In a small town on the west coast of Australia, an interesting crime prevention strategy is underway. According to Australia’s Hedland Safety Network, the town of Port Hedland is giving away 200 “Keep It Safe” anti-burglary kits to victims of burglaries.
The home security kit includes sensor wired security floodlights, a door entry alarm, a twin pack of easy timers, and window locks. Brochures designed to help victims of domestic crime feel safe and comfortable again in their homes are also included in the kits. An ABC News post, dated October 8, 2012 reported that the Town of Port Hedland Mayor, Kelly Howlett, said more than a dozen of the recently prepared kits have already been handed out.
Howlett went on to explain that the kits are intended for people who have had the “unfortunate encounter of having a break-in or having property taken.” He hopes that the “Keep it Safe” kits will help limit repeated break-ins and burglaries. Howlett is missing the point.
Here’s why we think the kits aren’t the panacea Howlett is searching for, and what we think Port Hedland should be doing instead.
What’s Wrong with the Anti Burglary Kit Approach?
It sounds like a winning idea; give anti-burglary kits to burglary victims in an effort to beef up security and help victims feel safe in their homes. While increased home security is undoubtedly a positive preventative measure, the kits take a Band-Aid approach to burglary reduction. A successful strategy for burglary decline must include a hefty dose of education, neighbourhood based commitment, and law enforcement support. A multi-pronged approach such as this is likely to reduce the number of burglaries, and other property crimes as well.
What Else Can the Port of Hedland Do?
Educating the residents of Hedland should be the first of a multi-step process to address the burglary issue.
- Law enforcement should let residents know how they can access up to date crime information and statistics about their neighbourhood. Is it published on the web? In the newspaper? Community outreach? Mailings? Through crime bulletins? Phone alerts?
- Next, residents should be told how most burglars are gaining access to homes, at what time of day, and what they are after. The more knowledge Hedland residents have the more power they have against criminals.
- Law enforcement can offer free home security evaluations. A 10 minute check of a residence will reveal a half dozen or more security risks. Law enforcement can educate residents on how to fortify their home against an intruder.
Searching Hedland for Broken Windows
Perhaps instead of Handing out Anti-Burglary Kits, Port Hedland should be fixing broken windows. Broken Windows is a criminological theory that makes two major statements. Quickly fixing neighborhoods small problems such as “broken widows” will deter additional petty crime; and as a result, more serious crime will be less likely to develop.
Fix broken windows, pick up litter, clean up graffiti, remove abandoned cars, repair broken street lights; these are all examples of actions the neighborhood can take to make it less likely to be a victim of crime. If, over time, these items are not taken care of, it sends a signal to vandals and other criminals that the community simply doesn’t care. A community that doesn’t care is especially vulnerable to a burglars attack. Makes sense to us.
Social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, introduced the Broken Window theory over thirty years ago and it has been adopted by a number of cities around the globe to reduce crime at all levels.
Educate, Connect with the Community and Repair Broken Windows
We have to wonder, does supplying anti-burglary kits to only some residence make the other homes (presumably with less security) more vulnerable to a burglar’s attack? Perhaps. That’s one reason why community based education, neighborhood muscle and law enforcement support is a stronger, more pervasive crime fighting strategy. This layered approach to burglary prevention is more likely to have a long term impact on burglary than anti-burglary kits because it changes the mindset of the community and raises the perception of what the community will tolerate. In essence, the neighborhood will be better prepared to fight crime thanks to education and heightened security, and be exposed to less of it because of its improved visual condition.
What do you think about these anti-burglary kits?