This paper consists of three parts. First we focus on four theoretical perspectives of crime reduction and consider the implications of the longitudinal study by Soothill et al.(2010, British Journal of Criminology). These ‘paradigms’ relate to parental child-rearing methods; structural factors of the family during adolescence; geographical segregation; and individual resource deficits. They are considered risk factors for first-time convictions for shoplifting, burglary and violence. Each offence type is considered separately.
The second part focuses on the debate about ‘why crime rates fell’ in many developed countries and the type of explanations put forward. The main authors considered are Conklin, Levitt and Zimring. We point to the remarkable contrast between the factors discussed in the first part of the paper and the factors discussed by these authors who emphasise, among others, the importance of an increased prison population and an increase in the number of police officers.
The final part of the paper connects the different sets of results presented in the first two parts. We maintain that the pivotal issue is whether one can develop a society in which all persons feel that they have a stake and, thus, develop internal controls to resist crime. The development of more prisons and more intrusive policing – measures of external controls – is a sad reflection of a failure to do this.
In December 2010 the Crime and Justice Programme of the Institute for Security Studies held the first of what we hope will be an annual conference to explore issues relating to crime and its prevention. The conference, titled ‘Towards a coherent strategy for crime reduction in South Africa beyond 2010’, brought together researchers, academics, criminal justice practitioners and policymakers to discuss and debate the latest research findings from South Africa and elsewhere.
The papers in this collection present data and theory about the factors that contribute to causing crime and its reduction; and consider issues relating to policing.