In the latest Statista report, it was estimated that Canada experiences 6,487 criminal offences per 100,000 residents. After the 15 years since 2003 when crime levels reached their peak, rates for property crime and violent crime fell by 39% and 23% respectively. The crime severity index has also decreased, while drug-related offences are predicted to drop even further with the legalisation of recreational cannabis.
Canada appears to be one of the safest countries in the world by almost any metric. However, more than 1.3 million property crimes and over 480,000 violent crimes were reported nationwide in 2019 alone, indicating that there’s still ample room for improvement.
What can be done to reduce crime in modern society? Let’s begin by outlining 10 key principles of crime prevention.
The following guidelines aim to assist both individuals and organisations with mitigating crime in their communities. You can use it as a check-list to determine the steps you could take in your own particular circumstances. It’s not necessarily a case of covering every point. Just see what may prove valuable to yourself and those around you.
1. Target Hardening
Make it difficult for intruders to access your property.
- Install sash jammers on vulnerable doors and windows
- Invest in home surveillance equipment
- Use secure passwords to protect online accounts
2. Target Removal
Ensure that valuable possessions are out of view.
- Avoid leaving items such as laptops and wallets near windows
- Be diligent about the information you share online
- Keep your vehicle in a garage if possible
3. Reducing Means
Eliminate tools that might assist in committing offences.
- Clear up bricks/rubble and lock away garden equipment
- Keep climbing aids like wheelie bins out of reach
- Lock keys and other valuables away in a safe
4. Reducing Payoff
Minimise the potential profit available to criminals.
- Avoid buying items suspected to be stolen
- Encrypt devices and erase their data when lost
- Security-mark your possessions
5. Access Control
Identify measures to control access to private property and locations.
- Ensure that fences and other boundaries are effective
- Lock doors and windows to your home and vehicles
- Utilise access control systems in the workplace
Deter criminals by enhancing surveillance around homes and businesses.
- Add security cameras to commercial sites and public areas
- Establish neighbourhood watch schemes in your street
- Remove high hedges or fences that might assist criminals
7. Environmental Change
Ensure that your property and community looks cared for.
- Inform authorities about broken street lamps and infrastructure
- Remove illegal graffiti and domestic/commercial waste
- Work with police to close suspicious footpaths
8. Rule Setting
Implement rules that promote behavioural changes.
- Instruct visitors to business premises to report to reception
- Inform relevant parties when particular areas are closed off
- Suggest that the last person to enter or leave must lock the door
9. Increase Exposure
Raise the likelihood of offenders getting caught in the act.
- Install security lighting in areas with poor visibility
- Invest in quality alarm and surveillance systems for commercial sites
- Upgrade security to delay criminals and give authorities time to respond
10. Deflect Offenders
Deter criminals or divert their intention.
- Support youth education and diversion schemes
- Refer young offenders to rehabilitation programs
- Use timer switches to make homes seem occupied when vacant
This principle touches on another vital aspect of modern crime prevention, which is what happens to criminals after they get caught and sentenced. There’s an immeasurable difference between an effective prison and one that constantly processes repeat offenders.
A great way to understand what makes a penitentiary institution fall into the first category is to study those already in it. For the next section, we’ll explore one of the most successful prison systems in the world.
The total prison population in Norway is currently around 2,653 offenders including pre-trial detainees. This represents a fraction of the 5.3 million folks who call the country home. Norway’s incarceration rate is 72 per 100,000 citizens, which is almost a tenth of the United States’ rate of 693 per 100,000 people.
In addition, the nation has some of the lowest recidivism rates. That means when criminals leave prison, they seldom return. How is this possible? Why is the Nordic prison system so effective? They’re clearly doing something right.
Few citizens in Norway ever end up in prison, and those who do often come back as law-abiding members of society. This is thanks in part to a concept known as “restorative justice” that shifts the focus from punishing the offender to repairing the damages caused by the crime. In other words, the priority is rehabilitation.
You needn’t look beyond Halden Prison to see this in action. The facility takes various measures to provide a sense of normalcy. This includes windows without bars, kitchens equipped with sharp objects, recreational areas and friendships between guards and inmates. Here, the loss of freedom is sufficient punishment on its own.
Also, the sentencing guidelines in Norway are different. With few exceptions, judges can only give offenders up to 21 years behind bars – or in this case, windows. Further time (five years) can be placed above the initial term until the inmate is fully rehabilitated.
Of course, there’s more to crime prevention than good prison systems. In the final section, we will briefly discuss several strategies aimed at reducing crime in Canada today. Be sure to check out this post for additional insights on the matter.
Among the leading sources of evidence in crime scenes is DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid. Investigators thrive on its ability to vastly improve their chances of identifying and tracking suspects. In fact, researchers at the Urban Institute found that the presence of DNA evidence in burglaries contributes to 100% more arrests.
DNA is also instrumental in other areas of law. For example, the same source found that DNA testing can support the release of up to 15% of sex offenders who were falsely accused.
Foremost among the reasons for criminal activity is poverty, which is predicated on a lack of employment opportunities. This is why securing a stable job is paramount to keeping ex-convicts out of prison after they return to society. Here are some of the ideas suggested by the Center for American Progress for creating more jobs:
- Cut payroll taxes for new hires
- Establish energy saving initiatives
- Extend emergency unemployment benefits
- Improve education to reduce dropout rates
- Implement strict regulations on fair wages
- Protect funding of community health centres
- Strengthen small business financial assistance programs
- Reduce interest rates
- Upgrade roads and other basic infrastructure
There’s an understandable stigma around hiring applicants with criminal records that pushes many job seekers into long and stressful periods of unemployment. Social programs that tend to this issue can help move previous offenders towards financial independence and away from illegal activity.
Today’s monitoring and recording technologies facilitate an unprecedented level of perception in the realm of crime. With CCTV equipment becoming increasingly affordable and easy to implement, cameras can serve as a cost-effective method for deterring, preventing and solving criminal cases.
In the aforementioned Urban Institute study, it was found that every dollar spent on surveillance systems in Chicago saved four dollars on court costs, imprisonment and suffering associated with the mitigated offences. The key to winning public monitoring infrastructure is the presence of trained staff responsible for its management.
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence points to alcohol as a factor in 40% of violent crimes. This massive number makes it clear that intoxication is not to be ignored when exploring the elements behind offences. History shows that prohibition would be catastrophic, so we need to find other ways to limit alcohol-related issues.
- Decreasing the availability of outlets with stricter licensing
- Increasing alcohol tax to reduce access
- Revoking the right to consume alcohol following an offence
There’s another form of crime that seldom receives enough attention in the public, despite affecting a growing number of people and organisations in ways that often bring major financial and reputational loss. It’s the type of crime that takes place in the digital world, whether as hacking, fraud, ransom, malware or viruses.
One of the reasons why cybercrime is so prevalent is the ease of staying undetected. Cybercriminals are at much less risk of getting caught than their counterparts on the streets. The best we can do is to minimise our risk of being attacked, and in doing so, reduce the profitability of cybercrime. Here are some recommendations:
- Backup and encrypt your data
- Be aware of phishing and other social engineering methods
- Download a VPN service
- Install anti-malware and firewall programs
- Keep all software and operating systems up-to-date
- Secure your devices and home networks
- Never pay hackers in ransomware attacks
It pays to be savvy about cybersecurity, so take the time to learn what else you can do to protect your data and devices.
Individuals, communities and organisations that act on these guidelines can expect to quickly find themselves in much safer environments. Think about the changes that you can make today.