This fact sheet has been developed to assist in the development of targeted education and awareness campaigns to reduce opportunistic crimes in your community, such as residential and retail burglaries, theft of and from motor vehicles and theft from the person.
Research shows that initiatives targeted and delivered in local communities have more impact than state-wide or general campaigns. People take more notice of information that is about their local community.
Reducing the rates of targeted crimes can be achieved through activities that promote behaviour change and increase the uptake of relatively simple crime prevention measures, particularly when delivered alongside other crime prevention interventions.
This fact sheet outlines key elements that can help you to maximise the success of your crime prevention initiative, and provides links to case studies of local crime prevention campaigns.
Understand the problem
Do some research and collect data to help define the specific problem you are addressing and the need for the project. If residential burglary is an issue in your community, are there areas that are more at risk? What are the most common points of entry? For campaigns about theft from motor vehicles, are there local hot spots such as shopping centres, train stations or car parks? Are cars being left unlocked, or are valuables being left in cars or is number plate theft the main problem?
Tip: Talk to local police about crime in your area and obtain police support for the initiative. Source and analyse local crime statistics.
The Crime Statistics Agency provides local crime statistics, and your local police can help you interpret and refine the data.
Also talk to community and traders groups and council to further understand the issues, and enlist support.
Set the campaign goals or objectives
Once you have defined the problem you want to tackle, the next step is to set your project objectives. These should be clear, concise and achievable outcomes that are capable of being measured, tracked and evaluated.
Tip: Target the initiative to the specific crime types and locations, and common methods used by offenders in that location. As a result, local people will then feel the messages are more relevant to their immediate situation.
Awareness raising and education strategies delivered in isolation can have limited impact. Many members of the community, including those who have recently been the victims of crime, may not take the next step to implement prevention strategies unless specifically encouraged and supported to do so.
To get the best outcomes, awareness and education strategies should be delivered alongside other interventions designed to encourage action, for example:
- property-marking days, or loan of property marking equipment
- home security assessments (by appropriately trained police personnel) for particularly vulnerable groups, such as those who have already been victims, those in identified high risk locations, or the elderly
- provide access to discount or subsidised services or products through local businesses to encourage people to act on security advice.
Plan your communication
Clear, simple messaging is important, focusing on the need to utilise basic precautions, such as locking doors, windows and vehicles. Supporting messaging should then focus on encouraging the installation of appropriate security infrastructure and other precautionary measures.
Care must also be taken to ensure the messaging of the public awareness and education campaign is empowering and not alarmist, and should not be perceived as blaming or lecturing the potential victim. This includes warnings that the victim may be committing an offence, for example, by not locking their vehicle. Research shows people tune out moralistic messaging which focuses on their shortcomings. Empowering messaging has also been shown to have benefits for overall community confidence.
Design your campaign messaging with the knowledge that potential offenders are a secondary audience. An effective campaign should also alert offenders that police and the community are doing something new or paying more attention to the problem, and consequently increase offenders’ perception of the risk of committing offences in the area.
Identify the channels and tools your campaign will use
How will your campaign deliver its messages to your target audiences? The most effective campaigns keep repeating the messages consistently and combine different channels, such as local media, printed materials, information sessions and social media.
Councils, local traders’ associations and community groups may also have newsletters, websites or other channels to help promote your campaign.
Tip: The Community Crime Prevention Unit has developed a communication plan and activity template which can be used to outline the key communication elements of your project, including your campaign messages and how you will deliver these to your audiences.
Projects that received a grant funding for their education and awareness campaigns can contact the unit for feedback on their communication plan before implementing by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Read about the City of Stonnington's Keep it close campaign that used a range of channels and directly engaged with local business to promote the campaign and encourage people to keep their valuables close to avoid theft in a busy retail and entertainment precinct.
How will the performance of the campaign be measured against its objectives? Consider what methods, qualitative and/or quantitative, will be used to assess the performance of the campaign. This may include crime statistics data and surveys measuring perceptions of crime. When developing your campaign, you will need to establish a benchmark of the key measures you will use to assess the success or otherwise of the activity.
Read about the City of Whittlesea's Theft from motor vehicle reduction strategy that, as part of their project, conducted regular ‘audits’ - before and after the campaign - of the number of vehicles in a car park with valuables on display. The audit results indicated that the activities, undertaken as part of the strategy, had increased awareness and willingness of shoppers and commuters to remove valuables from vehicles.