The Crime Prevention Website


In 1965 the Cornish Committee on the Prevention and Detection of Crime recommended that each police force appoint a Force Crime Prevention Officer of Inspecting rank with Sergeants on each division able to carry out written crime prevention surveys and liaise with patrol officers.  It is important to note here that reported crime rates were now on the increase and at unprecedented levels; a rise that would continue almost unabated until the mid 1990s.

1967 saw the establishment of the Home Office Standing Committee on Crime Prevention, which in turn recommended the setting up of Crime Prevention Panels in all towns and cities with populations in excess of 150,000.  By this time a number of the UK’s police forces had already formed crime prevention sections, mainly within the Criminal Investigation Departments.  Training tended to be delivered internally, but in 1963, in anticipation of the Cornish Committee report, the Home Office established the basic 4 week Crime Prevention Officers training course which was eventually located in some ‘Portakabins’ in the rear car park of Staffordshire police HQ.  The reader will note perhaps a degree of cynicism here. This is quite deliberate and is meant to indicate that crime prevention was then and arguable still is the ‘Cinderella’ of the mighty police organisation.

By the end of the 1960s all police forces in the UK employed Crime Prevention Officers (CPO).  This might be described as the ‘first enlightenment’ for crime prevention.  Most had additional responsibilities including the administration of firearms licences and the secure storage of drugs in pharmacies.  In 1965 the Metropolitan Police employed 70 police sergeants in the post and about the same number of ‘deputies’ of constable rank.  By 1978 most police sergeants had been replaced by police constables and their numbers had swollen to about 100 full time posts.  This increase in staff tended to mirror the upward trend in reported crime and the increasing demand from the public for this now very popular service. What was happening in London was replicated throughout the UK.  Indeed, the increase in numbers of crime prevention staff continued to rise in the Metropolitan Police to a peak of about 230 crime prevention staff in 1997 that were aided by a crime prevention support branch of 10 staff based at New Scotland Yard known as TO32.

In 1979 an unpublished document produced by a working party of the Association of Chief Police Officers summarised the duties of the Crime Prevention Officer.  Interestingly one of the duties was  ‘to give advice on security to builders and architects in the planning stages of buildings and if necessary survey premises from plans; to maintain liaison with architects and local authority planning departments’.   To my knowledge there was little if any instruction given to the Crime Prevention Officer about liaison with architects and planners at this time.  The first recorded example of liaison between a police Crime Prevention Officer and an architect in London occurred during 1984 in Harrow concerning the design of the St Ann’s Shopping Centre, which was eventually opened in 1987.  This liaison was limited to a couple of meetings followed by a written report from the CPO and the advice given mainly centred around the loitering of young people and whether to shut the mall at night. 

It was the success of these early liaisons between police and architects, now pepper potted around the UK, which acted as the catalyst for the creation of many more posts.  In 1987 the ‘Harrow intervention’ led to plans to introduce a new police role of Crime Prevention Design Adviser (CPDA) in the Metropolitan Police.  By this time several of the SE Region police forces had already appointed Architectural Liaison Officers (another name for the same job). 

The early objectives for these CPDAs were to offer comment on major planning applications, create close links with planning departments and assist local Crime Prevention Officers.  It was quickly realised that the few CPDAs that had been appointed were simply not enough and by 1989 in London the initial 8 were joined by another 24.  This coincided with the launch of the police initiative called ‘Secured by Design’, which in effect introduced some informal regulation for security for new buildings.

With the success of Secured by Design (50% fewer burglaries when compared to other new buildings without SBD standards) and other very effective crime prevention initiatives that were now coming on line the Home Office in 1993 asked the CPOs to reduce the number of crime prevention surveys of individual’s homes they were doing and instead concentrate on the hot spots of crime.  This was really the beginnings of problem solving using crime pattern analysis.  Part of the reason was some research that had been conducted by the Home Office in the late 1980s that investigated the effectiveness of CPOs in reducing crime.  The findings suggested that whilst their service was having some positive effect the service delivery and the take up of the advice was very mixed.

The training delivered by The Home Office Crime Prevention Centre, which was of a high standard and attracted police officers from all over the world, remained in the sheds at Staffordshire Police HQ until 1995 when it was relocated to more prestigious accommodation at Easingwold in North Yorkshire; a location that could be compared with Bramshill Police College, a place reserved for senior police training.  The ‘Centre’ was also re-branded and became ‘The Home Office Crime Prevention College (and then back to the ‘Centre’ again)’.  Those of us in the service at the time thought that at last Cinderella was going to the ball, but this second enlightenment was rather short lived and by July 2005, in an effort to save money, the ‘college’ was closed.

Training was instead delivered by the National Police Improvement Agency, the NPIA.   At the time of writing it is not yet certain how training in the future is going to be delivered, because the NPIA is being disbanded.  It is likely that it will be delivered within an academic institution. Next Page