Introduction / Problem Identification
Phoenix Park, the neighborhood for people with low-income, is located in one of the cities of Canada. The residents composed of immigrants and the local population mention multiple cases of property crime and street drug trade. The police response seems to be insufficient and confusing to some residents. Among other problems, there is gentrification and a lack of social responsibility from businesses entering the given area. In this connection, it becomes evident that this community needs a new crime prevention combination of strategies to improve the current situation. In particular, this paper will focus on community-based crime prevention, harm reduction strategy, crime prevention through environmental design, and the comparison of the above combined with the alternative solution, focusing on a punitive initiative.
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Combination of Strategies
Community-Based Crime Prevention
The fact that Phoenix Park residents feel confused while the police representatives work in the area, usually to arrest drug traders and other criminals, shows that there is a need to enhance the relationships between these parties. In this regard, it is safe to assume applying a community-based crime prevention strategy that implies close collaboration between the police and the community members. As argued by Kelly, Caputo, and Jamieson (2005), crime prevention through social development (CPSD) is “based on the assumption that social development is of intrinsic value” (p. 308). Such an approach recognizes the link between the social and environmental context and safer living conditions. More to the point, the identified community may be characterized as the one facing equity concerns. Since CPSD focuses on diversity awareness and sustainability development, its implementation would be beneficial in this case.
In terms of the proposed community-based strategy, it is necessary to introduce specific measures, thus making it clear what should be done to reduce crime levels. First of all, due to the community-orientedness of the mentioned strategy, it is essential to explain to the residents that their reports may significantly contribute to the effectiveness of the police. The latter, in its turn, should be polite, respectful, and sensitive while communicating with the community members, so that they feel comfortable and engaged voluntarily. In other words, the community should be regarded as a tool for improvement in the framework of sustainability development (Kelly et al., 2005, p. 320). Informal social control may be applied to build proper relationships with the residents and increase the reporting of suspicious behaviors. The paramount goal of community-based crime prevention refers to advanced certainty levels of recognition.
Elaborating on the identified crime prevention strategy, Warner, Beck, and Ohmer (2010) claim that it is something more than mere reporting to the police as a measure to reduce crime levels (p. 358). The authors apply the social disorganization theory that implies the restorative justice and peacemaking criminology. In particular, tolerance and social support are the key elements of this theory that are expected to assist the residents in identifying community values and norms (Warner et al., 2010, p. 361). By encouraging prosocial behavior for the common good, it is possible to achieve great cooperation in the Phoenix Park community. The internalization of norms and values is to be accomplished via population education and awareness, which would increase their attentiveness subsequently. The way the above intervention would be provided also matters. Following the recommendations of the mentioned scholars, one may assume the use of a supportive and respectful manner of the interaction and, most importantly, education. The effective community social development that lays in the foundation of the community-based approach should focus on “providing them with skills to develop non-coercive intervention and allowing them to practice these skills” (Warner et al., 2010, p. 362). Thus, the implementation of the mentioned strategy would integrate the residents and promote equity and sustainable social development, thus aligning the community to crime prevention in collaboration with the police.
As another instrument to implement the community-based approach, it is possible to come up with mutual surveillance. Specifically, it is associated with Neighborhood Watch programs when the residents are to become more attentive to the community in terms of noting suspicious behaviors. Also, some communities are designed so that it would be more convenient to observe others, thus increasing common safety and security. In his study, August (2016) reflects on mixed-income public housing redevelopment in Don Mount Court, Toronto, the tenants of which were relocated from 232 public housing units and 187 new condominium townhouses (p. 3409). The revitalization was intended to promote social and behavioral change, yet many respondents reported paradoxical outcomes. For example, the failure of design that allows sounds to penetrate from other housings and excessive visibility caused concerns. This case shows that the implementation of the community-based measures should be cautious and gradual to evoke involvement rather than dissatisfaction.
Harm Reduction Strategy
The specified community-based strategy should be supplemented with the initiatives aimed at reducing harm. Harm reduction implies approaches aimed at preventing or reducing the overall level of injection and distribution of drugs, but this approach recognizes that many people who use or sell drugs cannot or do not want to stop doing it. It is critical to provide people who use and distribute drugs with such options that would help to minimize the risks associated with the continuation of their actions and with the possible harmful consequences for themselves and other people as well.
It seems appropriate to mention the study by Jozaghi and Reid (2015) who explore the role of supervised injection facilities (SIFs) in the framework of their financial effectiveness (p. 234). Taking into account that drug trading in the area leads to drug overdose and unsafe injection behaviors, it is suggested to register at SIFs and reject the intake of substances outside these rooms. The fact that specialized nurses control this process, as well as the obligation to cease assisting in drug trading, creates a safer community. Therefore, for the Phoenix Park community, it is safe to assume initiating similar SIFs. In particular, this strategy is financially affordable since it does not require significant investments (Jozaghi & Reid, 2015, p. 242). The main value of the identified intervention is the potential decrease in drug dealing and injection along with the improved public order.
Harm reduction should go first before crime decrease as the former may be much more dangerous. The harms of illicit drug trading and injections directly affect the amplification of other crimes. The current frontier policies are not clear enough to introduce and maintain proper changes in harm reduction (Longhurst & McCann, 2016, p. 115). This means that the existing Canada policies in the field of crime prevention are composed of mobilized strategy transferred primarily from the United Kingdom and the United States, resulting in a mix of strategies that are hardly fit the local environment. It seems advantageous to follow the example of Surrey, British Columbia, and implement the Fraser Health Authority (FHA) policy, the advocates of which declare the importance of educating physicians, nurses, the business community, and policymakers regarding harm reduction.
Consistent with the above approach, Butts, Roman, Bostwick, and Porter (2015) claim that it is possible to cure violence rather than eradicate it radically (p. 40). The cure violence (CV) model includes three elements to prevent crime such as the interruption of criminal behavior transmission, altering the thinking of potential criminals, and changing community norms regarding norms. The last element also coincides with the strategy suggested by Warner et al. (2010, p. 361). As the successful examples of such intervention, one may note Save Our Streets (SOS), Chicago-CeaseFire, and Safe Street programs conducted in several US cities. The change in the aggregate violence in the given community would be an indicator of effectiveness. Also, the CV model can help in introducing primary and secondary prevention strategies, thus creating a comprehensive approach to the given problem.
Crime Prevention through Environmental Design
The problem of gentrification and social responsibility of businesses operating in the given area can be addressed with the help of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED). Parnaby (2006) considers that elaborates on the notion of risk discourse, claiming that there are dimensions such as predictable danger, depoliticized potentialities, and risks requiring total responsibilization (p. 2). In general, following the above approach, it is essential to focus on the environment as the key to prevent crime. At this point, the residents should understand the reasons that spur up criminal behaviors as a long-term process. The very social construct and self-formation are to be changed to affect crime levels by using the context as a powerful instrument to improve reality. The shared responsibility may also be recommended to apply in the case of the Phoenix Park community. It should be stressed, however, that shared responsibility does not reject individual awareness; rather, it declares the value of both strategies (Parnaby, 2006, p. 14). Thus, among other issues, the context should be involved in crime prevention as well.
The issue of moralization in crime prevention needs to be clarified to avoid any complications with the implementation of the proposed strategies. Hunt (2003) states that risk discourses tend to be associated with moralization that, in its turn, leads to bureaucratic regulation and augmentation of regulatory impacts (p. 168). The failure to successfully address the existing risks causes even greater moralization as well as deregulation in both private and public spheres. Therefore, it is necessary to properly regulate the implementation and maintenance of strategies in Phoenix Park to ensure their success.
Alternative: Punitive Initiative
As an alternative to the combination of strategies discussed above, it is possible to point out punitive measures aimed at punishing offenders, thus showing the rest of potential criminals and society, in general, the possible outcomes of such conduct. Even though this strategy was largely used previously and is still applied in many areas, it seems to be rather aggressive and promoting even more violence. Punishment nowadays cannot be considered a completely adequate response to crime as law enforcement and the police representatives should lead people on the way to a peaceful life. In this regard, the implementation of punitive measures is likely to deteriorate the current situation. One of the studies conducted in Winnipeg, Manitoba investigates the statement that zero-tolerance policing that is also called punitive policing entered the city’s communities. In the course of the research based on the interviews with the residents, it was revealed that they resist punitive strategies due to an aggressive manner of the latter (Comack & Silver, 2008, p. 839). These findings prove that Canadians value the restorative system and clearly understand the causes of crime as well as the ways to prevent it. Therefore, it is better not to use this alternative.
The excessive use of punitive repression or its application not in connection with the degree and nature of the public danger of the crime committed and the characteristics of a person responsible for it deteriorate social equity (Garland, 1996, p. 455). The situation when the same punishment for both a recidivist and the one who committed the crime for the first time also violates social justice. In the latter case, the authority of the criminal law also suffers, and respect for it seems to be undermined as one of the sources of public perceptions of social justice about the crime and punishment for it. Meanwhile, in its punitive activities, the government should strive to the contrary, namely, to maintain the authority of criminal law in society and foster respect for its regulations.
Speaking of some other advantages of the combination of strategies presented earlier in this paper, one should stress that the restorative attitude on punishment identifies the pivotal role of punishment as the compensation of harm caused to the victim and the local community, the restoration of broken relationships through mediation, family group discussions, and other tripartite forms of interaction. Moreover, the basic idea is that people should participate in the resolution of conflicts and crime prevention and that the surrounding society should be involved in the reconciliation processes. It is this idea that is gaining unprecedented importance today. Compared to the punitive alternative, the restorative perspective reflects the situation when the most important components of civil society tend to be strengthened.
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In conclusion, it is essential to emphasize that this paper proposes the community-based strategies aimed at preventing and reducing crime rates in Phoenix Park community. The community-based crime prevention, harm reduction strategy, and crime prevention through environmental design were discussed about the given case study, aligning the scholarly literature concepts and theories. It was suggested to apply the social disorganization theory and focus on close collaboration between the residents of the Phoenix Park community and the police representatives. At this point, a respectful, sensitive, and cautious approach was recommended to build proper relationships and prevent crimes. CPTED, SIFs, and education were recommended to be used in terms of harm reduction and environmental design. The alternative of the punitive strategy as opposed to the identified restorative approach based on their effectiveness and attitudes of respondents from the reviewed studies. Compared to the aggressive and radical punitive system, the restorative approach proved to be more attractive due to its ideas of integrity, transparency, a collaborative nature, and the great potential of crime prevention. Thus, a comprehensive approach to the given problem, involving several strategies, is expected to address it and prevent crimes in the future.
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