Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 12

Safer Communities

A local case study of the crime decline


Garner Clancey

Article information:
To cite this document:
Garner Clancey , (2015),"A local case study of the crime decline", Safer Communities, Vol. 14 Iss 2 pp. 104 - 114
Permanent link to this document:
http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/SC-01-2015-0004
Downloaded on: 07 April 2016, At: 16:57 (PT)
References: this document contains references to 32 other documents.
To copy this document: permissions@emeraldinsight.com
The fulltext of this document has been downloaded 71 times since 2015*

Downloaded by Universiti Sains Malaysia At 16:57 07 April 2016 (PT)

Users who downloaded this article also downloaded:


(2005),"Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED): a review and modern bibliography", Property
Management, Vol. 23 Iss 5 pp. 328-356 http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/02637470510631483
(2015),"Understanding childrens non-disclosure of child sexual assault: implications for assisting parents and teachers to
become effective guardians", Safer Communities, Vol. 14 Iss 1 pp. 16-26 http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/SC-03-2015-0009
(2015),"Keeping it from the community", Safer Communities, Vol. 14 Iss 1 pp. 56-66 http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/
SC-03-2015-0007

Access to this document was granted through an Emerald subscription provided by emerald-srm:231834 []

For Authors
If you would like to write for this, or any other Emerald publication, then please use our Emerald for Authors service
information about how to choose which publication to write for and submission guidelines are available for all. Please visit
www.emeraldinsight.com/authors for more information.

About Emerald www.emeraldinsight.com


Emerald is a global publisher linking research and practice to the benefit of society. The company manages a portfolio of
more than 290 journals and over 2,350 books and book series volumes, as well as providing an extensive range of online
products and additional customer resources and services.
Emerald is both COUNTER 4 and TRANSFER compliant. The organization is a partner of the Committee on Publication
Ethics (COPE) and also works with Portico and the LOCKSS initiative for digital archive preservation.
*Related content and download information correct at time of download.

A local case study of the crime decline


Garner Clancey

Downloaded by Universiti Sains Malaysia At 16:57 07 April 2016 (PT)

Dr Garner Clancey is Lecturer


at the Sydney Law School,
University of Sydney, Australia.

Abstract
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore the local dimensions of the crime decline.
Design/methodology/approach Two focus groups and 15 semi-structured interviews with local
practitioners.
Findings Some offences have fallen significantly in the case study site in the last ten to 12 years. Local
practitioners tended to explain these declines with reference to local services and programmes. These
declines have potentially contributed to the reduction in crime prevention infrastructure and there is concern
that funding will be reduced as crime falls.
Research limitations/implications The findings have been generated from a single case study site. While
aspects of the findings resonate beyond the case study area, there are some characteristics of the site that
limit the application of the findings to other areas.
Practical implications The findings from this research have few practical implications. The research
sought to understand dimensions of local crime and the impact on local activities.
Social implications This research provides some insights into crime trends and local responses
to crime. The findings will be of interest to crime prevention and community safety practitioners and policy
makers.
Originality/value There has been little analysis of the impact of the crime decline on local communities
and community safety infrastructure. Therefore this paper is original and adds to the growing knowledge of
the crime decline.
Keywords Community safety, Causes of crime decline, Crime decline, Crime prevention, Inter-agency,
Local crime trends
Paper type Research paper

The crime decline


A number of commentators have reviewed crime trends in various jurisdictions and highlighted
significant falls in crime. Zimring, in his book, The Great American Crime Decline, revealed
significant falls in major crime types in the USA. Using Federal Bureau of Investigation uniform
crime reports for seven index offences in the USA from 1990 to 2000, Zimring highlighted the
following falls: 39 per cent reduction in homicide; 41 per cent reduction in rape; 44 per cent
reduction in robbery; 24 per cent reduction in aggravated assault; 41 per cent reduction in
burglary; 37 per cent reduction in auto theft; and 23 per cent reduction in larceny.
Starting in 1991, these substantial falls amounted to the longest decline ever recorded in crime
in the USA.
Similar declines have been experienced and reported in England and Wales, where burglary
fell 59 per cent, and vehicle theft fell 65 per cent between 1995 and 2007 (Farrell et al., 2011,
p. 148). Britton et al. (2012) suggest that all property crimes are at significantly lower levels
compared with the high point in 1995, with burglary down 57 per cent, vehicle-related theft
down 72 per cent; other household theft down 44 per cent; and bicycle theft down 20 per cent
(p. 164). van Dijk et al. (2012) discovered generally similar trends in various European (including
Western and Eastern European) countries.

Received 22 January 2015


Revised 19 February 2015
Accepted 21 February 2015

PAGE 104

SAFER COMMUNITIES

VOL. 14 NO. 2 2015, pp. 104-114, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1757-8043

DOI 10.1108/SC-01-2015-0004

In her analysis of crime trends in Australia and New Zealand, Mayhew (2012) concluded that
Australian burglary rates in 2009 were at about the level they were in 1977-1978, the national
rate [of homicide] was nearly 40 per cent lower than in 1993 and the robbery rate was at the
same level in 2009 as in 1993 (pp. 83-4). Motor vehicle theft in Australia plummeted and fell
55 per cent between 2001 and 2007 (Farrell et al., 2011, pp. 151-2).
In New South Wales (NSW) in the 10 years between 2001 and 2010 the rate of household
burglary recorded by NSW Police fell by half and the current rate of household burglary is
considerably lower than it was 20 years ago (Fitzgerald and Poynton, 2011, p. 1). Weatherburn
and Holmes (2013a) reveal that between:
2000 and 2012, New South Wales (NSW), along with most other Australian States and Territories,
experienced a remarkable fall in theft and robbery offences [] Over this period the robbery rate fell
66.5 per cent while the theft rate fell 54.8 per cent. Rates of these two categories of recorded crime in
NSW are now the lowest they have been since 1995 (p. 1).

Clancey and Lulham (2014) estimated that the cost savings associated with this property crime
decline in NSW could be as great as A$5 billion.

Downloaded by Universiti Sains Malaysia At 16:57 07 April 2016 (PT)

While the evidence mounts that there have been significant declines in some crime types across
numerous jurisdictions, little attention has been paid to the local dimensions of these declines
and any associated impacts. Through the use of a single case study site, it has been possible to
chart impacts of falls in some offences in this area.

The case study area


A Local Government Area (LGA) is the geographical marker that is often used for reporting
crime statistics, crime prevention planning, and for other service delivery purposes in NSW. LGAs
in NSW vary in size ranging from ten to tens of thousands of square kilometres in rural areas. It is
argued that the often vast areas covered by LGAs are too large for useful analysis of crime and to
develop an understanding of the local dynamics impacting on crime.
The Glebe postcode area, the case study site, provides a contained geographical area, making it
possible to generate the depth of analysis required for a comprehensive case study. The Glebe
postcode area covers 240 hectares (Solling, 2007) or just over two square kilometres and sits
about two kilometres west of the Sydney Central Business District (see Figure 1). The area has a
mix of residential, industrial, and commercial uses.

Figure 1 Map of Sydney central business district (bordered area) and Glebe

Source: Google Maps

VOL. 14 NO. 2 2015

SAFER COMMUNITIES

PAGE 105

According to the most recent census data, the residential population of the area has been stable
over the last decade, sitting just over 11,000 people (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012). Of
these, a little greater than 2 per cent are indigenous Australians, the majority of the population
was born in Australia and only speaks English at home, and the median age is 35 years. The
unemployment rate has fluctuated and, at the most recent census, 6.7 per cent of the Glebe
residential population was unemployed (see Clancey, 2014 for a more detailed overview of the
area and its socio-demographic characteristics).

Crime trends
Incidents of crime are reported to and recorded by the NSW Police Force. These records are then
provided to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) who clean and
publish the data as crime statistics. These crime statistics are generally not provided for years
prior to 1995 due to the quality of the data. The introduction of an electronic police database in
the early 1990s improved the accuracy of the data captured on reported crimes. Consequently,
analysis of crime data for the Glebe area was restricted to the years 1995-2012. Apart from
some notable exceptions (such as murder, sexual assault), only key volume offences will be
discussed here. In such a small area as Glebe, many offences have fewer than 50 incidents
per annum.
Downloaded by Universiti Sains Malaysia At 16:57 07 April 2016 (PT)

Table I lists the number of incidents of each offence category reported to and recorded by the
NSW Police Force between 1995 and 2012 for the Glebe postcode area.
No complex analysis has been conducted on the data as it is not required for current purposes.
What is clear from Table I is the lack of uniform trends across crime types. Some offence categories
have fluctuated little (murder, sexual assault), while some have increased (steal from retail store,
fraud, breach of bail conditions), and others have declined across the 1995-2012 period (robbery
offences, break and enter dwelling, steal from dwelling, motor vehicle theft, steal from motor
vehicle, malicious damage to property). Those offences that have fallen are predominantly the key
volume offences and many of these falls have been substantial (although there was a slight spike
in some offences in 2007/2008 steal from motor vehicle, for example).
Despite the somewhat mixed picture for some offences, there was widespread recognition
during two focus groups and 15 interviews with local practitioners that many types of crime was
generally lower in the area in 2012 than in the early 2000s. Before considering these views, a brief
overview will be provided of the research methods adopted to elicit these views.

Research methods
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 practitioners in the Glebe area throughout
2012 and 2013. These interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed by a professional
transcription company. The semi-structured interviews ranged in duration from 31 to 99 minutes;
the average interview lasted approximately 52 minutes. In total, 772 minutes of semi-structured
interviews were recorded.
Broadly categorised, these interviewees were drawn from non-government organisations
providing diverse social services (n 8), local government (n 3), law enforcement (n 3), and a
voluntary organisation (n 1). Interviewees were recruited by direct contact, constituting a
purposive sample (Maxfield and Babbie, 2005, p. 238). Snowballing techniques were used to
locate further organisations and personnel in the area (Maxfield and Babbie, 2005, p. 241). Three
prospective interviewees, from NSW government agencies with a footprint in the area but
covering much larger areas than just Glebe, declined to be interviewed, failed to respond to
correspondence inviting participation or interviews were not included due to excessive
administrative requirements.
Two focus groups were also conducted with diverse local stakeholders (some of whom were
interviewees). The focus groups focused on recent crime trends and informed whether
there was need to develop a new local crime prevention and community safety strategy.

PAGE 106

SAFER COMMUNITIES

VOL. 14 NO. 2 2015

VOL. 14 NO. 2 2015

SAFER COMMUNITIES

PAGE 107

1
23
102
9
27
1
7
253
306
437
51
138
50
20
376
8

Murder
DV-related assault
Non- DV-related assault
Sexual assault
Robbery without a weapon
Robbery with a firearm
Robbery with a weapon not a firearm
Break and enter dwelling
Motor vehicle theft
Steal from motor vehicle
Steal from retail store
Steal from dwelling
Steal from person
Fraud
Malicious damage to property
Breach bail conditions

1
57
101
10
21
9
11
282
254
434
44
112
74
29
333
9

1996

Source: BOCSAR data file reference: jh13-11635

1995

Offence
1
40
112
5
47
5
28
342
290
439
38
129
65
61
315
4

1997
0
27
143
4
67
4
40
422
328
689
75
228
97
46
450
14

1998
1
49
144
7
72
1
38
294
234
924
124
157
107
125
542
24

1999
0
55
172
7
58
4
28
449
275
1081
155
202
86
92
421
35

2000
0
58
171
8
56
3
22
372
229
977
149
179
115
97
466
53

2001
0
62
217
7
57
3
17
424
188
736
184
158
151
160
379
33

2002
1
58
147
14
69
3
22
305
127
866
128
118
171
99
353
44

2003

Table I Incidents of crime by offence category for the Glebe postcode area between 1995 and 2012

1
80
152
6
44
2
20
273
153
596
94
120
139
125
348
85

2004

Downloaded by Universiti Sains Malaysia At 16:57 07 April 2016 (PT)

0
48
145
5
43
3
24
240
96
341
66
109
93
152
296
148

2005

0
71
147
11
35
3
17
173
106
477
90
95
109
101
322
151

2006

0
62
155
8
66
4
24
156
126
879
154
61
101
139
423
398

2007

0
56
147
2
34
3
13
148
94
705
126
81
88
149
429
389

2008

1
72
145
15
27
4
8
165
69
238
120
92
52
109
277
259

2009

1
78
123
10
17
0
11
151
77
211
183
94
42
99
272
199

2010

0
64
123
11
26
2
4
90
84
121
310
82
47
167
247
268

2011

0
68
102
10
18
4
10
110
52
107
215
81
33
200
233
241

2012

The focus groups were also digitally recorded, professionally transcribed and analysed
like the interview transcripts.
Content analysis (also referred to as thematic qualitative analysis by Cosgrove and Francis,
2011) of the interview and focus groups transcripts and meeting notes was conducted manually.
Given the relatively small number of interviews and focus groups, manual analysis was
considered the most time-efficient method. All transcripts were closely read to support
familiarisation with material and a wide range of categories or themes were identified (or coded)
(Cosgrove and Francis, 2011, p. 214). This process enabled the researcher to understand
the character of the data and to control for original assumptions (Cosgrove and Francis,
2011, p. 214).
Coding of the data entailed bringing a measure of organisation to the data and identifying
conceptual categories (Noaks and Wincup, 2004, p. 130). This process was iterative. The
transcripts were read on a number of occasions, allowing for reflection on the themes that
emerged. The production of themes and sub-themes through this process is consistent with the
whittling down of data, common in various forms of qualitative research (Cosgrove and Francis,
2011). This process allowed for ordering and re-ordering of emerging themes, which maintained
a closeness to the data.

Downloaded by Universiti Sains Malaysia At 16:57 07 April 2016 (PT)

Findings
Interviews and focus groups with local practitioners sought to gain an insight into their
understanding of crime trends in the area, the causes and impacts of these trends. Three key
findings will be discussed here: the widespread acknowledgement of declines in some crime
categories, possible explanations for the decline in these offences, and the implications of
these declines.
Widespread acknowledgement of declines in some offences in Glebe
Focus groups and interviews with local practitioners revealed a general consensus that some
offences had fallen in the area. Some of the comments from these focus groups and interviews
are provided below:
Weve seen dramatic reductions in particularly steal from motor vehicle, robbery and assault statistics
[] Weve got crime levels at their lowest ever [] I think probably where Glebe has really improved
greatly in the last two to three years has been a real reduction in violent crime (Interviewee No. 2).
What I am hearing is that the youth crime is down (Interviewee No. 3).
[F]rom where I sit today the crime stuff seems to be greatly reduced (Interviewee No. 5).
I think the general perception is that theres not a lot of crime in Glebe. The police certainly say that.
Community talk about the crime having dropped off since 09, 08 when we had a lot of petty break
and enters and thefts and a few muggings and stuff like that (Interviewee No. 13).
I think there has been a big drop in crime in Glebe over the last few years (Interviewee No. 14).
I know that the statistics have varied and come down of late (Interviewee No. 15).
[W]e all go to the community policing meetings and their stats certainly indicate that crime is down in
Glebe (Focus Group Participant).

In general then, there was widespread recognition by local practitioners that many offence
categories had fallen in Glebe in recent years.
Possible explanations of falls in some offences in Glebe
The possible explanations for the decline in some offences were explored in the interviews and
focus groups. Many of the explanations provided neatly fall into one of the four categories of
Tonry and Farringtons (1995) typology of crime prevention developmental, social and
community, situational (including crime prevention through environmental design ) (CPTED),
and policing and criminal justice.

PAGE 108

SAFER COMMUNITIES

VOL. 14 NO. 2 2015

The following early intervention and community-based programmes operating in the area were
identified as potentially having contributed to the falls in some offences:
[C]rime prevention in its broadness, I guess, happens with all those agencies working together in different
ways at different levels. I suppose the Schools Community Centre [early intervention program for children
aged between 0 and 8 years and their families] plays a part too, not so much with the young people that
go to that but I guess with their families as well (Interviewee No. 5).
[T]he Pathways Program [an alternative education program] has revealed that that transition from
primary school to high school is a component of that and people dropping out, people not going to
high school. So I know theres been some good stuff done with Glebe Primary, for example []
(Interviewee No. 5).
PCYC [Police Citizens Youth Club], and then theres the Youth Service as well. Theyre probably the
two biggest players in terms of crime prevention for young people and they both do sort of similar
things but in a sense I think theyre both very different as well (Interviewee No. 1).

Downloaded by Universiti Sains Malaysia At 16:57 07 April 2016 (PT)

Theres a breakfast program, again coming back to that factor of neglect happening in some of these
families which are susceptible to falling to the cycle of crime (Interviewee No. 2).

These diverse community and youth programmes are seen as potentially contributing to the falls
in crime, despite some of the programmes having varying degrees of direct focus on crime
prevention, starting at different times, making it difficult to directly link their impact to falls in crime,
and the potential influence of more widespread policies, trends, and initiatives. Challingers (1992)
serendipitous crime prevention and Kneppers (2007) observations regarding various social
interventions and policies that had positive unintended consequences of preventing crime
suggest that programmes of this kind can have positive crime prevention outcomes irrespective
of whether they were specifically designed to prevent crime. Currie (1998) and Skogan (2006)
have highlighted the benefits of community-based programmes in the USA that have direct
intentions to prevent crime.
Others are less positive about the merits of programmes of this kind. Crawford (1998) has
argued that despite the energy and effort put into community crime prevention there has
been little sustainable success (p. 155). Homel (2007) similarly suggests that community
programs attract funding because they feel good and help keep a range of community
organisations operating. This is good politics but it may or may not be good crime prevention,
especially since rigorous evaluation is seldom supported (p. 277). A greater focus on
determining the crime prevention impact of these and related programmes is needed.
Some specific situational and CPTED measures were also nominated as having reduced
opportunities for crime some relate to broad developments impacting on Glebe, while others
are specific to Glebe. The reduction in steal from motor vehicle offences was partially attributed to
car security and the reduction in the second-hand stolen goods market:
[S]teal from cars, I dont think that happens nearly as much now because the nature of the way cars
are locked and alarmed. Theres a reduction in GPS [Global Positioning System], portable GPS, now
or people are more aware about putting them away. I dont think theres the market for fences in
pubs like there used to be (Focus Group Participant).

This is consistent with aspects of Farrell et al.s (2008, 2011) security hypothesis, which suggests
that improved security has had a direct impact on offences such as steal from motor vehicle.
Street lighting, which has been positively evaluated for its impact on crime (Painter and Tilley, 2010),
was also highlighted as a successful local measure that has contributed to the reduction in crime:
We actively try and work on adequate lighting in lanes and streets so that people are safe. I think if
youve got an active nightlife you certainly reduce the possibility of on the street type crimes
(Interviewee No. 6).

A further, very specific, design modification was mentioned by a number of interviewees and
focus group participants as having a particularly beneficial impact:
[A] gate [was installed] into one aspect of the [public housing] complex and that reduced the crime in
that area by 90 per cent almost overnight. So that was quite fascinating and Housing were really
reluctant to do that but that proved a real winner (Interviewee No. 5).

VOL. 14 NO. 2 2015

SAFER COMMUNITIES

PAGE 109

I mean it was interesting, because from what I remember with the [public housing estate] stuff is the
locals in that building just wanted that gate closed off, and there were a whole lot of reasons given why it
couldnt happen. In the end it happened and stuff just cleared up overnight (Focus Group Participant).
They also sealed off a lot of the entrances so like many of the public housing environments theres
probably some real design flaws in terms of the number of access and egress points into that part
of the estate, so plenty of escape routes for would-be offenders to find. So they sealed off a lot of those
and just spent some money on beautifying. They took some of the elements of the faade, they took
those down because they were used as natural ladders to climb up on to the roof (Interviewee No. 2).

These comments suggest the potential benefits of simple CPTED measures. The installation of
these gates, as described above, would have required little funding. While these measures have
not been thoroughly evaluated, there is research evidence from other jurisdictions of the merits of
similar interventions (Hayward et al., 2009)[1].
Further CPTED treatments in the public housing estates, consistent with the CPTED principles of
space management and access control, were also mentioned:
There was some money spent by Housing NSW on that specific estate, looking at preventing access
to the underground car park which was basically a dead space which a few people had vehicles. It was
dark and a place of rubbish dumping. I think they used to find stolen goods in there (Interviewee No. 2).

Downloaded by Universiti Sains Malaysia At 16:57 07 April 2016 (PT)

Considerable positive commentary was also made by interviewees and focus group members
regarding the beautification and public works (including CCTV) along the main commercial street
in the area (i.e. Glebe Point Road):
There was an upgrade of Glebe Point Road so some CCTV footage went in [] One [CCTV camera]
went in Francis Street (Interviewee No. 2).
[O]f course, we had the upgrade at Glebe Point Road, so that was a big jump in quality improvement of
lighting and facilitation of footpaths and all those sorts of things (Focus Group Participant).

Further to the opportunity-reduction and design measures, police practices were also identified
as contributing to the falls in crime:
I think probably the police proactiveness has played a part as well (Interviewee No. 5).
Ive got to say I think the commander at the time, [name of former Commander] was fantastic. I think he
drove he shifted some of the ways that police did stuff, which was really helpful (Focus Group
Participant).
2008 is also when our Friend in Hand youth program [run by the police] started up which were still
running and hugely successful (Focus Group Participant).
On the streets there is a heightened police presence and I believe that community people are feeling
that. I think thats coming from I guess police really wanting to put a halt on that crime and by
increasing that presence theyre increasing the communitys sense of safety, and in the hopes also to
reduce the crime [] Yeah. My understanding is that there is quite a mistrust between the community
and police, despite the good work police do and are looking at building those relationships
(Interviewee No. 3).

These comments highlight the potential merits of different styles of policing. Interviewee No. 5
suggests that proactive policing is considered to have contributed to the reduction in crime, while
two focus group participants suggest that the more community-oriented aspects of policing have
been successful (especially the Friend in Hand youth programme).
Interestingly, the majority of programmes and interventions highlighted have a specific local
focus. Falls in some crimes across Sydney (Weatherburn and Holmes, 2013a), in other parts of
NSW or Australia (Weatherburn and Holmes, 2013b; Mayhew, 2012), and internationally (van Dijk
et al., 2012) make it difficult to isolate the relative contribution of local activities and dynamics and
to determine the veracity of the observations of the local practitioners. There is clearly much to be
gained by local practitioners in believing that local programmes, services, and interventions
have had direct impacts on crime. However, as one interviewee highlighted, this might be well be
easier to do when levels of some crime types are falling:
Ive been in meetings with police where theyve said its a state decline in crime. This has got to do with
police initiatives or theres a global trend or a recent Labor [political party] policy about the youth

PAGE 110

SAFER COMMUNITIES

VOL. 14 NO. 2 2015

New Start [welfare payment] or I dont know. So theres always something else thats being tied to a
decrease in crime. When its an increase thats quite different [] I think people fall back into a mode of
making it the individuals problem rather than a community problem or rather than a societal problem
[] People become protectionists about their organisations (Interviewee No. 8).

Zimring (2007) has similarly cautioned that the crime decline provides a convenient justification of
particular methods of prevention: The new theories of crime prevention [] vary substantially
in the mechanisms they say reduce crime, but they share one common characteristic that
requires special caution: they use the [] crime decline as evidence to prove that these
newly discovered mechanisms prevent crime (p. 75). While a number of programmes and
policies mentioned directly responded to specific crime problems (or perceived causes of these
problems), a significant number pre-dated the decline. The wider crime decline makes it difficult
to separate important local versus more global influences. Moreover, there was little commentary
about reasons for increases in some crime categories.

Downloaded by Universiti Sains Malaysia At 16:57 07 April 2016 (PT)

Impact of the Glebe property crime decline


The significant decline in some offences in Glebe in recent years appears to have had particular
impacts, including reported improvements in perceptions of the area, the reduced need for
renewal of the local crime prevention and community safety plan and the decline in some
inter-agency crime prevention structures, and is seen by some as having the unwelcome
consequence of threatening funding for the area.
It was suggested by some that falls in some crime types in the area have had a positive impact
on the perceptions and amenity of the area:
[C]ause Ive been up and down Glebe Point Road. I mean I go up and down it every day and talking to
shopkeepers and just popping in and saying hi, hows it going. Im told that everything is fantastic.
Yeah, they used to have to step over unconscious people to lift up their roller doors at the beginning of
the day, somebody had a needle hanging out of their arm and, yeah, it used to be pretty bad
(Interviewee No. 7).

These (limited) comments suggest that the falls in some crimes have had a positive impact on
perceptions of crime and the area more generally. This relationship between crime rates and
perceptions of crime is similar to recent findings focusing on local characteristics and crime rates
and perceptions of crime (Brunton-Smith and Sturgis, 2011). While there is considerable
complexity and debate surrounding efforts to measure fear of crime (Lee, 2007), these
limited insights do suggest a level of relationship between local crime rates and reported
perceptions of crime.
While it is difficult to say with absolute confidence, there does seem to have been a direct impact
of falls in crime and improvements in the perceptions of the area on local policies. The Glebe
Community Safety Plan 2009-2012 was developed after a spike in some crime categories
(especially steal from motor vehicle) in 2007-2008. In two focus groups in July 2013, it was
decided that a further community safety plan was not required, largely due to the crime decline
(Ocias, 2013). There was a commitment by local practitioners to keep collaborating and
delivering relevant programmes, but they felt that little would be gained from developing a new
Community Safety Plan.
A further potential impact of the general crime decline in the area over the last ten to 12 years is
the gradual cessation of inter-agency groups and structures established to tackle crime and
related issues. Neighbourhood watch has been in decline for many years; the Community Drug
Action Team is in hiatus; and Glebe does not have a Liquor Licensing Accord, due, it was
suggested, to the lack of problems with licensed venues and alcohol-related crime. The sole
remaining inter-agency structure with a crime/law enforcement focus is the Community Safety
Precinct Committee (CSPC). Established in 2006, CSPCs facilitate a multi-faceted approach to
the development of community safety and crime prevention strategies to address diverse
community safety issues of the Local Government Area, promoting cooperation between
Council, the community, government and non-government agencies (New South Wales Police
Force, 2006, p. 2). Approximately four CSPC meetings are held annually in Glebe, often not
running for longer than one hour.

VOL. 14 NO. 2 2015

SAFER COMMUNITIES

PAGE 111

This decision not to develop a further crime prevention and community safety plan and
the reduction in inter-agency infrastructure contrasts with Gillings (1997) discussion of
expansionary tendencies of community safety and crime prevention practitioners.
He suggests that there is vested interest in identifying areas of intervention over which they
can attain both occupational control and social closure, thereby maximising their own rewards
and status (Gilling 1997, p. 11). This can be achieved by promising to be more preventive (via
earlier intervention) and operating across a broader canvass through partnership work
(Gilling 1997, pp. 12-13). While Gilling acknowledges that there are limits to how much
professionals can expand their reach, the decision not to develop another crime prevention
and community safety plan suggests a choice not to seek greater or continued influence
through policy recognition.
With generally lower crime rates for some offences in the area in recent times, there was a
concern about the prevention paradox if crime falls, services are withdrawn as the
perceived need is presumed to have dissipated. The perceived success of some of the local
initiatives was felt to be at risk because of the falling crime rates in the area. Practitioners
frequently commented on the need to consistently secure ongoing funding for particular
programmes and positions. This made potential continuity of activities limited:

Downloaded by Universiti Sains Malaysia At 16:57 07 April 2016 (PT)

Im concerned [] that the City [of Sydney] will pull resources out of Glebe [] And I think those
preventative strategies are preventative because theyre there and to remove them because the
crime rate is down is probably ill advised [] we may well again face issues around community
safety. And if you pull all the resources then all the capital thats built up, we could sort of lose that as
well (Focus Group Participant).

Conclusion
The failure to focus on and explaining the crime decline (criminologys dirty little secret)
(Farrell et al., 2008), has been progressively tackled with increasing analysis of crime trends
in various jurisdictions in recent years. One feature missing from these empirical and
theoretical works has been a focus on the local characteristics and impacts of the crime
decline. By concentrating on a single contained geographical area, it has been possible to
review crime trends and interview local practitioners to explore their understanding of
these trends. Local Glebe practitioners interviewed or participating in two focus groups
were generally aware that some crime types had fallen in the area in recent years.
Local programmes, services, and interventions were frequently highlighted as reasons for
these falls.
In the absence of comprehensive evaluations of the various local programmes, it is difficult to
attribute falls in particular crimes to these programmes. It is likely that they have contributed, at
least in part, to some of the reductions in crime, as Currie (1998) and Skogan (2006) have
suggested elsewhere. However, given the widespread nature of particular declines in specific
offences, wider forces, trends, and policies have no doubt contributed a great deal to falls in
offences locally. For example, improvements in motor vehicle security are the result of work
undertaken by car manufacturers and improvements in security devices. Local falls in motor
vehicle theft are undoubtedly the result of these wider developments, with some scope for local
dynamics impacting on the propensity of would-be offenders to try to steal a motor vehicle. In this
way, macro and micro dynamics interact to produce falls in crime.
Irrespective of the explanations suggested, there do appear to have been some direct
consequences of falls in some offences in the area. It was decided by local practitioners that
the Community Safety Plan did not need to be renewed and there is evidence that some crime
prevention inter-agency groups have been slowly declining over time. This is perhaps in
contrast to some of the observations regarding the expansionary tendencies of crime
prevention infrastructure when crime was rising (see Gilling, 1997). Rather than expanding
their reach, some local practitioners expressed concern about preserving current levels of
funding and services in the area. As crime falls, the need to fund particular programmes also
falls. On a more positive note, perceptions of the area, according to some local practitioners,
have improved.

PAGE 112

SAFER COMMUNITIES

VOL. 14 NO. 2 2015

Note
1. While there is some evidence of the effectiveness of alley-gating, for example, Hayward et al. (2009)
caution against the ready application of such approaches elsewhere. Local contextual factors, they
argue, need to be considered before design measures such as these are implemented.

References
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012), 2011 Census of Population and Housing Basic Community Profile
2037, Cat. No. 2001.0, ABS, Canberra.
Britton, A., Kershaw, C., Osborne, S. and Smith, K. (2012), Underlying patterns within the England and
Wales crime drop, in van Dijk, J., Tseloni, A. and Farrell, G. (Eds), The International Crime Drop: New
Directions in Research, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 159-81.
Brunton-Smith, I. and Sturgis, P. (2011), Do neighbourhoods generate fear of crime? An empirical test using
the British crime survey, Criminology, Vol. 49 No. 2, pp. 331-69.

Downloaded by Universiti Sains Malaysia At 16:57 07 April 2016 (PT)

Challinger, D. (1992), Serendipitous crime prevention: success in the private sector, in McKillop, S. and
Vernon, J. (Eds), National Overview on Crime Prevention, Australian Institute of Criminology Conference
Proceedings, Canberra, pp. 159-70.
Clancey, G. (2014), Implications of a local case study for crime prevention practice and criminologys Grand
Narratives, PhD thesis, unpublished, Sydney University, Sydney.
Clancey, G. and Lulham, R. (2014), The New South Wales property crime decline, Current Issues in Criminal
Justice, Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 839-51.
Cosgrove, F. and Francis, P. (2011), Ethnographic research in the context of policing, in Davies, P.,
Francis, P. and Jupp, V. (Eds), Doing Criminological Research, 2nd ed., Sage, Los Angeles, CA, pp. 199-222.
Crawford, A. (1998), Crime Prevention and Community Safety: Politics, Policies and Practices, Longman,
London.
Currie, E. (1998), Crime and Punishment in America: Why the Solutions to Americas Most Stubborn Social
Crisis Have Not Worked and What Will, An Owl Book, New York, NY.
Farrell, G., Tilley, N., Tseloni, A. and Mailey, J. (2008), The crime drop and the security hypothesis, British
Society of Criminology Newsletter, No. 62, Winter, pp. 17-21.
Farrell, G., Tseloni, A., Mailey, J. and Tilley, N. (2011), The crime drop and the security hypothesis, Journal of
Research in Crime and Delinquency, Vol. 48 No. 2, pp. 147-75.
Fitzgerald, J. and Poynton, S. (2011), The changing nature of objects stolen in household burglaries,
Crime and Justice Statistics Bureau Brief, Issue Paper No. 62, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and
Research, Sydney.
Gilling, D. (1997), Crime Prevention: Theory, Policy and Politics, UCL Press, London.
Hayward, J., Kautt, P. and Whitaker, A. (2009), The effects of alley-gating in an English town, European
Journal of Criminology, Vol. 6 No. 4, pp. 361-81.
Homel, R. (2007), Crime prevention, in Hayes, H. and Prenzler, T. (Eds), An Introduction to Crime,
Pearson, Frenchs Forest, pp. 265-79.
Knepper, P. (2007), Criminology and Social Policy, Sage Publications, Los Angeles, CA.
Lee, M. (2007), Inventing Fear of Crime Criminology and the Politics of Anxiety, Willan Publishing, Devon.
Mayhew, P. (2012), The case of Australia and New Zealand, in van Dijk, J., Tseloni, A. and Farrell, G. (Eds),
The International Crime Drop: New Directions in Research, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 76-102.
Maxfield, M.G. and Babbie, E. (2005), Research Methods for Criminal Justice and Criminology, 4th ed.,
Thomson Wadsworth, Belmont, CA.
New South Wales Police Force (2006), Community Safety Precinct Committee Guidelines Community
Resource, NSW Police Force, Sydney.
Noaks, L. and Wincup, E. (2004), Criminological Research: Understanding Qualitative Methods, Sage
Publications, London.

VOL. 14 NO. 2 2015

SAFER COMMUNITIES

PAGE 113

Ocias, A. (2013), A mini evaluation of the Glebe community safety plan, unpublished report prepared for the
City of Sydney, Sydney.
Painter, K. and Tilley, N. (Eds) (2010), Surveillance of public space: CCTV, street lighting and crime
prevention, Crime Prevention Studies, Vol. 10, Criminal Justice Press, Monsey, NY, pp. 1-13.
Skogan, W.G. (2006), Police and Community in Chicago: A Tale of Three Cities, Oxford University Press,
Oxford.
Solling, M. (2007), Grandeur and Grit: A History of Glebe, Halstead Press, Ultimo.
Tonry, M. and Farrington, D. (1995), Preface, in Tonry, M. and Farrington, D. (Eds), Building a Safer Society:
Strategies Approaches to Crime Prevention, Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, Vol. 19, The University
of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL and London, pp. 1-20.
van Dijk, J., Tseloni, A. and Farrell, G. (2012), Conclusions understanding international crime trends: a
summing up, in van Dijk, J., Tseloni, A. and Farrell, G. (Eds), The International Crime Drop: New Directions in
Research, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 300-20.
Weatherburn, D. and Holmes, J. (2013a), The great property crime drop: a regional analysis, Crime and
Justice Statistics, Bureau Brief, Issue Paper No. 88, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Sydney.

Downloaded by Universiti Sains Malaysia At 16:57 07 April 2016 (PT)

Weatherburn, D. and Holmes, J. (2013b), The decline in robbery and theft: inter-state comparisons, Crime
and Justice Statistics: Bureau Brief, Issue Paper No. 89, NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research,
Sydney, July.
Zimring, F.E. (2007), The Great American Crime Decline, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Further reading
Semmens, N. (2011), Methodological approaches to criminological research, in Davies, P., Francis, P. and
Jupp, V. (Eds), Doing Criminological Research, 2nd ed., Sage, Los Angeles, CA, pp. 54-70.
Simons, H. (2009), Case Study Research in Practice, Sage, Los Angeles, CA.

About the author


Dr Garner Clancey is a Lecturer in Criminology and Deputy Director of the Sydney Institute of
Criminology (University of Sydney). Garner is currently the Vice President of the Australian Crime
Prevention Council, an Associate Member of the Applied Criminology Centre (Huddersfield
University), an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Science
(University of New England), and on management committees/boards of numerous communitybased organisations (including Glebe Youth Services, the National Childrens, and Youth Law
Centre, Glebe House). Dr Garner Clancey can be contacted at: garner.clancey@sydney.edu.au

For instructions on how to order reprints of this article, please visit our website:
www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/licensing/reprints.htm
Or contact us for further details: permissions@emeraldinsight.com

PAGE 114

SAFER COMMUNITIES

VOL. 14 NO. 2 2015