Preventing urban crime

Urbanization often goes hand in hand with a rise in urban violence and crime. Urban violence has doubled in less than 20 years. In the next five years, it is expected that more than half of the world's population living in cities will be victims of crime of some kind. The result of all this criminal activity is incalculable. Annual estimates try to put a figure on the material loss but far worse is the effect on the communities themselves. In many cities, people live in a state of siege.

Organized crime has also contributed to the globalization of crime around the world. Organized crime and white-collar corruption have a significant impact on collective and individual trust in public institutions. One of the problems today is the reinforcement of the linkage between macro- and micro-criminality. In fact, organized crime tends to use young delinquents as a cheap labour force. This situation can lead to the consolidation of a gang sub-culture progressively rooted in the urban context.

Urban crime is characterized by a multiplicity of factors and forms, of which, in each case, a local approach to the problems must be adopted. This involves: local diagnostic surveys of the crime phenomena, their characteristics, factors leading to them, the form they take, and their extent; the identification of all relevant actors; and the setting up of consultation mechanisms to permit the design of a coherent strategy.

As envisaged by the United Nations [Guidelines for Cooperation and Technical Assistance in the field of Urban Crime Prevention] the global action plan should define: the nature of the phenomena to be tackled (poverty, unemployment, housing, health and education problems, cultural or inter-ethnic conflicts, drugs, etc); the objective being pursued within agreed time-limits; the modalities of action and the national and local resources to be mobilized.

The plan should involve: family, young people and adults, and inter-generational relationships; education, civic values, culture, etc; employment, training, measures for combating unemployment; housing; health, drug and alcohol abuse; government and community welfare aid for the least fortunate; combating the culture of violence. Actors involved should include: the police, the courts, education, housing, health, social workers, etc; community bodies including elected officials, associations, volunteers, parents, etc; the economic sector, including enterprises, banks, businesses, public transport [etc]. Various levels of action are required: primary prevention, by promoting welfare and health development and combating social deprivation, by promoting communal values and respect for fundamental human rights, by promoting civic responsibility and social mediation procedures, by adapting the working methods of the police and courts; prevention of recidivism, through modified police intervention, by modifying judicial intervention; post-sentencing assistance and family support; protection of victims.

1. It cannot be stressed enough how the degradation of the environment helps create the conditions for crime. Graffiti, broken fencing, run-down streets and roads and broken lighting all contribute to the feeling of abandon.

2. Communal strategies to prevent crime not only make society safer but also save money. For every US dollar spent on crime prevention, the saving can be between 2 and 7 US dollars. Rigorous investment in crime prevention has proven more advantageous than investment in criminal justice. An additional benefit of crime prevention is its effect on bringing together the community at large.

Type Classification:
D: Detailed strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities