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Program Profile: Operation Burglary Countdown

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on June 08, 2011

Program Summary

A community-based program to reduce residential burglary in targeted hotspot areas. The program is rated Promising. There were substantial reductions in residential burglaries in the treatment and surrounding buffer area, suggesting a diffusion of benefits. The number of residents burgled more than once within a 12-month period decreased, and there was an increase in feelings of safety in the one of the targeted areas.

Program Description

Program Goals

Operation Burglary Countdown is a community-based crime reduction program introduced into two areas of the Perth (Western Australia) metropolitan area in 2003. The program uses an integrated community approach to reduce residential burglary problems in hotspot locations. The program is part of a larger initiative, the Burglar Beware Campaign, which aims to persuade Government agencies and communities that burglary reduction is everyone’s business.


Target sites

Two sites were chosen for pilot implementation of Operation Burglary Countdown. The sites needed to demonstrate relatively high burglary rates, community capacity (such as the presence of a Neighborhood Watch group), and State and local government support for the project. It was deemed desirable for each site to be within one police or Government district.


Program Components

Operation Burglary Countdown uses a partnership approach and works to improve the relationships between State and local agencies. There are four principles involved in this process:


  • Ensuring that the community and Government agencies all perceive burglary as a priority
  • Ensuring that all stakeholders are included and participate
  • Achieving strategic change by building interagency partnerships, improving the physical environment, reducing fear, and targeting police operations on offender behavior
  • Monitoring outcomes, marketing successes, and motivating key local individuals

Two local management groups (one for each site) were successfully established and engaged key stakeholders. A coordinator functioned as a liaison between the State task force and local management group. The activities overseen by the groups included:


  • Volunteer home visits, to provide security and crime prevention advice
  • Security audits, for residents of burgled residences
  • “Eyes on the street,” a strategy to educate council workers, such as rangers and trash collectors, to report suspicious behavior.
  • Physical and behavior security changes by residents, to reduce the chance of being re-burgled. Hardware was offered at a discount, and property-marking kits were made available by the police
  • Community engagement, by encouraging attendance of community agencies at local management group meetings, by conducting a media campaign, and by emailing alerts about local crime in real time
  • Cocooning, which entails delivering crime prevention materials to residences near a burgled site
  • Diversionary programming for at-risk youth.

Program Theory

The program components are grounded in the rational choice theory, as articulated by Cornish and Clarke (1986). Program elements were designed to reduce an offender’s belief that he/she could successfully execute a burglary and to increase the perceived and actual probability of detection and apprehension.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Reductions in Residential Burglary
There were substantial reductions in burglaries in Bentley of approximately 40 percent, as well as in Morley, though to a much lesser extent. Cummings (2005) noted that there was an overall decrease in residential burglary in Perth. Still, the decreases in burglary were generally greater in Bentley than in Perth. Cummings calculated that in Bentley, a total of 127 burglaries were prevented by the program and 67 prevented in the surrounding buffer area. This suggests a diffusion of benefits.

Reductions in Repeat Residential Burglaries
The number of residents burgled more than once within a 12-month period decreased by 49 percent in Bentley and by 58 percent in Morley.

Increase in Feelings of Safety
There was no change for residents in Bentley, but feelings of safety increased from 70 percent to 82 percent in Morley.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Cummings (2005) used a quasi-experimental design with a non-equivalent comparison site to study the effect of the program on burglary rates. The entire Perth area—minus the treatment areas (the Perth suburbs of Bentley and Morley) and their buffer areas–was used for comparison purposes, though it is unclear how similar or dissimilar the treatment, buffer, and control areas were on key variables.

Residential burglary data were aggregated and examined monthly and quarterly. In the treatment areas, preprogram monthly residential burglaries ranged from 25 to 70; in the surrounding buffer areas, burglaries generally ran above 100 per month; in the Perth metro area, above 2,000 per month.

Data were collected from police crime records, citizen surveys, and measures of repeat victimization. Cummings used procedures developed by Johnson and colleagues (2004) to predict the number of burglaries prevented by the program. The program was implemented in November 2003; observations were made for 12 months, through October 2004. A separate police crackdown in Morley in the last quarter of the year prior to Operation Burglary Countdown had the effect of artificially reducing the pre-program crime count.
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For every dollar invested in Operation Burglary Countdown in the Bentley community, a benefit of $6.71 was returned. If the diffusion effect in the surrounding area is also included, the benefit ratio increased to 9.54 ($715,480 ÷ $75,000) or a benefit of $9.54 for every dollar invested. There was a negative return on the investment in Morley, because the operation cost more money than it returned.
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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
Cummings, Rick. 2005. Operation Burglary Countdown, November 2003–October 2004: Evaluation Study Final Report. Perth, Australia: Estill & Associates.
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Additional References

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

Cornish, D.B., and R.V. Clarke (eds.). 1986. The Reasoning Criminal: Rational Choices Perspectives on Offending. New York, N.Y.: Springer–Verlag.

Cummings, Rick. 2006. “’What If’: The Counterfactual in Program Evaluation.” Evaluation Journal of Australasia 6(2):6–15.

Johnson, S.D.; K.J. Bowers; P. Jordan; J. Mallender; N. Davidson; and A.G. Hirschfield. 2004. “Evaluating Crime Prevention Scheme Success.” Evaluation 10(3):327–48.
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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
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Program Snapshot

Gender: Both

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting

Program Type: Community Awareness/Mobilization, Community Crime Prevention , Situational Crime Prevention

Current Program Status: Not Active

Program Developer:
Office of Crime Prevention
Phone: (08) 9222 9733