- Report Published -
|Crime Prevention Center Study|
|Department of Criminal Justice Services|
|SJR 263 (Regular Session, 1993)|
|Sir Robert Peel succeeded in influencing Parliament to pass the Metropolitan Police Act of 1929. The first Order of the Metropolitan Police was a triumph of clarity, simplicity and vision:|
... it should be understood, at the outset, that the principal object to be attained is the prevention of crime. To this great end every effort of the police is to be directed. (*1)
Executive Order 48, issued by Governor Wilder, established the Governor's Commission on Violent Crime. The order stated in part:
In making its recommendations, the Commission shall consider the following strategies, among others, for the reduction of violent crime and the fear of crime in Virginia: to prevent crime from occurring in the first place.
Recently the Virginia Crime Prevention Association published a model set of Crime Prevention Standards for law enforcement agencies. But what exactly is crime prevention? For this report, crime prevention is defined as the anticipation, appraisal and assessment of a crime risk and the initiation of some activity to reduce or remove that risk. This definition was developed by the National Crime Prevention Institute in 1968 and is the basis for law enforcement sponsored crime prevention programs throughout the United States. Crime prevention is the removal or reduction of the opportunity for crime. It supports, but is not, investigation, arrest, adjudication, incarceration, punishment or treatment. It focuses on the victim, not the offender.
In the fall of 1977, the Division of Justice and Crime Prevention (now the Department of Criminal Justice Services) initiated an effort to create an awareness in the law enforcement community of the need to provide crime prevention services. A survey revealed that only sixteen (16) law enforcement agencies were providing formal crime prevention services. However, a substantial number indicated they were willing to provide such services, but generally lacked the training and technical support to do so.
Since 1977, crime prevention programming has grown considerably in Virginia. A survey of crime prevention services conducted for this survey found that 161 law enforcement agencies are providing crime prevention services. This involves over 600 sworn officers and civilians providing a great variety of crime prevention programs.
The survey also requested that law enforcement respond to the following mission statement for a proposed Crime Prevention Center:
The mission of the Virginia Crime Prevention Center is to enhance public safety in the Commonwealth by promoting, supporting and improving crime prevention through leadership, policy development, training, technical assistance, research and innovation.
Ninety-five (95 %) of the law enforcement executives responded that the mission statement was appropriate, while five percent (5 %0) stated it was too broad.
The Department of Criminal Justice Services has conducted or participated in a variety of studies of crime and crime prevention:
• Neighborhood Watch Study - HJR 50 (1983,)
• Governor's Business and Industry Advisory Committee on Crime Prevention (1984)
• Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Committee (1984) Building Code Security Needs Study - HJR 64 (1988)
• Violent Crime and Worker's Safety in Virginia Convenience Stores (1991)
• Violent Crime in Convenience Stores: Analysis of Crime, Criminals and Costs HJR 149 (1992)
• Governor's Commission on Violent Crime (1993)
Interest in crime prevention goes beyond local law enforcement. There are a variety of organizations and groups throughout the state offering crime prevention programs and services which target particular crime issues:
• Virginia Crime Prevention Association - crime prevention training, technical assistance and resource material addressing all areas of crime prevention
• Virginia Department of State Police - general crime prevention services, DARE - drug abuse, and HEAT - auto theft
• State Council of Higher Education - campus sexual assault
• Virginia Council on Coordinating Prevention - crime prevention in low income housing communities
• Virginia Partnership for the Prevention of Youth Violence - youth violence prevention Virginia Polytechnic and State University - small retail business crime prevention
The support of crime prevention by local law enforcement, citizen support of crime prevention with over 300,000 households participating in Neighborhood Watch, and the commitment of a variety of statewide organizations and associations demonstrates a strong need for a centralized point to provide crime prevention leadership. The Department of Criminal Justice Services has provided this leadership since 1977.
The Department of Criminal Justice Services is responsible for law enforcement and private security training standards and regulation; criminal justice grant funding; aid to localities with police departments (599 funds); criminal justice research; criminal justice policy development; and support services for crime prevention, law enforcement, corrections, juvenile justice, victim/witness services, courts and research. Providing this broad range of services under one criminal justice agency provides a unique opportunity to incorporate crime prevention philosophy, programs, and services into the various components of the criminal justice system.
Senate Joint Resolution 263 requested DCJS to study the feasibility and desirability of establishing a crime prevention center. Based on the continuing growth of local and statewide crime prevention programs, the desirability to establish a Crime Prevention Center is evident. The feasibility of establishing a Crime Prevention Center is also quite evident. DCJS has been providing crime prevention services since 1978. However there is no legislative mandate for DCJS to perform this activity. A legislative mandate for DCJS to establish and maintain a Crime Prevention Center would give greater recognition to crime prevention. It would also serve to institutionalize state supported crime prevention services and programs. In many states, statewide crime prevention services have been discontinued or greatly reduced because there was no mandate to provide the services or because they were too dependent on federal funding. Virginia should not risk the loss of leadership in the design and provision of crime prevention services and activities.
Establish a Virginia Crime Prevention Center within the Department of Criminal Justice Services by amending the duties of the Department in Section 9-170 in the Code of Virginia. The mission of the Crime Prevention Center will be to provide crime prevention training, technical assistance and resource material to individuals, local governments, organizations and state agencies. Additional funds are not required to establish the Crime Prevention Center, however additional funds would allow for the expansion of services to meet needs identified by chiefs and sheriffs of local and state law enforcement agencies.
(*1) Understanding Crime Prevention, National Crime Prevention Institute, p. 12, 1986.