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Program Profile: Safer Cities Programme (UK)

Evidence Rating: Effective - More than one study Effective - More than one study

Date: This profile was posted on June 13, 2011

Program Summary

An initiative designed to reduce crime, fear of crime, and to create safer environments for economic and community life to flourish. The program is rated Effective. There was a reduction in burglary rates, burglary risk and the fear of burglary. For programs of moderate to high intensity, crime rates dropped in surrounding areas, while displacement was found more with the low-intensity programs.

Program Description

Program Goals
The Safer Cities Programme (SCP) was part of a larger British initiative, Action for Cities; SCP was designed to address diverse crimes (domestic and commercial burglary, domestic violence, etc.). The main goal of the program was twofold: to reduce crime and fear of crime, and to create safer environments for economic and community life to flourish. Phase 1 of SCP ran from 1988 through Autumn 1995.

Program Components/Key Personnel
Approximately 3,600 schemes, or projects, were funded through SCP. Of these, 500 focused on the prevention of domestic burglary. Comprehensive schemes appeared to be the most effective. Such programs combined:
  • Target hardening. Target hardening includes physical security measures, such as door, window, and fencing improvements, alarms, and security lighting. Generally, the purpose of target hardening is to make physical entry more difficult or more risky, which can deter burglars. Target hardening differs in different schemes. Sometimes it is offered to victims, who are at increased risk of being reburgled. Sometimes it is offered to vulnerable individuals (e.g., the elderly or single parents), to "hot spots" (high-risk areas), or even to an entire area (all residents).
  • Community-oriented activities. This includes activities to increase awareness and promote crime prevention. The range of activities can be quite diverse, such as providing information on do-it-yourself security installations, developing Neighborhood Watch programs, creating general publicity about the program, or encouraging property marking (which may help with recovery or detection of stolen goods).
Although SCP is a national initiative, the initiative encouraged a local, team-based approach. Generally, a program coordinator was identified, who worked with a small team and steering committee that represented diverse stakeholders (police, local government, commerce, voluntary bodies, etc.). Some of the simpler schemes were implemented without a multiagency management team; they were instead directed by a single organization that had requested funding. Multiple challenges were involved in ensuring the smooth operation of multiagency groups (e.g., spotty attendance by participants at the multiagency meetings, lack of leadership, inconsistent management, etc.). The structure and objectives of the individual schemes in large part determined the mix of project workers.

A problem-oriented approach was used in the development of individual site schemes. Local crime data was used to identify particular crime problems and patterns, objectives were then set, and tailored preventive measures were selected. As programs were implemented, evaluation was encouraged so that changes could be made as appropriate.

The funding levels varied widely across sites. For 300 studied sites, the average SCP money equaled about £8,700, which covered an average 5,200 households per site. Approximately one-third of these sites had other funding available to supplement the initiative funding.

Certain factors appeared to influence the choice of sites for program implementation:
  • Sites tended to experience general crime problems in addition to burglary.
  • Police perceived burglary to be a particular concern of the area.
  • Sites tended to be well-bounded geographical areas.
  • Sites generally had a high level of police support.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1

Burglary Rates

Tilley and Webb (1994) concluded from the 10 case studies using the Safer Cities Programme (SCP) schemes that whole-area target hardening can reduce local burglary rates. Area-based target hardening can reduce burglary rates when the program is of a sufficiently high intensity. Victim-centered target hardening tends to reduce individual revictimization but does not necessarily affect area rates. Each of the 10 individual schemes had slightly different outcomes.


Primrose Estate Anti-Burglary Project. Target hardening reduced burglary rates in the targeted high-victimization area.


Brackenbank Scheme. During implementation, burglary declined compared to other similar areas, but began to increase a year later.


The Greatfield Estate Home Security Improvement Project. There were no statistically significant effects.


The Meadows Household Security Project. The treatment area experienced an increase in burglary of 9 percent, compared to the rest of the subdivision which experienced a 139 percent increase. Repeat burglaries dropped.


St. Ann’s Burglary Reduction Project. While burglary increased at a rate of 12.4 percent, this rate was lower than elsewhere in the subdivision.


The Belfield and Back O’Th’Moss Safe and Sound Projects. Burglary reductions were achieved in the target neighborhoods, compared to the area as a whole, where the incidence of burglary doubled.


Wardelworth Community Safety Scheme. Burglary was reduced, but community leaders felt that it was still a problem at the end of the program.


Plain Farm Estate Target Hardening Scheme. The part of the estate that was target hardened experienced a drop in burglary rates of 28 percent the 1st year and 35 percent the following year. This is in contrast to the subdivision rates, which rose by 16 percent in the 1st year and 57 percent in the 2nd year.


Tower Hamlets’ Multivictimisation Scheme. Target hardening reduced the rate of revictimization. Overall, the scheme led to a 9 percent reduction in incidence rates for burglaries.


The Lunt Estate Multiagency Project. Burglary fell by 43 percent, compared to the rest of the subdivision, where it rose by 9 percent.


Study 2

Burglary Risk

Ekblom and colleagues (1996) found that while comparison cities showed an increase of 15 percent in burglary risk, on average, risks fell by 10 percent in low-intensity areas, 22 percent in medium-intensity areas, and 43 percent in high-intensity areas. The overall reduction was 21 percent. When background crime trends and demographic variables were taken into account, the risk of burglary fell by 24 percent in low-intensity areas, 33 percent in medium-intensity areas, and 37 percent in high-intensity areas. The program thus led to statistically significant reductions in burglary risk.


Target hardening reduced burglary under all conditions. The impact of community-oriented activities on reducing burglary was greater when there was more intense program activity. The most effective schemes combined elements of target hardening and community-oriented activities.


Fear of Burglary

Where action was perceived to be intensive, worry was reduced. Where action was perceived to be low-level, worry was increased.


Displacement and Diffusion of Benefits

Overall, displacement (that is, criminals offending in a different area or switching to a different type of crime) was correlated with low-intensity programs. This increase in crime in adjacent areas offset any benefits gained in the target areas. In contrast, for programs of moderate to high intensity, surrounding areas actually benefitted from the implementation of programs in target areas, so that crime rates dropped in surrounding areas.

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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1

Tilley and Webb (1994) assessed 10 schemes funded under the Safer Cities Programme (SCP) using a quasi-experimental design. They used detailed retrospective case studies of 10 selected burglary schemes. Data came from “before” and “after” measures of police records of burglary (1990–1992). The number of households covered by the schemes varied from 175 to 10,004.


Tilley and Webb discussed the limitations of the data, including missing data for certain schemes; the sometimes poor match between beats for which data was available and targeted areas; the frequent inability to distinguish burglary from attempted burglary; and the restriction to data about change in incidence (the number of burglaries), not prevalence (the number of addresses victimized). Some statistical adjustments were made for some schemes.


The researchers found that sites with the highest burglary rates in general were not selected for this program for two reasons: these areas might qualify for other, more intensive interventions and it was thought that the modest resources available through SCP would have little impact on burglary rates. They found that the most common pattern in selection was a self-contained, medium problem, medium-sized area with a moderately serious burglary problem, but signs of local concern.


Study 2

Ekblom and colleagues (1996) used a quasi-experimental design with comparison sites to evaluate the impact of SCP schemes on burglary rates. Of the 500 schemes that were funded to address domestic burglary, this evaluation included 300 of the schemes.


Data was collected from before–after surveys from 7,500 households. These households were identified from 400 high-crime neighborhoods, in 11 different treatment cities and 8 comparison cities. “Before” surveys were conducted in late 1990; “after” surveys were conducted in late 1992. Local police crime statistics from 1987 to 1992 were also used. This data comprised 700 police beats located in 14 treatment cities (240 different burglary-reduction schemes); police data from 9 comparison cities was also used.


A measurement of scheme intensity was developed that took into account the treatment area size, population density, and funding allocation. High intensity, for instance, could indicate either a high level of spending or concentration of a lesser funding on a small area. The mean intensity was £16 per household, though the intensity of action ranged across schemes from 1 penny (British) to £113 per household.


Multilevel modeling was used to take into account variables that could affect the findings, such as background trends in crime, other SCP action, and demographic differences (e.g., overcrowding, mortality, long-term unemployment, family type, household density, etc.) across areas.

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The costs of the programs differed, depending on the level of intensity (low, moderate, or high) and the profile of the target area (low crime versus high crime). Ekblom and colleagues (1996) found that the overall cost for each burglary prevented was approximately £300 in high-crime areas and about £900 in lower-risk areas. Both these amounts were less than the financial cost of a burglary to the State and victim, which averaged about £1,100. The cost-effectiveness of programs also depended in part on the intensity of the programs. More intense efforts cost more, so that the costs for each burglary prevented rose to £1,100 in high-risk areas and £3,300 in lower-risk areas. From the perspective of economic value, the cost of such programs is thus justified in high-risk areas; however, other considerations, such as psychological benefits (e.g., feeling safer) may justify the extra costs even in low-risk areas. The analysis estimated that the savings from these programs amounted to £31 million, which was close to the cost of implementing the Safer Cities Programme schemes.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Ekblom, Paul, Ho Law, and Mike Sutton, with assistance from Paul Crisp and Richard Wiggins. 1996. Safer Cities and Domestic Burglary. Home Office Research Study 164. London, England: Home Office.

Study 2
Tilley, Nick, and Janice Webb. 1994. Burglary Reduction: Findings From Safer Cities Schemes. Crime Prevention Unit Series: Paper No.51. London, England: Home Office.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Sutton, Mike. 1996. Implementing Crime Prevention Schemes in a Multiagency Setting: Aspects of Process in the Safer Cities Programme. London, England: Home Office.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Neighborhood Watch
Also known as block watch, apartment watch, home watch, and community watch, these programs involve citizens trying to prevent crime in their neighborhood or community. Citizens remain alert for suspicious activities and report those activities to the police. The practice is rated Promising in reducing crime in the control area compared to the experimental area; and rated No Effects in reducing victimization.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Victimization - Multiple victimization outcomes

Problem-Oriented Policing
These analytic methods are used by police to develop crime prevention and reduction strategies. The practice is rated Promising and led to a significant decline in crime and disorder.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Gender: Both

Geography: Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting, High Crime Neighborhoods/Hot Spots

Program Type: Community and Problem Oriented Policing, Community Awareness/Mobilization, Community Crime Prevention , Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design/Design Against Crime, Situational Crime Prevention

Current Program Status: Not Active

Paul Ekblom
Professor of Design Against Crime
Design Against Crime Research Centre
Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, Granary Bldg,, 1 Granary Square
London N1C4AA
Phone: +44 207514 8351
Fax: +44 207514 7