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Program Profile: Kirkholt (England) Burglary Prevention Project

Evidence Rating: Effective - One study Effective - One study

Date: This profile was posted on June 10, 2011

Program Summary

A burglary reduction program that involved working with burglary victims, their neighbors, and potential offenders to remove opportunities and motivations to commit burglary. The Program is rated Effective. Researchers found that the bulk of the burglary rate reductions were achieved during the first part of the intervention and noted an increased percentage of burglary victims who were classified as “new” residents (one year or less). There was no evidence of crime displacement.

Program Description

Program Goals

Kirkholt is a public housing area of Rochdale, England, that was selected for this project because of its high burglary rate. The project, implemented in two phases, had multiple aims. The goals of the first phase included establishing robust links between agencies for sustainable crime prevention and reducing residential burglary. For the second phase, aims included continuing the crime reduction strategies of the first phase (e.g., maintaining target hardening and the development of neighborhood watch units); securing community ownership of the project; and introducing offender/community initiatives to reduce the motivation to commit crime.


Target Population

This program was directed at an area that suffered high burglary rates compared to the national average. Within that area, burglary victims were targeted for intervention and services. This population was singled out because one of the strongest predictors of victimization is having been victimized previously. In other words, repeat victimization is more probable than first-time victimization.


Program Components

Many of the program components, especially in the first phase of the project, were put in place based on the connection between repeat victimization and crime prevention. They included:


·         Target removal. An important component of burglary that was identified before the project’s implementation was the theft of money from electricity/gas prepayment meters located in the homes. These meters were emptied by the utility company only every month or every 3 months, offering an attractive target. The utility company agreed to replace these coin-fed meters with token-fed meters upon request.


·         Natural surveillance. Because repeat victimization was high in Kirkholt, program implementers worked with burglary victims and nearby neighbors to develop “cocoon” watches. These small neighborhood watch programs included the six or seven houses or flats near the victims’ residences. Residents of the cocoon were asked to watch out for suspicious activity. If neighbors agreed to join, they became eligible for the same kinds of security upgrades offered to burgled residents.


·         Target hardening. Burgled victims (and those in their cocoon) were offered security upgrades to decrease the chances of a repeat offense occurring at their residence.


The second phase of the project aimed to reduce the motivation to commit crime and thus featured an offender and community focus that complemented the victim focus of the first phase. Components that were introduced during this phase included the establishment of a credit union, a work program, school-based crime prevention programs, group meetings for offenders, and better information for probation officers and courts. The selection of components largely depended on the identification of motivations for burglars engaging in crime. For instance, when a survey revealed that many burglars committed a crime because of financial debt, program organizers developed a group on money management and also arranged for the introduction of a credit union for the area.


The program facilitated the establishment of the Kirkholt Community Crime Prevention Group. This group brought together participants originally involved in two separate activities: the establishment of cocoon and larger neighborhood watch programs and the development of community crime prevention measures. As the program matured, the activities of the two groups started to overlap, and so the decision was made to merge the two groups.


The program continued to evolve throughout the two phases of the project, and many of the components that were initially supported through special funding were absorbed by community agencies. One reason cited for the success of the program was that the focus on delivering services to victims of burglary made the pace of service delivery sustainable. This “drip feeding” approach meant that fewer resources were necessary at any one time and attention could be paced and focused.


Key Personnel

A number of local agencies were critical in the success of the program, including the local police, probation services (especially in phase 2 when a probation officer took the lead), victim support services, and the town housing department (which provided the security upgrades).


The numbers of workers needed to successfully carry out this work was considerably less than initially anticipated. By the end of the second phase, only two workers were needed to keep pace with program needs.


Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1

Burglary Rates

Forrester and colleagues (1990) found that the bulk of the reductions in Kirkholt were achieved during the first part of the intervention. After the first phase, the level of burglary fell to 40 percent of its preimplementation rate in the treatment area. This trend contrasted with burglary rates in Rochdale. Overall in the treatment area, the level of residential burglary measured during the final follow-up year (1989–1990) was one quarter of that recorded for the preimplementation year (1986–87). In Kirkholt, the total of number of burglaries for 1986–87 was 526 and the monthly average was 44; the total number of burglaries for 1989–90 was 132 and the monthly average was 11. 


A significant reduction in burglary may be due to the removal of cash-fed meters from the homes. Prior to the interventions at Kirkholt, nearly 50 percent of burglaries resulted in the theft of meter cash. At the end of the 1st year of the project, this was reduced to 22 percent and after the 2nd year was only 2 percent. These declines closely matched the overall declines in burglary.


Burglary Victims

Researchers noted an increased percentage of burglary victims who were classified as “new” residents (a year or less in their residence). An increase from 21 percent to 40 percent was noted for this group. The greatest decreases in victimization occurred in the 19–25 age group, then in the 26–35 group; other age groups’ rates remained fairly steady. Analysis revealed an increase in burglaries in the month of September, which coincided with the peak vacation period for older and retired people.



There was no evidence of crime displacement.

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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1

Forrester and colleagues (1990) used a quasi-experimental design with a comparison group to study the effects of the program on burglary rates. The treatment area consisted of the Kirkholt housing development, which was a public housing development and consisted of 2,280 residences. The comparison area consisted of the rest of the Rochedale area, within which the Kirkholt housing development was contained. Official crime data was used to compare changes in burglary rates over time.


Data was also collected by surveys of domestic burglary victims, neighbors of victims, and convicted burglars. Probation officers compiled social inquiry reports on Kirkholt residents arrested for burglary that provided demographic information, the type of offense, and the sentence received. Preimplementation data was collected for the period March 1986 to February 1987. Postimplementation data was collected for the 3 years following, until February 1990.


The researchers noted that because the program included multiple components, they were unable to determine what effects individual components might have had.
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A cost–benefit analysis by Forrester and colleagues (1990) suggested that the program appeared to have produced cost savings. The net expenditures for the program totaled just less than £300,000. The savings from burglaries averted totaled approximately £1.5 million, netting a savings of £1.2 million. The researchers suggested that this is a conservative estimate, since it does not include associated benefits brought about by the program, such as increased occupancy rates on the estate and savings in insurance claims.
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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
Forrester, David, Samantha Frenz, Martin O’Connell, and Ken Pease. 1990. The Kirkholt Burglary Prevention Project: Phase II. Crime Prevention Unit Paper 23. 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:

Forrester, David, Mike Chatterton, and Ken Pease. 1988. The Kirkholt Burglary Prevention Project, Rochdale. Crime Prevention Unit Paper 13. London, England: Home Office.

Pease, Ken. 1991. “The Kirkholt Project: Preventing Burglary on a British Public Housing Estate.” Security Journal 2(2):73–77.
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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): School, Other Community Setting, High Crime Neighborhoods/Hot Spots

Program Type: Classroom Curricula, Community Awareness/Mobilization, Neighborhood Watch, Probation/Parole Services, Victim Programs, Community Crime Prevention , Situational Crime Prevention

Current Program Status: Not Active