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Crime prevention through social development

Ed Rawlinson

Recent developments in the Canadian Criminal Justice System have seen a shift from traditional reactive and adversarial responses to crime and the treatment of offenders, to more pro-active approaches of restorative justice and crime prevention (John Howard Society of Alberta, 1998). Particularly, initiatives to prevent crime have emerged which deal with at-risk populations. An at-risk population is a target audience of individuals who are at-risk to a variety of social ills associated with increased involvement with the criminal justice system: poor school performance, involvement with alcohol and drug abuse, anger and physically acting out behaviours – bullying and dating/relationship violence, teen pregnancy, risky sexual behaviour, ethnic and racial intolerance, and criminal activity. The targeted population is at greater risk of these social ills because of pre-existing exposure to underlying factors also associated with increased involvement with crime: family of origin violence and child neglect, inadequate social infrastructure in neighbourhoods, emotional problems and low self-esteem associated with poor school performance, youth unemployment, and poverty (John Howard Society Alberta, 1995).

The emerging intervention rubric has been classified as Crime Prevention Through Social Development (Waller, 1984), or CPTSD. This model, CPTSD (pronounced sep-sed), is typified by a variety of community interventions, or programmes, designed to have an affect on these at-risk audiences. The overall goal is to reduce crime. The desired outcome of programmed interventions is to enhance the social skills of at-risk persons so that they function in what are considered to be more pro-social ways. Specifically, CPTSD involves early intervention programmes that, "... can significantly improve child development, educational achievement, and social adjustment ... " (National Crime Prevention Centre, 2001). An example of this would be Ohio's Growing Up FAST: Families and Adolescents Surviving and Thriving Diversion Programme employing a logic-based model of juvenile crime prevention outcomes. This programme has demonstrated increased family functioning and decreased risky behaviours on the part of teens (Gavazzi, Wasserman, Partridge, & Sheridan, 2000).

Thus, CPTSD programmes provide participants with knowledge and skills that help them deal more effectively with interactions among their peers, between themselves and persons in authority (teachers, social service professionals; and any others they come into contact with daily). Subsequently, a more well adjusted person emerges – one better equipped to communicate, relate, and problem-solve life's day-to-day challenges. The overall result is the long-term production of a healthier and safer community through crime prevention.


  1. Ervin Waller (1984) is credited with having coined the term, Crime Prevention Through Social Development. The common usage of this tern appears to be uniquely Canadian, and has been championed most by Canada's National Crime Prevention Strategy.


Gavazzi, S. M., Wasserman, D., Partridge, C., & Sheridan, S. (2000). The growing up fast diversion programme: An example of juvenile justice programme development for outcome evaluation. (Electronic version). Aggression and Violent Behaviour. 5 (2). 159-175.

John Howard Society Alberta. (1995). Crime prevention through social development: A resource guide. Retrieved February 17,2002 from

John Howard Society of Alberta. (1998). Society responds to summit on justice. The Reporter. 5(3): Author.
National Crime Prevention Centre. (2001). Crime Prevention Through Social Development. Retrieved February 17, 2002 from

Waller, E. (1984). Crime prevention through social development: A discussion paper for social policy makers and practitioners. Ottawa: Canadian Council on Social Development.

Rawlinson, E. (2004). Crime prevention through social development. Irish Journal of Applied Social Studies. 5 (1). pp 6-7

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