American Crime Prevention: Trends and New Frontiers
Amie M. Schuck
America witnessed major decline in crime over past several decades.
Most agree that this is caused by crime reduction policies, such as policing
initiatives, increased incarceration, gun control tactics, youth substance abuse and
violent prevention strategies, have played a significant role.
Importance of crime prevention efforts are now being recognized.
Policy makers continue to promote the use of crime prevention programs,
particularly those that are evidence based or knowledge based.
However, national economic difficulties lead to worries that crime prevention
programs will lose important financial support.
Many fear that removing resources from prevention efforts will leave a legacy of
escalating crime and violence problems for future generations to handle.
After decades, crime prevention strategies are becoming a part of public policy.
However, there is still uncertainty about the form, function, and emphasis of
In the past, prevention efforts have used techniques of surveillance and
incapacitation and focused primarily on guns, gangs, and drugs.
Now, a more conservative climate combined with fear of terrorism and declining
sources of revenue, has caused a renewed emphasis on surveillance and
In America, there is no specific agency responsible for crime prevention, or even
a national crime prevention agenda instead, it is incident driven.
In America, the themes of information integration systems and prevention
technology, law enforcement partnerships, and targeted interventions dominate
the discourse onAmerican crime prevention.
It is unlikely that current crime trends will continue, despite evidence
accumulated over the past few decades of the importance of evidence-based crime
prevention efforts because there is still enormous pressure to go back to the old-
fashioned logic of deterrence and punishment.
This article discusses current trends inAmerican crime prevention and indicates 3
overarching themes that dominate the discourse on crime prevention:
o Tremendous new emphasis on information sharing and crime prevention
September 11 terrorist attacks dramatically changed the landscape
of the criminal justice community: resources and funding were
reallocated and government agencies reorganized Throughout these transitions and changes, there has been a
consistent message – the need for better information sharing
In this area, there is little distinction between terrorists who
threaten national security and criminals who threaten public safety
Also, increased emphasis on prevention technology has led to the
development of technology to detect weapons of mass destruction
The development and application of such technologies to other
areas of crime prevention, such as school safety, correctional
settings, and drug detection, are also increasingly emphasized
o Continued push to develop justice-related partnerships
Importance is being given to collaborations between justice
organizations, particularly local and federal law enforcement
Emphasis on partnership ties is related to the belief that a
combination of resources brought together by multiple
organizations is better able to develop, implement, and oversee
crime prevention efforts than any one particular organization alone
o Given the current reality of declining economic resources, many justice
organizations have been forced to prioritize their crime prevention efforts,
targeting resources where they will have the greatest impact
Information Sharing and Prevention Technology
These integrated justice information systems are designed to use technology to
support the accurate and fast exchange of information among various divisions of
the justice community
The goal has been to produce low-cost, high-performance systems that integrate
information sharing horizontally (e.g., among agencies at a single level of
government) and vertically (e.g., linking different levels of government together)
To meet the need for information sharing, the federal government has
implemented a national criminal intelligence network, the Regional Information
Sharing System Network (RISS.NET), to combine the FBI database with those of
several other federal agencies, including the Department of Defense and the
Department of Homeland Security
Although this network is not viewed as a model for all future justice information
integration, it is a first step towards a national integrated justice information
As justice information sharing systems flourish, the challenge remains how to
harness the information more effectively for better crime prevention Some critics are there is a concern regarding the ability of the government
officials to develop data sharing technology while still ensure the privacy of
o For example: The MultistateAnti-Terrorism Information Exchange
(MATRIX) project, which has received much negative attention because it
gathers information from a broad range of public and private sources,
including criminal histories, marriage and divorce records, property
ownership records, and financial data. Such systems often go beyond their
intended purpose and are potentially dangerous and can lead to wrongful
arrest and employment discrimination through inaccuracies
Biometrics: Moving beyond fingerprints
Defined as “any automatically measur