Violence and Crime Prevention: Some Definitions
As we explored in Module 2, violence is caused by the combination of the presence of multiple risk factors, and the presence of very few protective factors. Violence can be prevented by reducing risk factors and strengthening protective factors. To do this, comprehensive policies are needed that form part of what is called an ‘integrated approach’ to violence prevention – in other words, a holistic strategy that depends on collaboration across many different sectors. Preventing violence, therefore, requires intervention at all levels of the ecological model and at every stage of the life-cycle of violent behaviour.
Critical to this, is the timing of prevention interventions. Three key stages of prevention have been developed that are used across multiple fields, from public health care to violence prevention.
Stage 1: Primary violence prevention
Primary prevention aims at preventing violent behaviour/activities from occurring at all. This type of intervention seeks to address risk factors known to be associated with violence. Many of the risk factors and interventions discussed in Section 2 refer to primary prevention activities.
Stage 2: Secondary violence prevention
Secondary prevention refers to any efforts to intervene among populations, who are already at high risk, to ensure that violence does not occur. Such measures include focusing on limiting the circumstances that favour violent behaviour (e.g. via urban planning initiatives to improve living standards, offering leisure activities for violent adolescents or providing emergency services); or they can involve promoting the competencies of people (e.g. by offering counselling services that deal with conflict within families), and increasing social cohesion.
Stage 3: Tertiary violence prevention
Tertiary prevention focuses on (a) providing long-term care after acts of violence have occurred and (b) efforts to prevent relapses by offenders. These can include any efforts to assist with the rehabilitation of offenders and to reduce recidivism, and efforts to provide support to victims, for example, by offering trauma counselling and other health-related services.
There are two further kinds of prevention that do not specifically deal with timing, but are concerned with specific environments.
Situational violence prevention
This form of prevention is related to physical surroundings. It aims to reduce opportunities for violence and crime that arise as a result of environmental factors. Examples of this kind of intervention include reclaiming public spaces via participatory urban planning and the provision of public infrastructure and services; or local interventions to improve the safety of individuals and their sense of identification with public spaces. This is also referred to as Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED).
Social violence and crime prevention
This form of prevention focuses on strengthening social cohesion and reducing people's motivation to resort to violence. Examples of this kind of intervention include empowering vulnerable groups (individuals, families and communities) to participate in decision-making processes and supporting them in making their own interests heard; providing life-skills training to the youth via sports or arts-based activities; or providing training for parenting skills.
Similar to how the Ecological Model works to break down the causes of violence, these 5 types of prevention simplify the problem of preventing violence by providing clear areas of focus for intervention.