A common error is to assess the deterrent effects of a preventive measure based on our convictions. The best thing would be to identify with the offender to understand what an obstacle could really be for them. Only then will we be able to implement genuinely effective passive prevention measures.
There are several techniques to reduce opportunities. The most effective ones involve handling and managing the environment in a structured and continuous way.
All preventive measures should contain at least one of the following effects for the offender:
• Increasing the risks
• Increasing the effort
• Reducing the benefits
Let us briefly look at the techniques of reducing opportunities.
Access control, inbound and outbound, with human and/or electronic surveillance systems, objectively increase the risks for the offender of being intercepted before reaching the target or after committing the crime.
Strengthening of the objective
The strengthening of the objective through the use of alarm systems, the use of locks, doors, and windows of good quality, makes the commission of theft more difficult even if the offender has reached the target. The more resistant the target is, the more time the offender will have to use to violate it, and as a result, the greater the risk of being discovered or arrested will be.
Obligatory routes can also be an excellent deterrent for the offender. In fact, every offender with a minimum of 'professionalism' plans an escape route before starting to act. Forcing the offender to take a certain route increases our chances of intercepting him. For example, a target house located in a dead-end street will have the escape route as the same one the offender entered, and this will double the risk of being seen/intercepted.
Checking tools that facilitate crime
Not all burglars go around with their toolbox. Sometimes they use tools they find at the scene of the crime. It is therefore advisable never to leave ladders, garden tables, gardening tools, stones, etc. unattended and available to offenders, as they can all be used to break into our homes. Locking up tools and ladders and securing garden tables and chairs on the ground is a good way to make it more difficult to break into a house.
Removing temptations and targets
There is an Italian proverb that says that 'opportunity makes the man a thief', and I think this proverb has some truth to it. In order to do good prevention, it is absolutely necessary to remove targets and reduce temptations: from not leaving our smartphone unattended when we put it on the table at the restaurant, to not leaving our bag on the armchair at the entrance to our house. From not leaving our car keys in the ignition when we leave the car for a short time, to not leaving our laptop unattended on the garden table when we go for a beer in the kitchen. These are all ploys to reduce opportunities and temptations.
Facilitating all forms of surveillance
If the target is guarded by a 'capable guardian' the chances of being victimised are drastically reduced. We should therefore facilitate all forms of surveillance that our communities have at their disposal. For example, formal surveillance by the police is most effective when they can not only watch the public streets, but, once we allow them, by removing some obstacles, also extend their gaze into our private spaces (the gardens and sides of our houses). Making a part of our private spaces (from which we have removed temptations and targets) visible from public and other private spaces also favours their (natural) surveillance by passers-by, cars, and neighbours. If we integrate these two forms of surveillance with that represented by our neighbours who are members of a Neighbourhood Watch scheme (and by ourselves as far as the inside of our house is concerned) we will have dramatically increased the monitoring capacity of our microenvironment.
Facilitate the identification of assets, eliminating benefits and rewards
Thieves rarely steal our assets to use them personally. In most cases they want to turn our assets into cash. That is why their first aim is to resell our assets and get rid of them as quickly as possible. The figure of the fence is fundamental to achieve this objective. Without this role, the stolen goods would have no value for the thieves. Consider that, although they are two qualitatively different offences, in all European countries receiving stolen goods is considered as serious as theft. The fence also runs his own risks by buying stolen goods. The price of stolen goods is not only determined by their intrinsic value but also by whether or not they can be traced back to their rightful owner. Therefore, joining an asset identification programme can be a good strategy to eliminate the benefits and rewards of theft and make it risky and unprofitable, making the stolen goods difficult to sell.
In conclusion, let's start thinking about what techniques we can apply in our homes to reduce opportunities for offenders. You will be amazed at how easy some of these techniques are to implement.
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