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The foundation of practical and theoretical knowledge

Crime, and its prevention, are complex and challenging the one to understand, the other to successfully deliver. Specialist crime prevention practitioners of all kinds, and many others with professional crime prevention responsibilities (designers, architects and planners; social workers, health workers, managerial staff in public and private organisations, teachers and so on) all require a firm foundation of practical and theoretical knowledge.

This knowledge takes several forms:

  • Know-of crime: what crime is, definitions of specific offences; definitions of related concepts such as security, safety and partnership.
  • Know-about crime problems: their nature, costs and wider harmful consequences for victims and society; offenders’ modus operandi, patterns and trends in criminality, risk and protective factors… and theories of causation.
  • Know-what works: what methods work, against what crime problem, by what mechanisms, in what context, with what side-effects and what cost-effectiveness, more generally, what are plausible intervention methods and principles.
  • Know-who to involve and how: contacts for advice, potential partners and collaborators who can be mobilised as formal or informal preventers; service providers, suppliers of funds and equipment and other specific resources; and sources of wider support.
  • Know-when to act: knowing the right time to make particular moves – the climate must be right, other initiatives need to be coordinated with etc.
  • Know-where to target and distribute resources.
  • Know-why: covering the symbolic, emotional, ethical, cultural, political and value-laden meanings of crime and reductive action, including fairness and justice. Failure to address these issues can cause even the most rational and evidence-based actions to be rejected. The classic example is the public outrage sometimes caused by expensive sporting activities for young offenders.
  • Know-how to put into practice – knowledge and skills of implementation and other practical processes, and methodologies for research and analysis.
  • Supporting these forms of knowledge and their capture, assessment, consolidation, transmission, application and development requires frameworks to make the process systematic, rigorous and convenient. Frameworks like these should have theoretical, terminological, conceptual and practical aspects which at one end of the scale enable practitioners to use them in articulating and communicating their crime preventive understandings and interventions; and at the other, theorists and researchers to sharpen their thinking, their formulations, their studies and action projects, and their evaluations.

They should also act as a bridge conducting two-way traffic between theory, research and practice.