops in off-hours periods and when there are few other passengers around; offenders target passengers on train carriages and buses between stops; and offenders lie in wait for passengers leaving public transport.

q q

Crime problems on public transport can be characterised by all three patterns in some combination. For example, research undertaken by the Metropolitan Police in the London Borough of Lewisham showed that three in every four robberies and nearly all gang-related violence occurred within 250 metres of five bus routes. Offenders used bus routes to travel to other target-rich areas to commit crime, as well as picking on hapless commuters travelling on the same bus routes. Similar problems have been identified in the West Midlands, in Manchester and by the British Transport Police. The targeting of commuters either in transit or near to station areas inevitably leads to the reporting of offences spanning several police command units and force areas. This means that the links between transport systems and particular crime problems can be more acute than initial local scanning may suggest.

Analysis: the source of the problem and potential pinch-points

Research in Britain and internationally on patterns of offending and street crime on public transport and surrounding areas consistently identifies the following characteristics about offenders and their choice of targets:

Many commuter robberies are opportunistic: lack of supervision and surveillance of customers and predictable commuter behaviour make commuters especially vulnerable. Offenders target passengers because of their relative isolation and often because of their inebriation late at night; The rates of robbery are highest for those stations with the fewest passengers, and this relationship holds for both underground and overground stations. Conversely, busy and overcrowded stations encourage pickpockets. Station robbery rates do not merely reflect those of the surrounding area in which they are located. Public transport attracts criminals; it is a crime generator if not managed properly;

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Offenders generally commit offences close to home, and the evidence suggests that their offending is more influenced by travel time than by distance; The secure environments of some station areas can make commuters more at risk outside stations where surveillance opportunities are fewer; Those who use public transport to target victims often enter the system without paying. The theory of offender self-selection suggests that people who ignore important laws also ignore less important ones. Targeting the less serious offences can bring wider crime reduction benefits.

Response: strategies, tactics and implementation

Successful strategies to reduce crime on public transport fall into two broad categories: designing out crime and order maintenance or enforcement strategies. Examples of both are listed in Table 5.4.1. The response in most initiatives has been to focus short - t e rm and medium-term eff o rt around order maintenance and enforcement, with some situational measures where possible. Longer-term options have focused more heavily on designing out opportunities, and on publicity and educational visits to school-age children and community groups. Strategies that design out crime assume that, while some measures may help to control more than one type of crime, effective design must be carefully tailored to the highly specific nature of anticipated crimes. Consequently, the package of design measures selected will vary considerably from one setting to another depending on the nature of the crimes to be prevented. Box 5.4.1 describes the successful application of CCTV and other design improvements to the reduction of street crime on the London Underground.

Box. 5.4.1:

Designing out opportunities: CCTV as a package of measures

The installation of CCTV systems is routinely evidenced as the most effective situational measure proven to reduce levels of muggings and assaults on transport systems. CCTV coverage was rapidly expanded on the underground system from the late 1980s onwards. These systems have been strategically placed, made intentionally conspicuous and use technology that offers pan, tilt and zoom facilities. On the London Underground, these systems were linked to a network of passenger alarms, and continuously monitored from operational control rooms with direct access to the local police. Situational improvements such as replacing brick walls with glass have made these operational controls rooms more visible to passengers in some stations areas (the recently refurbished Westminster underground station being one such example). The placing of TV screens showing CCTV footage to passengers in prominent station areas serves a dual purpose of reassurance to the harassed commuter and deterrence to those seeking to prey on them. Efforts to reduce robberies on bus routes have also involved a heavy focus on the use of CCTV both overtly or covertly. Under Operation Seneca, covert CCTV was fitted to buses on problem routes and footage managed via a special video control suite. Buses were also fitted with cameras that can capture 50 metres of road and pavement in front of and behind the bus. These cameras can provide clear images of local criminals prior to them disguising themselves hooding up to commit the crime. Order maintenance strategies pay less attention to the specific character of crime. They distinguish two categories of problem: incivilities and more serious crime. The first is a pre-cursor to the second and signals a permissive environment. The solution is to police incivility and enforce order. Box 5.4.2 shows two initiatives in London and the West Midlands that employed order maintenance and the application of offender self-selection theory to the problem of street crime on buses and along bus routes.


Section 5.4: Public transport and street crime

Box. 5.4.2:

Order maintenance: gateway operations and offender self-selection

Home Office research indicates that people who commit serious offences also regularly commit less serious offences. Researchers in Huddersfield surveyed cars illegally parked in disabled parking bays and found that the owners had previously attracted police action in one in four instances compared to just one in 50 for nearby vehicles whose owners had parked legally. Applying this to the problem of street crime on buses and along bus routes, operations in both London and the West Midlands employed high visibility gateway checks in partnership with revenue inspectors. Uniformed ticket inspectors boarded buses at key locations identified from the analysis and checked travel documents and the tickets of passengers and enforced regulations. Problematic tube and railway stations have also been targeted in a similar way. The use of randomised ticket inspections on targeted locations has been found to be just as effective in deterring offenders and in reducing fraud as a continuously staffed inspection presence at any one location. Police officers were on hand to deal with offences of deception and forgery and other matters brought to their attention. In London, police used specially commissioned buses to transport uniformed officers, traffic wardens, parking attendants and DVLA officials along problematic bus routes. This provided an element of surprise with suspects often unaware of the approaching police presence until it was too late. The wardens and DVLA officials travelling on these buses also targeted parking violations and suspect vehicles along these routes. A tow truck was made available to ensure a speedy one-stop response. During the operation of this phase of Operation Seneca, 40 fewer 999 calls were received on a daily basis and 50 fewer street crime reports within the target area (year on year over a six week period). Seneca also found that a non-uniform presence could markedly increase the arrest rate due to the perception held by criminals that officers do not patrol buses. Other enforcement-based activities are listed in Table 5.4.1.

Crime prevention advice

In the West Midlands, high-profile fare enforcement checks were supplemented by a crime prevention campaign, with the aim of consolidating enforcement success and encouraging longer-term preventive behaviour and reporting on potential offenders through Crimestoppers. Safer travel advice was distributed to passengers and residents along problem routes, with advice to report incidents, however minor, to Crimestoppers. All bus tickets have the Crimestoppers logo on the back advertising the number to ring and the Crimestoppers logo is now carried on the entire fleet of 1800 buses. Publicity was also maximised to advertise the initiative, in the prosecution of offenders, and appeals for information from the public. Crime prevention presentations were held with community groups and large posters were displayed in the communal rooms and reception areas of tower blocks along the route. Local crime analyses have identified particular sub-groups of victims and this has been used as the basis for more targeted prevention advice as illustrated in the example in Box 5.4.3.

Box 5.4.3:

Targeting school-aged children

West Midlands police officers developed a roadshow presentation targeting school-aged children through visits to local schools. The presentations were designed to be delivered to audiences of up to 160 young people at a time and made extensive use of multi-media. The roadshow was designed to inform young people about their responsibilities to the community, punctuated with factual inputs about the law and passenger transport in general. CCTV footage of the school pupils travelling on the school bus service during the week of the presentation was shown to the group to reinforce the message and raise awareness of the technical capabilities of the bus CCTV systems. To reinforce the message, gateway checks were made on the school route within a couple of weeks of the visit. Feedback from schools suggested that these presentations instill a sense of security and safety amongst students. The local education authority wrote to all schools informing them of the partnership and urging schools to address the issue of citizenship with their pupils while travelling on public transport.

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative


Section 5.4: Public transport and street crime


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Assessment: outputs, outcomes and lessons learnt

The tactics listed in Table 5.4.1 have all been associated with reductions in street crime. There is a fairly good evidence base on the effectiveness of measures to reduce crime, including robbery and street crime, on mass transit systems, such as the London Underground. Indeed security and surveillance have been extensively modernised and improved on the London Underground since robberies peaked in the late 1980s: the levels of street crime on the underground system have never returned to these levels, even in the period preceding the Street Crime Initiative. However, despite some promising and innovative initiatives, there has been less success above ground in the areas immediately surrounding stations and major bus stops where reduced surveillance offers easy pickings. Only relatively recently has serious attention been focused around bus routes and their contribution to the crime profile of local areas. Two areas remain where knowledge is underdeveloped: robbery occurring on trains themselves and robbery occurring outside station areas.

First, over half of robberies on the London Underground and the railways occur on the train and typically between stops. Less thought has been given to crime prevention in the design of carriages, though clear lines of vision within and to other connecting carriages including access is suggested as one design solution. CCTV cameras have been installed on some, but not all, routes, and live monitoring of CCTV on carriages could produce the same benefits as seen on platforms and station areas. Second, commuters are vulnerable to being followed outside stations and picked off by offenders in surrounding streets and parking areas. This is now well documented in local crime analysis. The police response has been to establish a visible presence near the station entrances and exits. High visibility crime prevention signage and leaflets to warn passengers of the risks and to advertise measures already in place may have some impact. There is some suggestion that efforts to dissuade commuters from reaching for their phones immediately on leaving underground stations has paid off. The use of plainclothes officers to follow suspects from station areas, or positioned near to vulnerable nearby streets has also produced dividends. As a relatively low cost solution, covert cameras can provide images of suspects in the area that can be retrieved after the event and used as evidence in investigations.

Practice notes
A number of practical lessons can be drawn from UK-based initiatives to tackle street crime on public transport, which would appear to be essential in underpinning success. Integrating crime prevention and passenger security as part of routine operational management. Partnershipbased steering groups with specific responsibility for crime prevention and passenger safety should be part of this routine management activity. Dedicated cross-boundary co-ordination. Officers have been seconded full-time to co-ordinate intelligence and analysis of crime across different police BCUs believed to be connected to bus routes. Dedicated analysts have provided force-wide research across police areas. Sharing of information between transport operators and police. Bus drivers and station staff have been deployed to gather information on incidents involving their passengers. These have identified robbery offences not reported to the police and allowed better targeting. Incident logs have been cross-referenced with police intelligence and with CCTV to be used as evidence for anti-social behaviour orders (see Section 5.5). Careful, frequent analysis and debrief. Under Operation Seneca, daily analysis of intelligence from the borough intelligence unit, coupled with debriefing local officers on hotspots and exit routes used by local criminals, allowed a flexible approach to tactics and ensured that intelligence was forwarded to the borough intelligence unit for action the following day. Partners should also be debriefed on a regular basis. All the successful initiatives involved regular meetings with station and bus staff to raise awareness about the collection of intelligence and information on incidents.

Section 5.4: Public transport and street crime

Demonstrating that CCTV works and maximising its use. The evidence collected from CCTV systems needs to generate arrests and be shown through publicity to lead to convictions. This not only entails effective storage and monitoring of such systems but also a good investigative response from police, including rapid response to crimes in progress or having just occurred. Cameras should be strategically sited to overlook as much of the public area as possible, and in particular passenger alarm points. Flexibility in use of tactics to maintain the element of surprise. These initiatives should not be seen as one-off events, but rather a series of enforcement and educational interventions designed to be sustained over a period of time. Maintaining an element of surprise is critical. Different tactical options should be phased in and there should be variety in the methods employed at different times and locations in order to avoid repetition. Experience in London showed that operations should target any problem route for a maximum of two weeks, after which diminishing returns set in.

Further reading
Clarke, R.V. (1996). Preventing Mass Transit Crime. Crime Prevention Studies, Volume 6. Criminal Justice Press: Monsey, New York. Webb. B. and Laycock, G. (1992). Reducing Crime on the London Underground: An evaluation of three pilot projects, Crime Prevention Unit Paper 30. London: Home Office.


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative


Section 5.5:

Robbery and problem drug use

A large proportion of adults charged with robbery are drug users, and many admit committing robberies as a direct result of their desperation for drugs. The problem is complex and cannot be treated as one solely to do with robbery. Drugs markets can be disrupted using enforcement and environmental improvement; but displacement is common and recidivism among the offending group high. Disruption techniques are best used in conjunction with treatment services. Initiatives seeking to tackle the wide range of issues that contribute to this groups offending seem to have had some success.

Scanning: nature and distribution of the problem

Results from compulsory drug tests of adults charged with robbery show that a large proportion are drug users. Interviews with offenders, and especially older offenders (that is, in their early twenties and older), have confirmed this: many readily admit to being dependent on crack cocaine, heroin or both. There is a clear link between addiction and offending. Offenders in Bristol, South Yorkshire, Manchester and London have all described in interviews how they committed robberies as a direct result of their desperation for drugs.

Analysis: the source of the problem and potential pinch-points

Intelligence gathering
The complexity and depth of the problem of drug-related crime make it all the more important to conduct an indepth analysis of the local market. In addition to informing the choice of enforcement and treatment tactics, analysis can provide pointers as to some of the environmental aspects that make certain locations attractive to buyers and sellers. Potential sources of information about street markets are given in box 5.5.1. It is not intended to be a comprehensive list.

Box 5.5.1: Potential sources of information about street markets

Police intelligence
q q q q q

Beat officers and sector teams Covert or overt surveillance Forensic analysis of seizures can be used to trace supply routes and to link drug dealers Test purchasing CCTV

Non-police agencies and professionals

q q q q q

Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRPs) Drug agencies Housing organisations Neighbourhood or community wardens Traffic wardens


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Other sources
q q q

Users and dealers Residents via forums, confidential phone lines (e.g. Crimestoppers) or other means Local businesses, e.g. shopkeepers, taxi drivers and others active on the street

Adapted from Disrupting crack markets A practice guide, Home Office (2003)

Robbers who are motivated by the need to fund a drug habit are usually also involved in other criminal activity to buy drugs, such as shoplifting, burglary, drug dealing, vehicle crime, fraud or prostitution. Robbery is seen by some drug users as a desperate recourse. There is a heavy sentence for those found guilty of robbery, and the effects of drug addiction and withdrawal leave users poorly placed physically to commit this crime. However, it is seen by some as a good way of obtaining drugs quickly: it involves little or no planning; potential victims are always available; and the property stolen during a robbery (in addition to the cash) can either be directly traded for drugs or readily exchanged for cash. It is important to take the vulnerability of the offending group itself into account when considering how to tackle drug-related crime. They often have poor educational backgrounds, poor employment records and poor employment prospects. Housing issues are common, and they are also often victims of a variety of crimes themselves, including ro b b e ry. As discussed in the Response section below, these factors should be considered in an initiative designed to have a long-term impact. There are strong links between drug use and robbery via the sex trade. Pimps often sell drugs, and sex workers are often drug users, sometimes sell sex in exchange for drugs, and are often involved in distributing and carrying drugs. Clients of prostitutes are vulnerable to robbery by the prostitutes or their pimps. They make good targets: they carry cash to pay prostitutes, and they are unlikely to report the robbery to the police because they would have to describe their own compromising situation. Whilst there is also a high rate of illegal drug use amongst younger robbers, this is not usually the reason for their offending. The drugs that they use tend to be softer, recreational drugs that do not lead to the same cravings as crack and heroin. It should be noted that whilst a large proportion of robbers over 25 are dependent drug users, only a small proportion of problem drug users over this age are robbers. Whilst crack-fuelled robbery may be growing, the modal crime to raise funds to buy drugs is almost certainly still shoplifting.

Robberies by habitual drug users tend to have the following characteristics:

The offenders usually operate on their own. Their chaotic lifestyles and drug dependency tend to make them poor and unreliable accomplices and, unlike younger offenders, impressing their peers is not a primary motivation for offending. Habitual drug users desperation makes them more likely to target vulnerable victims (see Section 5.6 Reducing bag snatches and dips from elderly women). This is again in contrast to younger offenders, who would not gain credibility for robbing the frail and for whom the assertion of their physical superiority is part of the motivation. Offenders generally prefer to avoid confrontation: violent robberies carry a heavier sentence; involve more physicality; could easily backfire on the offender; and are a distraction from the drug users primary aim of acquisition. However, desperation for drugs can lead to violent and reckless crimes, and this is especially true for crack users.


Section 5.5: Robbery and problem drug use

C e rtain locations invite drug dealing. Among the facilitating factors are a lack of natural or form a l surveillance; weak management of the area; and the presence of potential customers. Drug markets are sometimes close to street crime hotspots: offenders select a suitable victim, rob them and go straight to a dealer where they exchange the cash or property they have stolen for drugs. Case studies of drug markets in the UK have usually made a distinction between open and closed markets. Open markets have few barriers to entry. Drugs are sold to anyone who looks like a plausible buyer and there may be little or no need for prior introduction to the seller. They are often located in the vicinity of train, bus or underground stations. Closed markets are more covert. Dealing can occur in any convenient place but access is usually limited to known and trusted participants. Crack houses are a specific type of closed market: they are residential properties that are regularly used for the sale and/or the consumption of crack. They are usually fortified in some way (for example, using locks, gates or grilles) making it difficult for the police to execute search warrants. Other goods and services, such as sex, can often be obtained from crack houses. This distinction between open and closed drug markets is well established, and attempts to disrupt the sale of drugs and reduce crime associated with their presence should be tailored accordingly.

Different drug types

Crack is a stimulant; heroin is a sedative. Crack users can exhibit violence, lack of control and occasional psychotic episodes. Where users are dependent on both crack and heroin, the heroin can actually tone down the stimulant or aggressive effects of crack. Conversely, some areas have found that as crack has become increasingly available in already established heroin markets there have been rises in the levels of robbery and other violent crimes.

Response: strategies, tactics and implementation

There are two main approaches to drug-related crime: enforcement, which has the aim of making it harder to buy drugs or commit drug-related crime; and treatment, which has the aim of reducing offenders motivation to commit crime. In addition, situational prevention can be used to make an area less conducive to drug-related crime. Most local initiatives in the UK in recent years have included two or all three of these strands of work. Thus multi-agency working is of paramount importance in tackling drug-related crime at a local level.

Drug markets can be disrupted by policing activity: research with users and dealers has shown that the risk of police crackdowns and potential arrest are key considerations in deciding which drug market to use. However, policing activity alone has little effect on the demand of those with heavy dependencies, and markets evolve to work around policing: closed markets may disperse, or open markets might transform into closed markets. That is not to say, though, that disruption is not a worthwhile exercise. Box 5.5.2. discusses the benefits and negative aspects of disruption of drugs markets.

Box 5.5.2:

Is disruption of drug markets worthwhile?

Disrupting drug markets can have a number of benefits:


All markets move or change when disrupted and displacement is not always a bad thing. Displaced markets have to begin again and new locations may have environmental factors less attractive to the seller. Some users especially casual users will stop buying or will buy less. Disruption can stop or slow market growth.


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

The more established a market becomes and the more its reputation grows, the more difficult it is to disrupt. Similarly, action against a displaced market may be easier because the market has been weakened and is vulnerable. There will be a reduction of the collateral damage suffered by communities in drug dealing areas. Established drug markets can lead to a spiral of decline.

One of the negative effects of disruption is that displacement of a stable market can lead to turf wars between dealers. Following successful police operations, new dealers that are more predisposed to violence can move to an area although violence is endemic in drug dealing regardless of police activity. Table 5.5.1, taken from Disrupting crack markets A practice guide (Home Office, 2003), gives a summarised selection of police and civil enforcement tactics that can be used to tackle different types of selling.

Table 5.5.1: Methods of disrupting drugs markets

Type of selling Proactive street sellers approaching people Method of disruption likely to have effect Visible street patrols Passive dogs Stop and search Jump-ons sudden hold on to suspected dealers to retrieve drugs before they are swallowed CCTV fixed and mobile Environmental work Section 18 searches Visible street patrols Stop and search CCTV fixed and mobile Covert surveillance Test purchase Source intelligence Environmental work Section 18 searches CCTV Criminal controls on prostitutes Anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) Section 18 searches Street and environmental work Demand reduction initiatives Surveillance Warrants and raids Test purchase Closing premises using new powers granted by Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 Civil controls eviction Source intelligence Vulnerable tenant support schemes/treatment Drug dogs Considerations Visible uniformed (and non-uniformed) police presence has a valuable role in disrupting street sales, but less impact in achieving prosecution. It has preventive value.

Runners delivering drugs to buyers who have arranged to meet

As above Source information is more useful against the often unseen main dealer for whom runners work.

Prostitutes providing drugs to consumers punters on the street Crack houses

Intimate search provision is required. The removal, discouragement and inconveniencing of punters is useful.

Test purchase may not be safe as officers may be expected to use the drug.


Section 5.5: Robbery and problem drug use

House-based crack sales


Surveillance Source intelligence Test purchase Warrants and raids Civil controls Work with Immigration Service and Customs re foreign nationals in the UK Presumptive drug sample testing1

As above

Indicates the number of foreign nationals involved in drug markets. Presumptive testing enables people to be taken straight to court and not bailed pending analysis

1. This refers to the process of rapid testing of samples of drugs seized for the purposes of determining bail. From Disrupting crack markets A practice guide, Home Office (2003)

Some areas have used civil rather than criminal law to disrupt drugs markets. Open drugs markets are often accompanied by a variety of types of anti-social behaviour. The organisation of a market can make it difficult to achieve criminal prosecutions, but it can be more straightforward to obtain Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) against those involved with the markets.

Where enforcement operates in the absence of treatment, the likelihood of recidivism for dependent drug users is high. The provision of drug treatment services can lead to a reduction in demand, thereby reducing the need for users to commit acquisitive crime. The Drugs Interventions Programme (DIP) (formerly known as the Criminal Justice Interventions Programme (CJIP)) takes advantage of opportunities throughout the criminal justice system to access drug-misusing offenders and move them into treatment, away from drug use and crime. While treatment services can be effective in reducing re-arrest rates among prolific offenders, research has also found that some groups are particularly unlikely to engage with treatment following referral. Arrest Referral: emerging findings from the national monitoring and evaluation programme by Sondhi, OShea and Williams (2002) found that young, male, crack using street robbers were one of the four groups least likely to engage with the process. The research found that a common reason for non-engagement was concerns about confidentiality and the independence of the scheme from the police. Sondhi et al. make the following recommendations to address non-engagement in the custody suite:

ensure that arrest referral remains independent from routine police procedures and all information collected remains confidential; consolidate the introduction of schemes by police custody staff, and provide training to ensure that custody staff advertise the schemes in an appropriate way; arrest-referral workers should be as proactive as possible by adopting a cell sweep or coldcalling/contacting approach; and having identified the likely barriers and needs of potential clients, arrest-referral workers should be clear and realistic about what is on offer, in terms of available treatment and/or wider programmes of help, and within what timescale.

To get around the problem of low take-up of drug treatment services, some initiatives, such as the Tower Project and Hartlepool Dordrecht (see box 5.5.3.), have used a carrot and stick approach. In such approaches offenders, in addition to treatment for drug and alcohol problems, are given help with their housing, benefits, education needs, and any other problems that may encourage them to commit crime. If they do not take part in the programme or if they re-start offending then they are actively pursued for even the most minor offences.


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Box 5.5.3:

Two examples of the carrot and stick approach

The Tower Project In Blackpool in 2001, levels of robbery, burglary and vehicle crime increased by about one third compared to the previous year. Interviews with ten of the areas most persistent drug addicted offenders revealed that their offending rate had risen due to their increased consumption of crack alongside their existing heroin use. Analysis of police intelligence reports also showed that crack use had risen a great deal in preceding months. At that time, drug treatment services in Blackpool were extremely stretched the average waiting time for treatment was 12 to 18 months and persistent offenders in particular found themselves excluded from many mainstream services due to their erratic lifestyles. The offenders were in a cycle of drug taking, offending and prison. The Tower Project, beginning at the start of 2002, set out to tackle drug-related persistent offending using a multi-agency approach. Persistent offenders were offered immediate access to drug treatment, and help with housing, benefits and other problems. It was however made clear to them that the police would proactively target those who did not co-operate, where there was evidence they were financing their drug use through crime. The project has no powers or supporting legislation, and the co-operation of those targeted is voluntary. Offenders are recruited both in and out of prison: there are links with the Counselling Advice Referral Assessment and Throughcare (CARAT) drug treatment scheme which operates in prisons. An independent evaluation by Huddersfield University found that, comparing 2001 and 2002, volume crime had decreased by 33 per cent in the Blackpool area, and robbery had decreased by 26 per cent. The evaluation stressed that these reductions could not be entirely attributed to the Tower project because there were falls in crime towards the end of 2001 (before the project began) and because crime levels also dropped in surrounding areas where Tower was not operating. However, the evaluation concluded that Tower was a sustainable long-term solution. Hartlepool Dordrecht Hartlepool has suffered from high levels of deprivation and crime for many years. Scanning showed that a large proportion of crimes were committed by a small number of drug-using offenders. The Hartlepool Dordrecht project, which takes its name from the town in Holland that ran the project on which this one was based, was set up in 2001 with the intention of targeting prolific drug-using offenders. The original team comprised a police officer, a probation officer, a drugs nurse and support workers working as a co-located team. The team identified the most prolific offenders in the area and recruited them to the scheme by means of a community rehabilitation order or a post custody licence. Recruitment carried certain conditions, and failure to comply led to judicial action. Supervision under the scheme was more intense than normal orders and licences: offenders were closely monitored by the police. In return, offenders were offered assistance and encouragement in addressing the factors that contributed to their offending. Drug treatment was immediately available, and accommodation, education and employment issues were all addressed. Between July 2001 and December 2003, 84 prolific offenders were involved in the scheme. Of these, 36 successfully completed the scheme, and two-thirds of the 36 had not re - o ffended six months after completion. However, 32 of the 84 were recalled to custody.


Section 5.5: Robbery and problem drug use

Situational prevention
Many initiatives have, in addition to enforcement, used situational prevention as a central part of their disruption strategy. There are numerous different ways in which environmental improvements can be made to reduce the activity in a geographically fixed drugs market. A selection of methods is given here to illustrate the range available:

increasing informal surveillance, for example, by improving lighting, cutting back shrubbery and trees, or redesigning streets and buildings; increasing formal surveillance, for example, using CCTV; reducing the number of places where drugs can be readily used, such as phone boxes, recesses and alleyways; or by making them less conducive to drug use, for example, by putting smoke alarms in pub toilets or installing blue lights to prevent heroin injection; reducing ease of access to drugs markets, for example, by improving controls over fare evasion on public transport; making areas less amenable to the local drug-using population, for example, by tackling street prostitution or avoiding accommodating vulnerable people nearby; and maintaining the environment to a high standard to lessen generalised feelings of neglect and decline, and to heighten public confidence, for example, by removing graffiti, litter and abandoned cars and furniture.

q q

Involving communities
The need to handle community relations effectively in order to combat drug-related crime is well recognised and set out in studies such as Lupton et al . (2002). This is for a number of reasons. First, communities can be an invaluable source of information and give projects a different and important perspective on the situation. Second, it is important that communities feel some sense of ownership for attempted solutions, and do not feel that they are imposed upon them. Third, involvement increases understanding of the problem, making people more sympathetic towards hurdles that have to be overcome to address the problem. Examples of means by which communities can be engaged include:
q q q q q

convening meetings with community groups; creating an anonymous freephone community intelligence line; ongoing high profile communication of operations using a range of media; including community members on a project board or steering group; organising citizens juries in which citizens can comment on local policies and how the police or other bodies go about their work; outreach work; and educating young people in schools to overcome local norms and values encouraging or tolerating crime and anti-social behaviour.

q q

Detailed guidance on involving communities can be found in the forthcoming Home Office publication Engaging communities about crime, alcohol, disorder and drugs.

Long-term strategies
Longer-term strategies to disrupt drugs markets include educational programmes in schools, employment schemes and community redevelopment. These require partnership work with statutory agencies other than the police.


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Assessment: outputs, outcomes and lessons learnt

The effects of the enforcement and situational prevention measures in UK attempts to disrupt drugs markets have tended to be temporary, limited, and localised. However, there is evidence, in some cases, that the local community has noticed, and been grateful for, the impact of these operations, and the officers involved in them have claimed this greatly improved their morale. In addition, as mentioned above, disruption has benefits in its own right. The lack of any stronger evidence of long-term impact on drugs markets is disappointing, particularly as the operations tend to be fairly resource intensive. Buyers and sellers appear to simply move elsewhere and, where the sellers are imprisoned, new sellers seem to quickly emerge to fill the gap. The market for drugs, with its knock-on effect on street crime, seems to be left largely intact. There is evidence, though, for the success of treatment programmes in rehabilitating some drug users and so it is important to try to get offenders into these programmes. The carrot and stick approach can be successful, as illustrated by The Tower Project and Hartlepool Dordrecht, described above.

Practice notes
q q

Continue to use disruption tactics. Consider using civil as well as criminal law. Monitor displacement and be aware that it is likely, but do not regard it as necessarily a sign that an operation has not had a positive effect. Try to reach a better understanding of the degree of resilience in drug markets through research and intelligence gathering. Use treatment and enforcement together. Consider using a carrot and stick approach to channel offenders into treatment. Try to address as many of the factors that might be hindering the rehabilitation of offenders as possible. Engage communities.

q q

Further reading
Deakin, J., Medina-Arinza, J., Spencer, J. and Ainsworth, P. (2003) The Context of Street Robbery in South Manchester, Greater Manchester Police. Harocopos, A. and Hough, M. (forthcoming) Drug dealing in open-air markets, Problem Oriented Guides for Police Series, US Department of Justice. Home Off i c e (2003) Disrupting crack markets A practice guide, Crime Reduction website Home Office (forthcoming) Engaging communities about crime, alcohol, disorder and drugs. Lupton, R., Wilson, W., May, T., Warburton, H. and Turnbull, P. J. (2002) A rock and a hard place: drug markets in deprived neighbourhoods, Home Office Research Study 240. London: Home Office. Mason, M. and Bucke, T. (2002) Evaluating actions against local drugs markets: a systematic review of research, Police Journal 75, No 1, p15-30. May, T., Edmunds, M. and Hough, M. (1999) Street Business: The links between Sex and Drug Markets, Police Research Series Paper 118. London: Home Office. May, T., Harocopos, A., Turnbull, P. and Hough, M. (2002) Serving Up: The impact of low-level police enforcement on drug markets, Police Research Series Paper 113. London: Home Office.

Section 5.6:

Bag snatches and dips from elderly women

Elderly women are at an increased risk of being victim to bag snatches and dips. The large majority of offences occur during daylight hours and offenders are most commonly drug addicts aged over 25. There have been few initiatives specifically designed to reduce this type of crime and fewer studies that have sought to establish best practice. However, the vulnerability of the group heightens the importance of addressing the problem, and evidence can be drawn from other crimes with similar attributes to formulate possible strategies.

Scanning: nature and distribution of the problem

In most areas the proportion of elderly victims of street crime is relatively small: Smiths 2003 study in seven BCUs found that, across all seven BCUs, only five per cent of victims were aged 61 and over. However, as illustrated in Section 3 (Guide to Evaluation), there is a small but noticeable rise in the risk of being a victim of street crime for women in their eighties. The vulnerability of the group and their heightened fear of crime magnify the impact of being a victim; and in one area included in Smiths study, Blackpool, the proportion of elderly victims was 15 per cent.

Analysis: the source of the problem and potential pinch-points

Victim, offender and offence
Offences against elderly people, and elderly women in particular, have several distinct features:

Those who commit offences against elderly women are more likely to be older (that is, over 25); are commonly drug addicts; and usually operate alone. Older drug addicted street crime offenders in South Yorkshire described in interviews how their targets were primarily chosen according to how easily they could obtain money to finance their drug habit. They said that any concern for the vulnerability of their victims was overridden by their craving; Offences are more likely to be perpetrated during daylight hours. This is in contrast to offences committed on victims in other age groups, where more offences happen after dark. (The reason for this, presumably, is that elderly women are less likely to go out after dark.); The offences do not usually involve violence directed towards the person: bag snatches or dips into open bags are far more common. However, female victims (including elderly female victims) are more likely to resist their attacker than males, and this can lead to a struggle. In these and other cases where violence occurs, the fragility of victims makes them more vulnerable to harm.

There are a number of reasons why elderly people are more vulnerable to offences of this type. Many have a set daily routine, making it easier for potential offenders to track their behaviour and target them. They can be less aware of their surroundings and less able to see or hear approaching or present danger. They can have slower reaction times and be less able to react to any impending danger, and they can be less physically robust and less able to defend themselves against attackers. Bag dips are not included within the definition of street crime. However, there are similarities in the nature of bag dips and bag snatches and the way in which the two offences can be addressed, so both are included in this section.


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Elderly people are targeted specifically because of their vulnerability, and offences happen in places where their vulnerability can be exploited. Bag dips are common in cramped and crowded places where surveillance is poor and where offenders can come into close proximity with victims without arousing suspicion, for example, queues at bus stops, markets, and shops. Bag snatches happen in more open places where offenders can quickly escape and where offenders can take advantage of their regular routines, for example, walking home after getting off a bus, or outside banks, building societies or post offices.

Response: strategies, tactics and implementation

Although the problem of snatch thefts and bag dips with elderly women as victims has been identified in a number of areas, there have been few initiatives implemented to address the problem specifically. Two examples where this type of crime has been directly addressed are described in boxes 5.6.1 and 5.6.2 below.

Box 5.6.1:

Thefts from shopping bags in city centre markets in Birmingham

A study in Birmingham (Poyner and Webb, 1992) found that there were a large number of bag dips in markets in the city centre. Conditions in one of the four markets in particular facilitated theft: the market was covered and the lighting poor, and the arrangement of stalls was cramped, forcing shoppers to press close to one another. This enabled thieves to remove purses from shopping bags without being noticed. Victims were commonly elderly females who had been observed and followed round the market stalls by offenders. The offenders waited for the opportunity to take purses from bags while the victim was preoccupied or waiting to be served. Offences happened at times when the markets were busiest. The worst affected market was re-planned: access ways were widened from two to three metres, and spaces between market stalls were broadened and more evenly distributed. Congestion was thus reduced and there was more space for shoppers to move about freely. Around the same time, the buildings that housed all four markets were upgraded and the lighting was significantly improved. Following this re-planning work, in the worst affected market there was, over a two-year period, a 70 per cent reduction in the number of thefts from shopping bags, largely as a result of the increased space between access ways and stalls. Further, there were large reductions in thefts in the other markets over the same period. The authors showed that this was because of the improved lighting in the buildings. The study concluded that reducing congestion around the stalls and increasing illumination increased the risk of thieves being seen by other members of the public, and reduced the number of thefts from shopping bags.

Box 5.6.2:

Purse thefts in Cleveleys

There was a spate of purse thefts from elderly women in Cleveleys, Lancashire. Victims were targeted whilst shopping, and charity shops were particularly favoured by thieves: the layout of the shops inhibited surveillance and allowed thieves to come into close proximity to victims without arousing suspicion. The staff in the shops were typically elderly themselves and less alert to the dangers of theft than was the case in other stores. The shops did not have CCTV installed and were not on the town centre radio link. The police suspected that the offences were being committed by offenders travelling long distances, many with drug habits, coming from Liverpool, Blackpool and as far as Glasgow.


Section 5.6: Bag snatches and dips from elderly women

The police used a number of different methods to address the problem, including:

raising awareness by using posters, stickers on supermarket trolleys and a moving message sign, and by leafleting and making tannoy announcements at key times; providing charity shops with photos of suspects; providing one of the shops with a radio to connect directly with the police and other shops; installing two CCTV cameras and directing a mobile CCTV camera towards the most targeted shops; and high visibility policing.

q q q

There was a marked decline in purse thefts in those shops that were initially affected, but there was some evidence of displacement to the rest of the city centre. This illustrates that while tactics such as these can be successful in reducing this type of crime, it is important to monitor the impact on the surrounding areas and be appropriately flexible. Problems in different areas are never exactly the same, and a problem-oriented policing approach requires flexibility and imagination in selecting tactics. Where evidence is lacking in what works in addressing a particular problem directly it can and should be drawn from problems that are not identical but have some common attributes. For example, young women in pubs are often victims of bag dips. The reasons for the victims vulnerability differ in some ways from those for elderly people, but there are also commonalities: young women in bars can be less aware of what is happening around them because they are drunk or distracted by their interaction with other people. As in the types of locations where bag dips with elderly victims are common, bars are often crowded, allowing thieves to pass close to victims without arousing suspicion, and lighting is often poor, reducing opportunities for surveillance. Bag theft from younger women has been the focus of a variety of attempts to reduce crime by design. Partners including the private sector have hardened targets in different ways. There have been designs in bar furniture to keep bags out of the grasp of thieves, such as clips under tables or chairs with built-in hooks. Designers have also come up with some ingenious crime-free handbags that make thieving much harder (e.g. those designed by Karrysafe As described under the Analysis subheading above, those who commit offences against elderly women are commonly problem drug users. Therefore the generic measures to combat robbery and problem drug use described in section 5.5 are likely to have an impact on this specific type of offending.

Options for tackling bag snatches and dips from elderly victims
Table 5.6.1 summarises some tactical options for reducing bag snatches and dips from elderly people. The table comprises evaluated options from the studies described above and also unevaluated options, including some suggested by Culshaw et al. (2003) in a paper for Nottinghamshire Police. The unevaluated options have been included because of the dearth of an evidence base in this area. However, they are based on tactics that have been shown to work for similar problems.


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Table 5.6.1: Tactical options for reducing bag snatches and dips from elderly victims
Approach Make victims less vulnerable Tactic Issue of personal attack alarms Provide advice on the safest ways to wear shoulder bags Develop a crime-free handbag specifically for elderly women Advertise a pension collection service1 Make potential victims more alert to danger using carefully targeted publicity Improve lighting Make shopping areas less cramped Raise awareness of shop staff High visibility CCTV cameras to deter offenders High visibility policing to deter offenders Tackle drug markets

Make locations less thief-friendly

Target offenders

1. NB Changes to the payment of pensions and benefits being phased in by DWP is hoped to boost the personal safety of pensioners and reduce thefts. Pensions and benefits will be paid directly into post offices and banks, making it harder for offenders to predict the behaviour of people who follow a set routine. Pensioners have the opportunity to collect their pension and other benefits in smaller amounts on different days each week.

Assessment: outputs, outcomes and lessons learnt

The Birmingham study described above shows how environmental improvements alone can reduce thieving opportunities. The Cleveleys study illustrates how deterrence and raising awareness can work; but also shows the importance of considering displacement. Initiatives should be flexible and should be adjusted to take into account the findings of ongoing evaluation. However, the overall body of evidence in this area is very thin. There is much room for innovation, perhaps inspired by solutions to similar problems.

Further reading
Poyner, B. and Webb, B. (1992) Reducing thefts from shopping bags in city centre markets. In Clarke, R.V. (ed.) Situational Crime Prevention: Successful Case Studies, Harrow and Heston pp.99-107. In the bag. A free design against crime CD-ROM created by Dr. Lorraine Gamman, Project Research Director at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, about bag theft, pickpocketing and street crime. Available at Design against crime websites: A research programme undertaken by Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Salford. A research initiative co-ordinated by Central St Martins College of Art and Design and The London Institute. Anti-theft bags.


Section 5.7:

Commercial robbery

Robbery against commercial property accounts for around ten per cent of recorded robbery offences, with many businesses suffering from repeat incidents. Convenience stores and off-licences are frequently targeted due to the longer opening hours, and the nature of products stocked. Measures to reduce robbery, along with other crimes affecting such businesses, include target-hardening, changes in staff working patterns and design layout of the shop.

Scanning: nature and distribution of the problem

Nationally, according to recorded crime statistics, robberies against business property accounted for just over ten per cent of all robberies in 2002-03. The proportion of all robberies that occur against commercial property has decreased over the last five years, from 15.7% in 1998-99 to 10.3% in 2002-03, when there were 11,178 recorded incidents. The Commercial Victimisation Survey (CVS) in 1993 reported that four per cent of small retailers were the victim of a robbery, increasing to seven per cent for larger retailers. The direct cost of robbery to retailers was estimated to be 28 million. About a fifth of recorded commercial robberies in 2002-3 reportedly involved use of a firearm (or imitation firearm). As figure 5.7.1 shows, armed robberies of commercial property have altered over the past 15 years. They rose against all classes of target from 1988 to 1991-93, and then tended to fall until the late 1990s, after which they rose amongst shops and stalls, whilst remaining at the lower level amongst banks, building societies, post offices and garages. The most dramatic falls are seen amongst banks and building societies, from a peak in 1991. There was an increase in armed robberies against all commercial property from 200001 to 2001-02, but this was reversed in 2002-3, presumably at least in part as a result of the Street Crime Initiative. In commercial robbery the trend seems to be away from organised (professional) robberies of banks and building societies promising high rewards for success, and towards disorganised and unplanned (amateur) robberies of relatively soft targets offering relatively modest returns. The weapon of choice amongst the first has been the sawn-off shotgun and amongst the second the handgun, more often than not either unloaded or a replica (Morrison and ODonnell 1996, Matthews 2002). These changes may be explained by the increasing sophistication of bank and building society security, police efforts to disrupt organised gangs of professional robbers and changed opportunities for organised crime for example in drugs trafficking. Repeat victimisation is a major problem in commercial robbery. The CVS found that 29 per cent of retail robbery victims experienced two or more incidents over a 12 month period, accounting for two-thirds of all the incidents reported in the survey. Looking specifically at bank robbery, Matthews et al . (2001) found that over a three-year period around 50 per cent of victimised branches could expect a repeat incident. The repeats, though, were concentrated in a much shorter period after an incident. Also some banks had much higher rates of repeats in their robbed branches than others. There was some evidence that the same offenders tended to be responsible for repeat incidents. Concentrating effort on reducing repeat victimisation against commercial properties can therefore go some way to reducing the overall incidence of robbery. Where repeats are indeed conducted by the same offender, they tend to be more prolific and systematic and are also more likely to carry firearms. Detection of repeat offences is thus more likely to identify and potentially incapacitate the more serious, high-rate offenders.


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Figure 5.7.1: Armed robberies against commercial premises 1988 to 2002-3

Analysis: the source of the problem and potential pinch-points

Location and victim
Gill (2000) and Matthews (2002) have conducted recent large-scale research on commercial robbery, including interviews with offenders. Gill found that the main considerations used in choosing a target were as follows:
q q q q

it appeared to be easy, being quiet, or empty or to promise a lot of money; it lacked obvious security measures; the offender, or an associate of the offender, wanted revenge on the business owner; the offender had been tipped off about the business or given inside information: this included knowing that the premises had been successfully robbed previously; and the location provided an easy getaway route.

South Yorkshire Police figures for April 2002 to September 2003 indicate that commercial robberies, in particular repeat incidents, were more likely to occur against post offices, off-licences, convenience stores and newsagents. The CVS identifies the three main risk factors as:
q q q

selling tobacco or alcohol; being a larger business; and being situated in an outdoor shopping precinct.

Retailers with longer opening hours than neighbouring shops were more likely to be robbed, though this was not a risk factor in itself when other factors, such as the nature of the goods stocked, were taken into account.

Offenders and the offence

Gills interviews with offenders showed various degrees of planning were undertaken before the event. Matthews found that the largest group of known commercial robbers are not the sophisticated career robbers who meticulously plan and execute their crimes but a motley group who engage in little planning and often seem unaware of the consequences of their actions (Matthews 2002: 22). He distinguishes these needy or drug-dependent amateurs from generalist and developing intermediates, and organised and highly

Section 5.7: Commercial robbery

experienced professionals. Robberies of the riskier targets, such as banks and cash in transit, were planned for longer before the event, and were often more professional. Many robberies of softer commercial premises, such as convenience stores and petrol stations, were targeted more opportunistically, with little prior planning. For the vast majority of offenders the motivation for carrying out the robbery was for financial gain, with the money being spent in various ways:
q q q q

to fund the high life, also linked to recreational drug use; feeding an addiction (drugs, alcohol, gambling); everyday living expenses; and to provide for their future, in one case funding a legitimate business.

The offenders were generally older than those committing street robberies, with half of those interviewed in their twenties, and a third in their thirties. One third admitted to committing their first robbery before they were 18 years old. The majority of offenders were male only one of the 341 offenders interviewed was female. Matthews found little overlap between those involved in personal and commercial robbery indeed personal robbers were disparaged by commercial robbers. He also found that commercial robbers were not only older and overwhelmingly male as found by Gill, but were also much more likely to be white. The main method used in robberies against commercial premises is to demand money over the counter, with varying levels of aggression. For robberies against retail premises, 40 per cent of offenders said they carried a firearm or imitation firearm, with one third carrying a weapon other than a gun, most commonly knives (note that this is a higher level than that reported by victims). Where guns are used, only a minority are capable of discharging ammunition though they clearly have high credibility amongst most victims. According to the 1993 CVS, 40 per cent of robberies against retailers involved one offender, with the same proportion involving two people. Around 15 per cent of robberies resulted in injury to staff. Half of the robberies against commercial premises took place between 12 noon and 6pm, with a further third occurring between 6pm and midnight. Commercial premises were most likely to be targeted towards the end of the week, with one quarter of incidents in the victim survey occurring on a Saturday, although offender interviews suggested they preferred to target commercial property on Thursday or Friday. In over 40 per cent of cases, staff were working alone at the time of the incident. Consistent with this, there is quite substantial evidence that commercial robbers are deterred by the presence of more than one staff member. Offenders who commit repeat robberies against the same commercial premises or who rob premises they know others to have done so successfully, commit their offences because they know that the crime will be easy to commit. Morrison and ODonnell (1996) found that armed robbers had quite low expectations of the yields from their crimes, and these expectations were mostly met. Robbers thought the chances of being caught were low enough for the crime to be worthwhile. They tended to attribute their capture to bad luck. They did not appear likely to be deterred by increases in law enforcement activities. Commercial robbers could, though, be deterred by obvious changes making the robbery more difficult or more risky through promptly introducing situational measures.

Response: strategies, tactics and implementation

A variety of measures can be implemented to reduce robbery against commercial property. Selecting the most appropriate intervention or combination of interventions relies on having a good understanding of the problem. Given the high rates of repeat incidents, targeting those who have previously been victims of robbery for preventive attention clearly makes sense. An analysis of repeat incidents may also be particularly useful for franchise stores or shops that are part of a chain, where there is a defined policy on security and design set by the head office. In the early 1980s a concerted effort to upgrade the security of post offices reversed a rapidly increasing robbery problem at that time, though post offices, like other small cash-handling businesses, continue to be vulnerable to robbery (Ekblom 1992).


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

If analysts co-operating across BCU and police forces under the auspices of the NIM find that there are high rates amongst particular chains, there are good grounds for systematically targeting them for preventive attention. Businesses not forming part of a chain may usefully be targeted for expert guidance on, and publicly funded support for, security upgrades following a robbery: there is evidence of increasing risk to shops, with repeat victimisation a particular feature, and these businesses are likely to be least well resourced to provide for their own protection. Gill suggests that the types of measures available can be split into three categories, management, situational and social/political techniques. The first two categories, which are of more immediate relevance to practitioners, are outlined in more detail in Table 5.7.1. The police architectural liaison officer should be able to provide advice to retailers who want to know more about design changes to reduce crime.

Table 5.7.1: Management and situational techniques for reducing commercial robbery
Management/organisational techniques

Situational techniques

Have two or more members of staff present at Increasing effort through: higher risk times q Access control door lock operated by staff to Have good cash handling procedures allow screening of potential customers (such as not limiting amount of cash available, signage allowing access to people wearing crash helmets). indicating limited cash on the premises, time q Cashier (and money/goods) in a secure release or drop safes, training staff to adhere to environment/enclosure using screens to strict cash handling policies. separate the staff from the customers, or having a Ensure staff training covers what to do if a robbery safe place for staff to go if a robbery or other occurs, to reduce the risk of injury. incident should occur. Develop partnerships with other local businesses, Increasing chances of apprehension through: such as radio links. q Improved natural surveillance for example Take care with the recruitment of staff, and get keeping windows uncluttered so that the interior good references. can be seen from outside. Store redesign, to make it more difficult for the robber to retain control. Consider where cash registers are placed. Improve lighting, both internally and externally. q Effective policing (including, where appropriate, activities of security staff, training of retail staff, radio links between stores in the same area). q Use of security devices robbery alarms, CCTV, safes, mirrors. CCTV can be useful in identifying robbers if they have visited the premises previously during the planning of the incident.

Box 5.7.1 shows the approach taken by South Yorkshire police, which appears to have yielded a substantial reduction in the number of commercial robberies.

Box 5.7.1:

Policing armed robbery in South Yorkshire

Background Armed robbery had been steadily increasing in South Yorkshire from 1987 to 1993. The most common targets were building societies, shops and post offices. The robberies had particularly high levels of violence and also resulted in large amounts of money being stolen. In 1993 there were 165 armed commercial robberies, of which 55 were unsuccessful, and 52 were detected. There was a relatively high rate of unsuccessful robberies in shops, off-licences and post offices because the owner/manager refused to hand over the money. The detection level was also lower for these types of business.


Section 5.7: Commercial robbery

Police response The response in South Yorkshire focused on ensuring a fast reaction time to incidents and on effective interviewing of suspects to improve detection rates. Although only one offender was actually caught at the scene, others were apprehended soon after the event, with witnesses providing car registration numbers and descriptions of the offenders. The majority of offenders arrested for armed robbery admitted the offences whilst in custody, based on the evidence collected by the police. Comparing 1994 to 1993, there was a reduction of 57 per cent in commercial robberies in South Yorkshire. In London, efforts to reduce armed robbery relied much more on a proactive intelligence-based response, which was better suited to the geography of the city. It is more difficult in London to reach crime scenes quickly and to close off escape routes. Comparing 1994 to 1993 in London, there was a reduction of 47 per cent in commercial robberies.

Assessment: outputs, outcomes and lessons learnt

There is strong evidence that situational measures can reduce robbery at convenience stores and post offices (Hunter and Jeffery 1992, Ekblom 1992). Offender MO adaptation to security measures has, though, also been observed, and the potential for it clearly needs to be considered, especially where the consequence may be an escalation in violence (Ekblom 1992). In the United States, studies have shown that the implementation of a combination of targeted crime prevention measures suitable for the environment within an individual store can facilitate a reduction in robbery. For example, in Jacksonville, Florida, robbery against convenience stores fell by 35 per cent after stores voluntarily adopted various measures. These included limiting cash handling, improving lighting, providing clearer sight lines, better staff training, and having two or more staff on duty at high risk times especially late at night (Hunter and Jeffery 1992). The police response to commercial robberies involving firearms was studied in London and South Yorkshire in the early nineties (Matthews 1998). There were reductions in these areas and also nationally. The conclusions from the study, and reasons cited by police forces across the country, included the following:
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the police were adopting a more proactive approach to reducing armed robbery; target hardening improvements were made, such as better security screens and CCTV; professional criminals were turning to softer premises that did not need a firearm to carry out the robbery; and criminal activity was being diverted to the drugs trade.

Again, the need to take account of local circumstances for individual commercial premises is emphasised to ensure that the most appropriate combination of measure is implemented to have the greatest effect.

Practice notes

Check local commercial robbery patterns: use of firearms, types of property targeted, apparent levels of preparation, rates of repeat incident and repeats time course, sums taken. For victimised premises and highly victimised multiples, provide guidance on methods of management and operation, security improvements, and lay-out to minimise prospective rewards, increase perceived risk and increase difficulty in committing robberies. Try to anticipate potential offender adaptation to specific planned measures, especially where they may involve escalation in the use of violence. Pursue funding to subsidise repeat robbery-reducing measures at businesses unable to afford them. Encourage isolated vulnerable businesses to adopt risk-reducing practices.

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Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

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Check that advice has been heeded in practice. Focus enhanced efforts at detection on repeat robbery incidents.

Further reading
Ekblom, P. (1992) Preventing Post Office Robberies in London: Effects and Side Effects. In R. Clarke Situational Crime Prevention: Successful Case Studies, New York: Harrow and Heston. Gill, M. (2000) Commercial Robbery, London: Blackstone Press. Hunter, R. and Jeffrey, C. R. (1992) Preventing convenience store robbery. In R. Clarke Situational Crime Prevention: Successful Case Studies, New York: Harrow and Heston. Matthews, R. (1998) Armed Robbery: Two Police Responses, Home Office Crime Detection and Prevention Paper 78. London: Home Office. Matthews, R. (2002) Armed Robbery, Cullompton, Devon: Willan. Matthews, R., Pease, C. and Pease, K. (2001) Repeated Bank Robbery: Theme and Variations. In G. Farrel and K. Pease (eds.) Repeat Victimization, Crime Prevention Studies Volume 12. Monsey. NY: Criminal Justice Press. Mirrlees-Black, C. and Ross, A. (1995) Crime Against Retail and Manufacturing Premises: Findings from the 1994 Commercial Victimisation Survey, Home Office Research Study 146. London: Home Office. Morrison, S. and ODonnell, I. (1996) Decision-Making Practices of Armed Robbers. In R. Homel (ed.) The Politics and Practice of Situational Crime Prevention, Crime Prevention Studies Volume 5. Monsey. NY: Criminal Justice Press. Information for retailers to reduce robbery and other crime against commercial premises is provided on the crime reduction, and police force websites. See for example and


Section 5.8:

Mobile phone robbery

The increase in mobile phone ownership in the last five years has been accompanied by an increase in the proportion of street crime incidents involving a mobile phone. Publicity campaigns and other methods have been widely used to raise awareness of the problem, particularly amongst school children. Accurate recording of mobile phone details reported lost or stolen, and use of available databases and other resources, can assist in identifying stolen phones and reducing phone theft.

Scanning: nature and distribution of the problem

The number of mobile phones within the UK has increased from 17 million in 1999 to almost 51 million in 2003 (Ofcom 2003). This figure is projected to continue to grow with the advent of new technology and enhanced facilities developed by the industry. Offenders targeting mobile phones are believed to have contributed to the 82 per cent increase in robberies seen between 1998/99 and 2001/02. The proportion of robberies involving mobile phones increased from eight per cent in 1998/99 to about 28 per cent in 2000/01, and police force management information indicates that the proportion has risen further since then. Research into mobile phone theft during 2000/01 put the best estimate from victim surveys of the number of phones stolen at 710,000. The best estimate of police recorded thefts of mobile phones during the same period is 330,000 (Harrington and Mayhew, 2001 (Home Office Research Study 235)). According to both the BCS and police recorded data, most mobile phones are taken in offences other than robbery, with theft from vehicles, theft of personal property, theft from the person and burglary accounting for the largest proportions of phone thefts. However, given the high proportion of robberies that result in the theft of a phone, it is worth considering mobile phones as a specific focus for reducing robbery. Much of the activity around reducing mobile phone robberies will also have an impact on mobile phone thefts in general. It is widely believed that the figures around mobile phone theft are inflated, with concerns that some phones reported stolen may actually have been lost but reported as stolen for insurance purposes. This issue of false reporting is dealt with in more detail in section 5.9 of this guide.

Analysis: the source of the problem and potential pinch-points

Victims and offenders

According to the research looking at BCU data (HORS 235), around 90 per cent of those accused of mobile phone robberies were male. The majority (81%) of victims of mobile phone theft are also male, indicating that this crime is predominently a male on male activity. Female offenders, either alone or in groups, were very unlikely to target male victims. Almost half of offenders were aged between 15 and 17 years old. Offenders aged under 18 were more likely to steal a phone during a robbery than offenders aged over 18. The age profile of victims broadly matches that of offenders, with half aged under 18 years old, the most common age of victims being 16-17 years old. Over two-thirds of incidents involved the offenders operating in groups of two or more.


In about a quarter of cases, the victim was using the phone, or the phone was on display at the time of the offence.

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Nearly six in ten phone robberies against those under 18 took place between 2pm and 10pm, although this proportion is similar to that for robberies not involving phones for the same age group, indicating that the timing is more related to age than mobile phones specifically. There were slightly more phone robberies on Saturdays than any other day of the week. A survey of school children (Hine 2003) indicated that one in eight children (12%) had been the victim of mobile phone theft during the previous 12 months. Six per cent of the respondents admitted to having stolen a phone over the same period, with almost all of the six per cent admitting to having been involved in other criminal activity as well, with shoplifting being the most commonly reported offence.

Response: strategies, tactics and implementation

Concern around the increasing incidence of mobile phone theft in street crimes resulted in the formation of the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit (NMPCU), which was launched in December 2003. The main objectives of the NMPCU were to:

support police forces in reducing street crime and the number of mobile phones stolen during street crimes; and identify and target the market for stolen mobile phones.

The analysis of mobile phone theft presented in the section above, which concentrates on young people stealing phones from other young people, hides the true complexity of the problem and scale of mobile phone theft. The problem exists at all National Intelligence Model (NIM) levels, (Box 5.8.1). The NMPCU assist police forces in targeting their own problem locally, and co-ordinate the response to the problem at NIM levels 2 and 3, targeting those who handle, reprogramme or export stolen mobile phones. Partnership work with industry is ongoing to identify long-term technical solutions that would render stolen phones worthless (see

Box 5.8.1:

National Intelligence Model levels of mobile phone theft

Level 1 Crime (local) mostly includes bullying-type robbery offences, involving teenagers. Level 2 Crime (cro s s - b o rd e r ) originates from high volume, Level 1 offences, including street crime. According to the NMPCU, handlers and reprogrammers working in high street and back street shops, market stalls and car boot sales trade handsets for money or drugs. They then reprogramme the phones and resell them in the UK. Level 3 Crime (national/international) crime is concerned with the organised exportation of handsets. Individuals will trade with the handlers and reprogrammers and will also trade in high volume handsets stolen from warehouses and lorry loads. The focus of local partnership intervention to reduce theft of mobile phones should be based on the analysis of the local situation. The level of evidence for the success of the suggested mechanisms for reducing mobile phone theft is limited as many have not undergone full evaluation. The majority of the interventions described are intended to reduce the rewards of theft to the offender, and increase the risks involved in committing the crime.

Immobilise campaign
The national Immobilise campaign was launched in March 2003 to encourage people who had lost their phone or had it stolen to report it to their network operator. The operator will then block the phone thereby preventing further use on UK networks. The campaign also aimed to persuade potential robbers that stealing mobile phones was not worthwhile.


Section 5.8: Mobile phone robbery

The blocking process makes use of the unique identifying number assigned to each mobile phone handset, called the IMEI (see Box 5.8.2), which allows the handset to operate on a network. When a phone loss or theft is reported to a network operator, the IMEI number of that handset can be blocked on the companys own network immediately. The company then registers the IMEI on the Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR), a shared database of lost, stolen and blocked phones maintained by the mobile phone industry. Other UK network operators have access to this shared database and the ability to upload data from it, enabling any IMEI reported as lost or stolen to be barred on UK networks within 24 hours. The Immobilise campaign used the message that stolen phones dont work any more on posters particularly around train and tube stations and bus stops. A single telephone number was provided to assist the public in blocking their phones (08701 123123) and a website was set up (

Box 5.8.2:

IMEI and the Reprogramming Act

International Mobile Equipment Identifier (IMEI) q The IMEI is the unique identifier for a phone handset. It consists of 15 digits, and is stored electronically in the memory of a mobile phone during the manufacturing process. The IMEI number can be viewed on the phone display by pressing *#06#.

The IMEI of a mobile phone can be illegally changed (reprogrammed). If the original IMEI has been barred via the CEIR, and the handset is therefore useless, then the IMEI can be changed to another number to make the handset usable again. The IMEI is also recorded on the identification sticker inside the back of the handset behind the battery. The number on the sticker should be identical to that programmed into the phone (as displayed by pressing *#06#). If the two numbers are not the same it may indicate that the handset has been reprogrammed.

Mobile Telephones (Reprogramming) Act 2002 This was developed to address reprogramming activities, and is divided into two sections. Section 1 A person commits an offence if he changes or interferes with an IMEI number (referred to in the legislation as a unique device identifier). Section 2 A person commits an offence if he has in his custody or under his control anything which may be used for the purpose of changing or interfering with an IMEI number and he intends to use such an item for that unlawful purpose or allows it to be used for that unlawful purpose. In addition he commits an offence if he supplies or offers to supply anything that may be used for that purpose and does so knowing or believing that the item will be used for that unlawful purpose. Considerable problems have been experienced in relation to the legislation, which is currently under review. The deployment of undercover officers is necessary to obtain sufficient evidence to prosecute under either section. This can be resource-intensive and some police forces have been reluctant to deploy the level of proactivity required to tackle the problem. The NMPCU have developed considerable experience in this field and can provide support, guidance, and resources including experienced undercover officers as well as mobile phones and other equipment.

Targeted awareness raising

A number of local publicity campaigns have been launched by police forces and other partners to raise awareness of mobile phone theft. The MPS campaign Out of sight is safer was used on public transport across London, encouraging people not to use mobile phones on transport, or around tube or train stations (see section 5.4).


Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Given the high proportion of victims (and offenders) who are under 18, much of the awareness raising activity should be targeted at schoolchildren. A CD-ROM and website called Out of your hands? aimed specifically at informing young people about mobile phone crime, has been developed in partnership with the government and industr y. It can be accessed via the internet by logging onto Box 5.8.3 gives an example of how another means of communication drama has been used to engage with schoolchildren on the subject of mobile phone theft. The success of the method in reducing robbery has not yet been demonstrated.

Box 5.8.3:

Can I have my phone back please?

A project developed in Wolverhampton worked with schools and key partners to raise awareness of mobile phone robberies by and against young people. This was part of the Prudential 4 Youth national programme, in partnership with Crime Concern. Pupils at Aldersley High School worked with Gazebo Theatre in Education Company to find out more about the problem of mobile phone robbery, and the effect that it can have on the offenders and victims involved. They addressed issues around what to do if they were the victim, and how better to protect themselves. The students performed an interactive drama production based on their findings to pupils within their own school. Their ideas were developed further by professional actors, who produced a play called Pay as you go, which toured round other schools in the area, reaching around 2000 Year 7 pupils in total.

Crime prevention advice

It is important to encourage owners of mobile phones to look after their property. Most handsets are worth in the region of 200 to 300, but, because they are subsidised by network operators in the UK, can be bought for far less. Individuals therefore do not take as much care of their phones as they do for other items of similar financial value. A list of dos and donts has been collated by the NMPCU to encourage crime prevention, and members of the public should be encouraged to take simple precautions to protect their phones. Dos:
q q q q q

Keep your phone out of sight in your pocket or handbag when not in use. Use your phone's security lock code. Record details of your IMEI number. Report a lost or stolen phone to the police immediately. Inform your airtime service provider if your phone is stolen or lost.

q q q

Attract attention to your phone when you are carrying or using it in the street. If you do use your phone in the street, be aware of your surroundings. Leave your phone in an unattended car. If you must, lock it out of sight.

Matching stolen phones with their owners

Police forces use different policies and processes in handling lost and stolen property. Most systems are paperbased with no means of easily matching property to its owner. Identifying the owner of a recovered phone can therefore be problematic. To facilitate this identification, a register has been developed that incorporates data from three databases, which together hold details of over 19 million mobile phones (along with other electronic equipment).

Section 5.8: Mobile phone robbery

Mobile Equipment National Database (MEND) The MEND database holds details of some 15 million mobile phones and other electronic items registered by their owners on a free to use internet-based system. A successful check of the MEND database using the phones IMEI number will retrieve the owners name, address and contact details along with specific details of the actual phone. Crime reduction strategies should encourage members of the public to register their details onto MEND, which aims to replace ultraviolet postcode marking and stickers as the main means of identifying lost and stolen phones. Details of how to register a phone and other property can be found at Stolen Equipment National Database (SEND) The SEND database holds details of stolen mobile phones. A successful check of the SEND database using the phones IMEI number will return the crime or other reference number and the police force or other agency responsible for the entry. Contact can then be made with the relevant force or agency to establish the full details of the entry. Details from police crime recording and reporting systems can be imported into SEND and a number of forces are already participating in the project. It is planned to have every UK forces crime recording data imported onto SEND. It is therefore important when registering a crime report involving a mobile phone that as much information as possible is recorded. This should include:
q q q q q q q q q

make and model of handset; IMEI number this is particularly important; phone number of the handset; network service provider; prepay or network contract details; where and when phone was purchased or obtained; insurance particulars including company name, policy number and details of any intended claim; last calls made and received on the phone; and identifiable marks, scratches and any security markings.

In addition to lost or stolen mobile phones, SEND can be used to place a flag on a mobile phone. For example, a phone owned by a murder or kidnap victim or a missing person can be entered onto the register with a clear case reference number and force identifier. Should the phone come into the possession of the police at a later date, a check of the register will highlight the link to the specific investigation. Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) In addition to the MEND and SEND databases, the register also gives access to the CEIR data, which can be used to check whether a particular IMEI number has been reported as lost or stolen to the network operators, when the report was made and which network is involved. There are plans to make the system available to all police officers via the intranet. In the meantime, the NMPCU accepts requests for searches of the database on 020 8246 0028 during the units office hours. With prior arrangement, the NMPCU is also available to provide 24/7 support to police forces during any planned operation.

Proactive police operations

Specific operations, such as Operation Ringtone in the MPS, have been undertaken to target those suspected of engaging in handling or reprogramming mobile phones. The operations are usually based on intelligence received about a location, followed by observation of the premises, and then the deployment of an undercover officer to corroborate the initial intelligence. Once sufficient evidence has been gathered, a search

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

warrant is obtained and the premises are searched. The NMPCU has been involved in several successful operations, and can provide guidance, support and resources including experienced undercover officers as well as mobile phones and other equipment.

Assessment: outputs, outcomes and lessons learnt

Mobile phones continue to be targeted in robberies and snatch thefts, and the proportion of crimes involving the theft of a mobile has not shown any significant change. However, some successes are being seen in terms of the operations carried out and intelligence gathered. In the time the NMPCU has been operational, officers have made over 100 arrests and have recovered over 6,000 stolen phones. The interventions described in this section are intended for those working at a local level. There is also a great deal to be done at a national and international level in terms of tackling mobile phone crime. The Home Office and the NMPCU are working with the mobile phone industry to explore ways of strengthening measures to make stolen mobile phones unusable. They are also working with international partners to reduce overseas markets for stolen phones.

Practice notes
There are a number of practical issues that should be considered when addressing mobile phone robbery:

Strategies should be linked in with other robbery reduction work, ensuring in particular that mobile phone theft is included within strategies for young people and those using public transport. Sufficient detail should be recorded about a stolen mobile phone so that it can be identified if recovered. The issues around false reporting should be considered when recording and investigating mobile phone thefts (section 5.9). A mobile phone focus desk could be set up within forces or BCUs to allow specialist knowledge to be effectively disseminated to a local level. Activity in relation to mobile phone crime should be monitored for the following, looking at the number of occurrences and outcomes in each case: intelligence reports relating to individuals who steal, handle, reprogramme or export mobile phones; proactive operations focused against individuals who steal, handle, reprogramme or export mobile phones; searches requested on the NMPCU Register; and false reporting prosecutions with regard to mobile phone crime.

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Further reading
Harrington, V. and Mayhew, P. (2001) Mobile Phone Theft, Home Office Research Study 235. London: Home Office. Hine, J. (2003) National evaluation of On Track. Young people and mobile phone theft, Report to the Home Office. Ofcom (2003) Market information mobile update. Smith, J. (2003) The nature of personal robbery. Home Office Research Study 254. London: Home Office.


Section 5.9:

False reporting

Street crime figures in some areas are believed to be artificially inflated due to false reports of robbery, particularly those involving the theft of a mobile phone. The main reason for this is thought to be that insurance policies covering mobile phones will not pay out for loss or theft of an unattended phone, but will do so where the phone has been taken in a robbery. Publicity emphasising the serious nature of making false reports and reporting amnesties are amongst the tactics that have been used by police forces to try to discourage false reporting.

Scanning: nature and distribution of the problem

It is widely believed by the police in many areas that street crime figures are inflated due to false reports of robbery. This problem differs from other scenarios covered in this guide in that reducing false reporting will not actually reduce the number of robbery incidents. However, false reports distort the picture of the actual number of incidents occurring, and reducing the number of false reports will have an impact on recorded crime figures, detection rates, and fear of crime. It will also reduce wasted police time. False reports are, by their nature, difficult and time consuming to identify and, to date, the main source of evidence of the scale of the problem is anecdote. There are no published data on the proportion of robbery reports that are false, and the research evidence is thin. Smith (2003) looked at the reporting behaviour of those who were the victim of a personal robbery. He found that 16 per cent were reported over eight hours after the event and that these late reports were more likely to involve a mobile phone, and were more likely to be made at the front desk rather than through an emergency call. This is not direct evidence of false reporting (and was not interpreted as such), but it was flagged as a curious finding given the serious nature of robbery and one that demanded further investigation. In an effort to establish further the extent of the problem the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit (NMPCU) analysed Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) data for the period from March 2003 to February 2004. The analysis found that 0.4% of street crime allegations were reclassified as wasting police time, and a further seven per cent as no crimes, which may include some suspected false reports. However, there was not enough information to know how many of the allegations reclassified as no crimes were actual false reports, or indeed what proportion of the remaining street crime allegations were also false reports. Thus it was not possible to give a confident estimate of the level of false reporting. According to guidance produced by the NMPCU, estimates of the extent of false reporting range from less than five per cent of all street crime to as much as 25 per cent. However, as described above, the research evidence is weak and these figures are largely based on anecdote. They should therefore be treated with a good deal of caution.

Analysis: the source of the problem and potential pinch-points

Offender motivation
The main reason for making false reports of robberies is thought to be for insurance purposes. Some insurance policies covering mobile phones will not pay out for loss or theft of a phone when it has been left unattended but will when the phone has been taken in a robbery or snatch theft. A crime number is necessary for the insurance claim to proceed.

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

There is evidence from NMPCU undercover operations that some mobile phone retailers have encouraged customers to make a false report to obtain a crime number to increase the likelihood of their claim being successful. The NMPCU have worked closely with industry to change this by providing advice, guidance and support to enhance staff training. This has resulted in a considerable reduction in retailers giving this advice to customers. However, the problem does still exist and the NMPCU can provide guidance and resources to help forces combat the problem. Items other than mobiles are also reported stolen in false robbery reports. According to the NMPCU, again the primary motivation may be to make an insurance claim, and this is often not understood to be a criminal offence by the person making the false report. False reports of robbery may occur when items have been lost, for example to avoid having to pay for possible fraudulent use of credit cards, for insurance purposes, or by a child to avoid getting into trouble with his or her parents or guardians. Apart from mobile phones, the items believed to be most often falsely reported stolen are:

Benefit money in order to obtain emergency cash payments through the benefit system in the form of Crisis Loans; Cash lost by children reported stolen by other children to explain the loss to a parent or guardian; Student coursework in order to obtain an extension for a deadline; Other high value items wages, designer goods, passports.

q q q

Characteristics of false reports

Information from investigation of MPS records of false allegations has been used to draw up a list of indicators or trends to be aware of when dealing with possible false reports. These include the following factors:
q q q q q q q

late reporting to the police (several hours or days later); allegations reported over the telephone; no contact with the emergency services via the 999 system; discrepancies in the account given to the reporting and investigating officer; lack of independent witnesses to the crime; victim unable to give a detailed description of the offender, or unable to identify them; and the victim stating that they do not want any further action by the police, and they only want to report to get a crime number.

It is important to be aware when applying these guidelines that they lead to the flagging of a very large number of false positives, that is, many (and possibly most) of the reports that meet these criteria will in fact be genuine reports. Another problem in using these guidelines is that the relevant characteristics can differ from area to area. For example, although the guidelines states that allegations reported over the telephone were more suspect, both Smith (2003) and the NMPCU study described above, found that a higher proportion of false reports than true reports were made in person at the front desk. Merseyside Police has raised the issue of repeat victimisation in relation to false reporting. Analysis of robbery records across the force enabled the most victimised people to be identified. It was then possible to probe more deeply in terms of any patterns that emerged with regard to late reporting, descriptions given, and links to benefit claims. Investigating those who were repeatedly victimised would enable those who were genuinely vulnerable to be given appropriate assistance, and at the same time identify any serial false reporters.

Response: strategies, tactics and implementation

Many police forces have undertaken some action to discourage false reporting, from publicity campaigns explaining that false reporting is a crime, through to successful prosecution of those suspected of making false reports.

Section 5.9: False reporting

Recording crime
The National Crime Recording Standards (NCRS) recognise that the nature of some reports of robbery require a proportionate investigative response to correctly classify a crime and also establish that an offence has actually occurred. This allows for occasions when officers are duty bound to carry out reasonable enquiries to confirm whether a crime has actually been committed. Police forces are encouraged to use the NCRS guide Whether and when to record (Home Office) which helps officers in making positive decisions when dealing with suspected false reports. Recording processes are designed to provide a more victim-focused approach and in all cases a crime should be recorded as soon as the reporting officer is satisfied that on the balance of probabilities, it is more likely than not that a crime has been committed.

Good practice guidelines

The NMPCU has issued good practice guidelines to help forces deal with false reporting. The guidelines mainly relate to the investigation of street crime allegations after the initial report has been made, but they emphasise the importance of obtaining as much information as possible at the point of first contact to facilitate the decision-making process as the investigation progresses. These guidelines have been sent out to all forces, and many have adopted them to some extent, albeit with amendments to suit the individual force procedures and policies. The guidelines are summarised in the box below.

Box 5.9.1:

Summary of good practice guidelines

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Recording of allegations

All allegations of street crime must be recorded Sufficient detail should be taken to progress the investigation if necessary When indicators of possible false reports are present, the victim should be encouraged to attend the police station, or be visited by a police officer at their home or place of work After obtaining an account of the incident, take the victim to the scene to compare the initial account with the scene The victim should be informed that the police officer may access phone records and CCTV in the area to corroborate their account The victim should be asked to sign a warning declaration in respect of the crime they are reporting All incidents must result in an intelligence report of wasting police time, deception or other appropriate offence Victims admitting their guilt should be treated in accordance with force guidelines. CPS guidance directs the best charge to be wasting police time (section 5(2) Criminal Law Act 1967) To facilitate future monitoring, it must be recorded in all cases where a false allegation has been made. This can be done using the False Allegation flag within a forces crime recording system. Posters should be prominently displayed at all police stations warning of the implications of falsely reporting a robbery. These could also be displayed in mobile phone shops Maximum publicity should be sought in relation to the incident to discourage others from making false reports

Crime screening supervision and secondary investigation

Police action on disclosure of false reporting


Other responses
In addition to adopting the good practice guidelines, other measures that have been adopted by forces to address false reporting are summarised below. There is at this stage little evidence as to their effectiveness: the scale of false reporting before or after any intervention has never been conclusively established.

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

Publicity. To discourage false reporting by raising awareness of the criminal nature of falsely reporting a robbery, the MPS has launched a poster campaign about the likelihood of being prosecuted for wasting police time. Other media outlets are being used to target in particular those socialising in and travelling around the city. These include radio advertising, leaflets and posters in mobile phone retailers, beer mats in pubs, adverts on taxi seats and bus headliners. False reporting amnesty. A number of police forces have set up mobile phone false reporting amnesties to encourage people to come forward and admit when a false report has been made, without any threat of prosecution. The publicity around these schemes aims to raise awareness amongst those tempted to make false reports that the police are aware that false reporting takes place, and will normally act on this. Prosecution. The West Midlands police introduced fixed penalty fines of 80 for false reporters with the possibility of court prosecution and a six-month prison sentence for more serious offenders. Mobile phone retailers. Local mobile phone retailers and insurers have been encouraged by the police to ensure they can recognise the format of a genuine crime number for their area, since false ones may be presented by customers claiming to have had their mobile phone stolen. In addition, retailers have been encouraged to ensure that their staff do not advise customers who have lost their phones to make false robbery reports. Closer partnership working with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Southampton police have stated that they will not give out a crime number directly to a victim who is not prepared to make a statement. To assist with the investigation of the claim, in the case of insurance claims they will deal directly with the insurance company and for benefit claims with the DWP. Similarly, Gloucester Police are working with the DWP to develop more detailed forms asking about crime incidents to deter false claims for emergency cash in the form of crisis loans.

Assessment: outputs, outcomes and lessons learnt

Measures to address false reporting have been put into place relatively recently in many forces and have yet to undergo a full evaluation. However, even given more time it will be difficult to measure the full effectiveness of the schemes without establishing a baseline level for the proportion of reports that are false. Although a number of higher profile cases have been reported in the press, no evaluation has been carried out as to how the best practice guidelines have been implemented in practice, whether additional prosecutions have resulted from the implementation of action to reduce false reporting, or if the incidence of false reports has reduced overall.

Practice notes

Establish the scale of the problem by following up a random sample of all the allegations made over a period of time (regardless of whether they are suspected to be false) and establish which of these were false. Build in an evaluation process to any package of measures being used. Develop the best practice guidance set out by NMPCU, and adapt this to fit with local force procedures as appropriate.

q q

Further reading
Avon and Somerset Police (2003) False reporting - Action on Street Crime. Smith J. (2003) The nature of personal robbery, Home Office Research Study 254. London: Home Office.



ABC Acceptable Behaviour Contract. An ABC is an individual written agreement by a young person with a partner agency and the police not to carry on with certain identifiable acts, which could be construed as antisocial behaviour. An ABC is not legally binding but breach of an ABC can be cited in proceedings such as for an ASBO. ANPR Automatic number plate recognition ASBO Anti-social Behaviour Order. ASBOs are statutory measures that aim to protect the public from behaviour that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. An order contains conditions prohibiting the offender from specific anti-social acts or entering defined areas. BCU Basic command unit BEST Behavioural Educational Support Team. BESTs are multi-disciplinary teams established as part of the Behaviour Improvement Programme (BIP) to improve school attendance and reduce school exclusions. BIP Behavioural Improvement Programme. A programme aimed at improving poor behaviour and attendance in schools where these issues form significant barriers to learning and pupil progress. CCTV Closed circuit television CEIR Central Equipment Identity Register. A shared database of lost, stolen and blocked phones maintained by the mobile phone industry. CJIP Criminal Justice Interventions Programme (now known as DIP) Connexions The Government's support service for all young people aged 13 to 19 in England. The service aims to provide integrated advice, guidance and access to personal development opportunities. Crimestoppers An independent UK-wide charity concerned with crime reduction. CVS Commercial victimisation survey. A victimisation survey conducted amongst retailers and manufacturers to determine levels of crime against businesses. DfES Department for Education and Skills DIP Drugs Interventions Programme (formerly known as CJIP). A programme that aims to take advantage of opportunities within the criminal justice system for accessing drug-misusing offenders and moving them into treatment, away from drug use and crime. DVLA Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency HVP High visibility policing IMEI International mobile equipment identifier. The unique 15-digit identifier for a mobile phone handset. MEND Mobile Equipment National Database. A database of phones and other equipment registered by their owners through a free internet-based system.

Problem-solving street crime: practical lessons from the Street Crime Initiative

NIM The National Intelligence Model NMPCU The National Mobile Phone Crime Unit PAYP Positive Activities for Young People. The PAYP programme focuses on those young people assessed as being most at risk of falling out of education and into criminality. It runs during school holidays and provides these young people with a wide range of activities designed to help them re-engage with education or training and potential employment. SARA Scanning Analysis Response Assessment. Processes undertaken as part of problem-solving in general and problem-oriented policing in particular. SCI Street Crime Initiative SEND Stolen Equipment National Database. A database of phones that have been reported as stolen to the police or insurance companies, or that are owned by people who have registered their phone on MEND. SICAR Shoe print image capture and retrieval. SICAR is a computer programme for identifying shoes from shoe prints. SSP Safer Schools Partnerships. Through SSPs, police officers have been placed in schools. They work in partnership with the schools to reduce truancy, exclusions, victimisation, anti-social behaviour and criminality within and around the school. Summer Splash A diversionary programme for young people that pre-dated PAYP. VIPER Video Identification Parade Electronic Recording. A video-based means of carrying out identification parades.