The Portland (OR) Burglary Prevention Program was implemented in 1973 as part of the Impact Cities Initiative, which was funded by the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration. It was operated by the Crime Prevention Bureau (CPB), a division of Portland’s police department staffed by civilians. The program was intended to mobilize residents of neighborhoods to help develop a community crime-prevention strategy to reduce and prevent burglary in high-crime areas of Portland. More specifically, the program was intended to reduce burglaries at individual households, using private security techniques, and to promote safer neighborhoods by using collective prevention techniques.
Target Sites/Program Components
The CPB began by identifying high-crime areas in Portland and then canvassed selected neighborhoods door to door. CPB officials then held neighborhood meetings for those who chose to participate. During these meetings, details of the program were explained and materials were distributed.
First, the meetings provided recommendations for private protection techniques designed to protect individual homes. These techniques included the installation of different types of locks, alarms, and outside lighting; removal of hedges to increase visibility; and special precautions to take during vacations. Residents were also encouraged to mark their property with engravers, supplied by the CPB, which were intended to trace property if it was stolen. The residents were also encouraged to place a decal outside of their homes, to indicate that the home was protected and that property was marked. These techniques were designed to deter potential burglars and increase security for individual households.
The program meetings also concentrated on promoting neighborhood prevention efforts. During the meetings, residents were educated on burglary techniques to better protect themselves and neighbors. The program also provided information on suspicious behavior, actions to take if suspicious behavior or a crime in progress was observed, and general ways for residents to look out for one another’s safety. These techniques were intended to promote the safety of the neighborhood as a whole.
The program was operated by the CPB and implemented using participation from members of the community.
The theory behind the Portland Burglary Prevention Program is that criminals calculate risks and benefits before committing a crime and that they will ultimately choose targets they perceive as low risk. Following from this idea, the program was designed to increase the risks for burglars to break into homes. Theoretically, if property is marked with obvious indications of protection, the offender will be less inclined to break into the home. Further, educating residents how to be more aware of suspicious activities in the neighborhood will reduce the likelihood that a burglar will strike in the area, since they are more likely to be noticed. In using these techniques, the idea of the program was to increase protection of individual households as well as the entire neighborhood.