Learn More About Our Work
Get news and resources to help you make a difference.
Tool 2: Reducing Crime

Tool 2: Reducing Crime


Crime is a key stated concern in destabilized neighborhoods throughout the nation.  Often, concerns about “crime” include a range of issues having to do with whether neighbors feel safe, or outsiders perceive the neighborhood to be safe, regardless of actual crime rates. The effects of unsafe neighborhoods can include:


  • Risk of physical harm and property loss;
  • Diminishing engagement by neighbors in community-building activities;
  • Disinvestment in property;
  • Reduced demand by homebuyers and neighborhood-friendly investors;
  • Reduction in property values;
  • Reduced outdoor activity by adults and children, with related health effects; and
  • Stress and other mental health impacts for adults and children.


Crime prevention or public safety initiatives will be most effective if they address not only actual crime, but all issues that impact feelings of safety, such as trash in the streets, social behaviors perceived as threatening, street lighting, building conditions, etc.


The following are brief descriptions of a few common approaches to improving safety in neighborhoods, excerpted from http://stablecommunities.org:


Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)

This model examines how physical design of a community can make it easier for residents to “police” public spaces and deter criminal activity. Basic elements of this approach include:

  • Increasing “natural surveillance” – the ability of residents to observe what is happening - through lighting, landscape design and placement of buildings and windows;
  • Clearly differentiating between public and private space; and
  • Creating a stronger sense of ownership over space.

 ?Go to The Design Centre for CEPTED  for a wealth of information on basic crime prevention and CEPTED design      principles. 


Developmental Approaches to Work with At-Risk Individuals

These approaches to reducing crime look at impacting the factors that can lead people to committing crimes, and helping populations such as at-risk youth and ex-offenders to take advantage of positive opportunities. Generally, such models posit that people are less likely to engage in crime when they have:

  • A sense of hope for the future;
  • A positive self-image;
  • Rewarding opportunities to pursue;
  • The skills to take advantage of these opportunities (life skills, job skills, leadership and interpersonal skills, etc.); and
  • For young people, a relationship with a caring adult who can help to generate these other positive factors.


These approaches therefore emphasize building relationships with people at risk of engaging in crime, brokering opportunities and helping them to acquire skills. Some resources and examples include:


The Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence.  The Institute, in Providence, RI, approaches the issue of violence-involved youth from a variety of innovative angles, including training in nonviolence skills, youth programs, victim’s assistance programs, and a streetworker program to reach out to gang members.


YouthBuild.  While their workforce development and housing benefits extend well beyond the issue of promoting safety, many YouthBuild organizations serve at-risk youth.


Manchester-Bidwell Corporation.  Manchester-Bidwell Corporation engages at-risk youth in a variety of activities, including teaching them work with ceramics and to grow orchids in a commercial greenhouse operation. A related reading resource is the book by the Corporation’s founder, Bill Strickland (2007), Make the Impossible Possible, from Doubleday.


CeaseFire Chicago. CeaseFire focuses on street-level outreach and conflict mediation to change community norms and reduce violence. CeaseFire’s efforts call upon outreach workers and “violence interrupters,” faith leaders and other community leaders to intervene in conflicts and promote alternatives to violence. The organization also involves cooperation with police and depends heavily on public education to instill the message that shootings and violence are not acceptable. A related reading source is the book by one of the founders of the CeaseFire approach, David M. Kennedy (2011), Don’t Shoot: One Man, a Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America.


Building Community “Collective Efficacy”

“Collective efficacy” is the degree to which residents know one another in a community and believe that they can rely on one another to manage neighborhood issues. Academic studies have found that lower levels of collective efficacy in a neighborhood are directly correlated with higher levels of violent crime.
This approach to crime prevention emphasizes the importance of building relationships among residents, and helping residents work together on efforts that help them establish some control over their environment.


?Neighborhood block watches are one example of a strategy that builds relationships between residents while preventing crime. USA on Watch offers a nationwide list of block watches, provides tools for setting up programs and has a full Resource Center.  Go to the Resource Center.

?Toledo’s Neighborhood Block Watch won a 2008 Neighborhood Watch Award. One goal of the group has been to improve quality of life for all – beyond reducing crime – including health, infrastructure, and issues of nuisance/vacant properties, which has been accomplished through outreach efforts. The program supports model block programs, neighborhood clean-ups and beautification projects, educational trainings, youth outreach for clean-ups and social events and other programs. Read about the awards. 

?Solutions for America summarizes program strategies that research shows are effective in addressing important community issues. Go to Solutions for America.  The Neighborhood Crime Prevention & Safety Section summarizes the latest research on the subject and links to a number of other helpful websites covering actions residents can take in their own neighborhoods. Go to the Crime Prevention & Safety Section. 

Community Policing

Community policing is a philosophy and management approach that promotes community, government and police partnerships, proactive problem solving and community engagement to address the causes of crime, the fear of crime and other community issues. Key elements of a community policing strategy include:


  • Building a partnership between the police and community members;
  • Adopting a problem-solving mindset to analyze safety issues; and
  • Community policing generally involves a higher level of interaction and communication between police officers and residents than in more traditional approaches.


?The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) at the US Department of Justice provides information about what community policing is, and information about the COPS funding program. Go to the COPS website.

?Citizens Police Academies are used throughout the country to educate citizens on the basics of the law enforcement profession and to help build a partnership with the police. The concept originated in the United Kingdom in 1977 and was called the Police Night School. Go to the National Citizens Police Academy Association.

?Since 1998 the International Association of Chiefs of Police Community Policing Committee has recognized the best practices of agencies around the world. Entries are categorized by population, featuring innovative ideas utilizing the power of community policing, through collaboration and partnerships, to make local, national and global communities safer from crime and terrorism. Go to the IACP Community Policing website.

?The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) also has a number of available resources through its Community Safety Initiative, including an interactive crime prevention tool called Developer+Police=Results. Go to the CSI website.