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Cross-cutting issues — Crime prevention assessment tool


Part 5 of the Cross-Cutting Issues' sector of the Criminal Justice Assessment Toolkit, produced by the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) to support joint programming at the country level.


Crime prevention has been defined in the 2002 Guidelines for the Prevention of Crime (para. 3) as comprising “strategies and measures that seek to reduce the risk of crimes occurring, and their potential harmful effects on individuals and society, including fear of crime, by intervening to influence their multiple causes”. 

In many countries, crime prevention has traditionally been seen as the responsibility of the police or as stemming from the deterrent aspects of the law or repression of offenders. However, as a result of increasing innovation, research and experience throughout the world, it is now recognized that crime has multiple causes and that many other sectors of society can have an impact on crime levels and therefore have a responsibility to act to help prevent crime. The police cannot do so alone.

The standards and norms on crime prevention adopted by the United Nations over the past 14 years reflect the knowledge that the factors that cause crime and violence to increase or decline include many different social, economic and environmental factors. As both the 1995 guidelines for cooperation and technical assistance in the field of urban crime prevention and the 2002 Guidelines for the Prevention of Crime underline, there is a much broader role for government at all levels in establishing proactive rather than reactive strategies for preventing and reducing crime and victimization. Housing, health and job creation, recreation, social services and environmental services can all make a significant difference to crime levels when they work in partnership with the police and justice sector.

The evaluation of crime prevention programmes in many countries has also demonstrated that well-planned strategies and programmes can be cost-effective and “cost-beneficial”.4 For the money invested, they save considerable expenditure on criminal justice and social service activities and bring other social and economic benefits, such as increased earned income or lower health costs.

In this Tool, the view is taken, as promoted by the Guidelines on the Prevention of Crime, that crime prevention is a multisectoral and integrated endeavour, not a “criminal justice issue” alone and that it should be addressed by examining the causal factors and vectors of crime so as to identify appropriate measures. The justice system can be a key point of entry and may in many contexts have key responsibility in crime prevention, but the assessment covers a much wider range of actors and dimensions in order to be able to provide sufficient understanding and guidance for relevant and sustainable action.