There is a range of basic future-oriented activities that practitioners or policymakers might undertake, which centre on the issue of how to handle risk and uncertainty.
- Crime Impact Assessments seek to anticipate the outgoing effects of some activity that an organisation might be considering doing, upon the interests of other people and organisations – such as their desire to avoid falling victim to crime, contributing to higher taxes for extra police services or paying higher insurance premia.
- Crime Risk Assessments by contrast focus on the incoming risks to that organisation’s assets and activities, from other sources in their operating environment, such as the opening of an unruly pub next door to their shop.
- Crime Proofing of designs, regulations and potential services addresses how to ensure these have inbuilt security levels commensurate with the crime impacts they might be expected to generate, and crime risks they may be exposed to.
This page distinguishes the various Risk and Impact Assessment activities, and outlines how they might be conducted.
Risk and uncertainty
Risk is all about the effects of uncertainty on an agent’s objectives. Risk and risk management are discussed here.
Uncertainty – what it is and how to deal with it – is a key issue in crime and security futures. A presentation is here:
Definitions of the various assessment and proofing activities
Crime Impact Assessment of our own planned activities, Crime Risk Assessment covering risks incoming from other sources, and Crime Proofing are basic but important tasks that should be undertaken systematically:
Crime Impact Assessment (CIA), like environmental impact assessment, is the counterpart where the focus shifts to considering the criminogenic or criminally harmful consequences of one’s own proposals. In economics terms, it treats crime as an externality.
Crime Risk Assessment (CRA) is an endeavour to systematically and rigorously identify the crime risks ‘out there’ which may face some proposed new entity for which we are responsible. These could be a place (such as a new building), product (e.g. a new model of car), service (e.g. a new kind of internet delivery service), business model (e.g. a new kind of banking)… or anything else which could become embroiled in crime in some way. As with risk in general, the twin tracks of risk are probability of a possible kind of criminal event occurring, and harm from its occurrence.
See also the definition of risk.
Crime proofing of a proposed new product, law, service or whatever combines the above two actions. It involves the identification at the design stage of crime risks faced by that new product etc in its intended habitat of use, in relation to the security level incorporated within the product’s design (Ekblom and Sidebottom 2008; Armitage 2012); and taking account also of the wider crime consequences of that product (for example making other crimes possible, as with stolen smartphones). The greater the anticipated exposure to risk, the higher should be the security level that is designed-in. The EU explicitly encourages fraud-proofing of legislation and contract management.
Variations on the above activities can also be undertaken:
Community Safety Impact and Risk Assessments follow the above pattern. For example: A Community Safety Impact assessment is an attempt, as systematically, rigorously and transparently as possible, to identify the consequences for community safety of undertaking certain actions, offering certain services or pursuing certain policies at a range of geographical levels.
Crime prevention and community safety actions can themselves have further impacts on other goals – for example excessive street-lighting will have a large carbon footprint, disrupts wildlife’s natural patterns and limits views of the night sky; and badly-designed crime prevention interventions (such as fortified appearance of buildings/fences) can adversely affect community safety itself.
Security impact assessment checks for the often negative side-effects of security, such as false burglar alarms or stigmatisation of places (see e.g. Cozens and Love 2017).
Doing an impact or risk assessment on crime or community safety
Crime Impact Assessment
Doing a Crime Impact Assessment (CIA) involves scrutinising any proposal for action (such as a new product, place, service or even law) in terms of its likely effect in the wider world ‘out there’, on the range of known causes and risk factors of crime. Influencing these causes will affect, for better or worse, the risk of criminal events occurring; or the conditions of community safety being met.
To make this process more systematic and focused, the consideration of causes and conditions can be structured by applying some of the Crime Frameworks. Principally, these are the Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity Framework, which covers the immediate causes of criminal events, and the Misdeeds & Security Framework, which covers the generic types of crime risk (the focus can be on crime in general or on specific categories of crime).
So, for example, if the Refuse Collection Service of a local council proposes to introduce a new kind of wheelie bin, we can ask:
- Which of the 11 elements of the CCO might it affect?
- Answer 1) Environment – makes it easier for offender to climb walls; 2) Enclosure – place for offender to hide loot
- Taking a more dynamic perspective, we can go into further detail and ask how the various elements of CCO are brought together; what stages of a particular crime script might be affected (e.g. seek, see, take, escape, sell); and how the outcome of any script clashes (e.g. challenge vs explain) may be affected.
Alternatively, with the Misdeeds and Security Framework, we can ask:
- What kind of role might the bin play in crime?
- Answer 1) Misappropriation – bin itself stolen; 2) Mistreatment – bin itself damaged; 3) Misuse – bin used as ladder, hiding place for loot
Community Safety Impact Assessment
It is also possible to ask, what is the potential impact of some proposal for action on the wider sphere of community safety. To answer this, it is possible to refer to the conditions and benefits listed under the community safety definition on this website – for example, whether the proposal might affect fear, reassurance or satisfaction with justice.
The impact assessment can be taken even further by forecasting the wider effects of the crime and safety consequences in their turn on other policy and practice areas such as sustainability and regeneration. Appropriate policy choices and practical interventions can then be made to resolve or mitigate conflicts and issues.
Crime Risk Assessment
Doing a Crime Risk Assessment involves scrutinising any known current state of affairs, forecast trend or event ‘out there’, in terms of its likely effect on the range of known causes and risk factors of crime. This process can be made more systematic:
- On the ‘world out there’ side, depending on the scope of the assessment, look at any of the changes that might occur in future in the so-called PESHTELOMI domains (Political, Economic, Social, Health, Technological, Environmental, Legal, Organisational, Media, Infrastructural). Changes are typically described as (longer-term) trends or (short-term) events or shocks.
- For each of these changes, ask which of the 11 causes of crime in the Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity Framework the changes might influence; and which particular kinds of crime risk (Misappropriation, Mistreatment, Misuse etc) as specified by the Misdeeds and Security Framework.
In all cases the Crime Risk Assessment is intended to lead to action to manage the risk through:
- Primary security – action reduces probability of harmful event
- Secondary security – if event does happen, action limits harm as it unfolds to product, owner and beyond – i.e. increases resilience
- Tertiary security – action limits propagation of harm that may occur post-event, e.g. by preventing further offences such as identity theft following the theft of a credit card
A project on the Crime Proofing of portable domestic electronic items (Project MARC) was undertaken by Rachel Armitage (Armitage 2012). Various industrial and security-related stakeholders rated a range of products such as mobile phones on a) the crime risks to which they were likely to be exposed, and b) the level of security currently incorporated in their design. The aim was to develop a procedure for ensuring that designers (and the manufacturers who commission them) incorporate security levels commensurate with anticipated risk; and that consumers are guided to make appropriate choices of make and model of product to buy, hence applying market pressure on the manufacturers. The research revealed a number of challenges to implementing Crime Proofing on a routine basis.
Regarding market pressure, Johnson et al. (2020) estimated the potential impact of security labelling of Internet of Things-enabled products on consumer choice and willingness to pay. Their findings suggest that the use of a security label represents a policy option that could influence behaviour and that should be seriously considered.
Presentation on impact assessments
The presentation below offers an overview of the various kinds of impact assessments:
Risks to the preventive process itself
Finally, we can use process models such as the 5Is Framework to focus on the potential risks to doing crime prevention and community safety, of some forecast change. For example, some social trend, such as deterioration of relations between police and certain sectors of the public, might jeopardise the Involvement task stream of the 5Is process. Likewise we can identify any benefits/ enablers – for example, the improvements to Intelligence on crime problems from events such as the arrival of camera phones. We can also use the 5Is in its knowledge capture mode to record how certain risk issues were handled in a particular project – for example, obtaining insurance for youth club excursions.
Background to Crime Impact and Risk Assessments
Section 17 of the Crime & Disorder Act 1998 England & Wales placed a statutory duty on a range of local services to do all they can to reasonably prevent crime and disorder in their area. This formally introduced the idea of anticipation.
A paper for the UK Foresight Programme’s Crime Prevention Panel (Ekblom 2000b) used the Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity Framework to make systematic links between the 11 causes in that framework and changes in the real world. A subsequent, updated version was written up as ‘Future Imperfect’ (Ekblom 2002a). Further aspects were pursued in the field of the design of products (Ekblom 2008c); and the conceptual clarity needed in specifying security levels of those products to match the risks to which they would be exposed (Ekblom and Sidebottom 2008).