Program Goals/Target Population
Operation Swordfish was a police-led, target-hardening, crime-prevention strategy that was implemented in Birmingham, England. The overall goal was to reduce burglaries. Research has shown that once a home is burglarized, there is an increased risk of additional burglaries at the same household and surrounding households; therefore, the target population for this intervention was burglary victims and their surrounding neighbors (Johnson et al. 2017). The program aimed to prevent repeat victimization of burglary victims and to prevent near-repeat victimization (i.e., reduce burglary victimization of neighboring households). To increase a potential offender’s perceived risk of committing a burglary, police used target hardening strategies.
Software was used to import data on the locations of burglarized households reported to and recorded by police. Next, the software identified the addresses of the eight houses nearest to the burglarized home. The burglarized house and those surrounding eight neighbors (four on each side) received the intervention. Each house received a priority level (gold, silver, or bronze), a visit from police officers, and a target-hardening package, which was designed to increase the security of the residence.
Houses were divided into gold, silver, and bronze priority levels. The gold package was assigned to the burglarized house and consisted of LED units, electronic timers, door and window chimes, a crime prevention sticker, and details of neighborhood watch schemes. The silver package was assigned to the four neighbors closest to the burglarized house and consisted of the same items in the gold package, except for the LED units and stickers. The bronze package was assigned to the subsequent four closest neighbors and consisted of the same items in the silver package, except for the door chimes.
The LED units were designed to shine lights against windows to give the appearance that a television was on in the home. The stickers in the target-hardening package were created to give off the silhouette of a guard dog. Both the LED units and stickers were intended to deter burglars from approaching the household. Additionally, the households were visited by officers and re-checked by additional officers as an extra level of supervision.
A chief inspector was appointed for implementation of the program in the policing units. Sergeants and constables were briefed by a police officer and the University College of London (UCL) team who were conducting the evaluation. Additionally, police community support officers (PCSOs) were used to complete the visits to the burglary victim and nearby residents.
The Operation Swordfish intervention was based on principles of deterrence theory which assumes that individuals consider the consequences of their actions and are also affected by consequences. Additionally, rational individuals weigh the cost and benefit of committing a crime. Therefore, increasing the cost of committing a crime or increasing the risk of getting caught will deter individuals from engaging in crime (Paternoster 2010). The program also used techniques of situational crime prevention, which aim to reduce victimization by identifying inefficiencies in crime targets (i.e., homes) and altering the environment to prevent crime (Clarke 1995).