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.
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.
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.
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.