By: J. J. Baloch
Dolphins Police Lahore rehearsals for PSL Final 5 March 2017
“Running after crooks relentlessly is too late, like catching the horse after it has bolted hundredth time rather than learning how to lock the stable door”, aptly says British criminologist Prof. Tim Newbern. This is exactly how the Punjab police are said to have the terror threat during PSL Cricket final in Lahore clean bowled.
People as well as the analysts, when they talk about the causes of crime, they talk about distant issues like poverty, discriminations, injustice, unemployment, parenting, etc; they neglect the more immediate causes—things that it is often quite easy to control and influence. The central and very important thing is the lack of study and analysis of typical crime pattern.
For years the police have contended themselves with chasing crimes after they have occurred. If such detected crimes result in the conviction, the case is thought to be solved. It’s a good thing to be continued but would seem mad and astonishing if it is not supplemented with a smarter approach to prevent and reduce crime incidents before they take place.
New crime science recognises two major approaches of crime fighting; one is called “social crime prevention”, which focuses on “criminality” while other “situational crime prevention” which spotlights “opportunity”. Both can produce amazing results but we argue for the latter approach as it deals with the objective and technological arrangements for fighting crime while the former focuses more on subjective things.
Crime Prevention refers to all those measures, policies, strategies and practices that seek to prevent the ‘occurrence of the criminal incident. A simple way of thinking about crime reduction opportunities requires that ‘all crime require victim, offender and location. Crime may be prevented by changing something about either of three, two of them or all of three.
Opportunity minimization approach adopted by Punjab police during PSL final match security arrangements has proven a success against a high level of the terror threat. Not only foolproof security arrangement were ensured by making heavy deployment through cordoning inside and outside, ensuring checked entries of all without any exemption, blocking strategic locations for criminals to make some secret and unnoticed entries, increasing street to street police patrol and vigilance, and running awareness campaigns on media as well as social media to make public aware of the probable and possible threats but also made a thorough spadework through gathering intelligence as well as conducting intelligence-based operations with sizeable arrests of the suspects. The police pro-activeness and preemptive measures succeeded in securing the expected outcomes. The match was played in peaceful and groovier manner and public ventilated their tensions and frustrations in the air of joy and happiness.
Unfortunately, such type of measures is timely but time-bound. Hardly any such preparedness of security apparatus could ever be sustained as a permanent feature and continued for a longer period due to many constraints and limitations of resources and political priorities.
However, Situational Crime Prevention focuses on ‘the occurrence of crime incidents and situations’ and seeks to reduce ‘opportunity for criminal activity or offence through visibility, presence, surveillance, and physical interventions, in reasonably suspicious situations that likely to end up in offence, by the police, the local community or any actor having stakes in social order, a security scenario as was displaced at PSL Lahore.
The analysis of situational crime prevention always focuses on the “availability of opportunity element” which encourages criminal activity by inviting criminals, by luring non-criminals and by seducing even law-abiding citizens to commit an offence. This state of affairs brings us closer to what would have been the case had the government would not have taken PSL seriously. This could have been another Sri Lankan team. However, many may differ with this extreme view, but hardly anyone could deny the importance “opportunity-factor” in promoting and reducing crime.
First, in order to respond to any crime problem, we need to increase perceived efforts that can help in preventing crime. These include target hardening-steering locks, anti-robbery screens; controlling access to facilities-electronic card access, entry phones; screen exits-electronic merchandise tags, tickets for entry; deflecting offenders-separate bathrooms, street closures; controlling weapons; and employing telemetric policing methods of distant surveillance through CCTV cameras.
Secondly, we have to manoeuvre increasing “perceived risks” for offender so that he or she thinks thrice before taking risk of committing a crime. These include: extend guardianship-going out in groups, carry mobile phones; assist natural surveillance-support whistleblowers; reduce anonymity-taxi driver Ids, school uniforms; use place managers-CCTV for bus and train stations, two clerks for conventional stores; strengthening formal surveillance-red-light cameras, burglar alarms; security guards.
Thirdly, we have to make it a point to reduce “anticipated rewards of criminal activity” so that criminals lose interest by seeing difficulties in committing offences. Conceal targets-off-street parking, unmarked armoured trucks, and gender; ensure proper documentation of all sale and purchase activity.
Fourthly, police should take all possible efforts to educate the public to reduce provocations in the society that are likely to result in big unfortunate incidents which either create serious law and order situation or end up in a felony. For this end in view, people must be bound by education as well as strict law enforcement not to irritate neighbours by noise, reduce frustrations, avoid disputes, reduce temptations etc.
Fifthly, the government must remove excuses for dispute or criminal use of force by setting rules for hotel registration, rental agreements, harassment codes, land records, job descriptions, posting instructions, etc.
Lastly, we, for a systematic analysis of crime in the area, should map crime. The intelligent use of crime mapping can provide a better understanding of crime and its location and enables improved targeting, identification of hot spots, resource deployment, intelligence products, and facilitates tactical analysis.
If adopted in true letter and spirit, the situational crime prevention or problem solving approach which this article is trying to advocate could have been able to intervene the terrorist planning to blow Marriott Islamabad, to attack Sri Lankan Team, to Kill our great leader Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, to kill our soldiers and officers both at GHQ and parade ground Mosque Rawalpindi, to kill police recruits at Manawa, to attack police recruits and lawyers in Quetta, to kill innocent people and the police in Lahore and Sehwan Sharif and many other similar activities at many parts of Pakistan.
But the million dollar question is who will champion this new approach when almost all those in crime industry are “said to have their own vested interests in the status quo”. The media prefer to see crime as a juicy theme for their attention-seeking headlines. For lawyers, precedence is a virtue and they are content with the system which puts them at the centre and feather their own nest. Most of the academicians seem to be too interested in theorising to be of any practical value to anyone but to themselves. And most politicians shuffling from one policy portfolio to another, reckon crime can be tackled intuitively and wait for miracles to happen.
Therefore, it has been left to a new breed of thoughtful police officers, plus few diligent civil servants and one or two enlightened politicians in high places, to recognise that a new approach for crime reduction is badly needed. Such a distinctive, intensely practical, truly scientific, evidence-driven and smarter approach is concerned with outcomes that are alarmingly visible and have very meaningful impacts on the law and order as well as on the sense of the security retained by the common man. Thus, here, too, prevention is better than cure.