“How is it possible to assess the effectiveness of a large-scale crime prevention policy? Some research issues and methodological challenges.” – Dr Marco Calaresu is an Assistant Professor at the University of Sassari, Dr Moris Triventi is Senior Assistant Professor at the University of Trento (Italy)
From the 1970s onwards, in the political market of the full-grown democracies, security has become an “obsession” that citizens have charged to their elected representatives, demanding guarantees on personal safety, protection against terrorism, and a reduction of fear and insecurity. On the political offer side, at the same time, several policy platforms have been developed to meet that demand at all tiers of government. In the last fifteen years, in particular, many European countries have witnessed an expansion in their crime prevention policies. As a matter of fact, aside the traditional goal of pre-empting the commission of crime, crime prevention policies have included goals that have usually pertained to other legal systems, such as the reduction of fear and insecurity and the enhancement of people’s quality of life. Furthermore, new ways of doing crime prevention as reflected in security policies have attracted great attention by criminologists and political scientists.
Among the different instruments used to inform such policies, we assisted to the increased relevance of security pacts. Security pacts are a form of contract in which the actors involved declare publicly to approve a project or a line of action, or taking mutual commitments, making their resources (not necessarily financial resources) available for common action, agreeing how and when to act. Through the signing of pacts, local authorities on a different scale of government, communities and even individuals have all been given a responsibility for crime prevention, alongside agencies of formal control that have traditionally been entrusted with crime prevention functions. There is growing consensus that crime prevention policy and practice should be based on solid scientific knowledge and evidence. A number of sociological and criminological studies have examined the so-called formal dimension of the new security policies, by focusing on the diffusion, distribution, and contents of security pacts. By contrast, much less empirical evidence is available on the so-called substantial dimension of the new security policies, which refers to the implementation and/or the impact of security pacts on crime rates and related outcomes. Although the recognition of the importance of evidence-based crime prevention is growing, much work still remains to put this knowledge into practice. Much of the empirical evidence on the effectiveness of crime-related policies is based on small-scale programs at the school, family or community level, while attempts to evaluate the effectiveness of large-scale crime-related policies are rather scarce. Furthermore, while most of the studies on the impact of crime-related policies have been conducted in the United States, much less empirical evidence is available on Continental and Southern European countries. To fill this gap, Marco Calaresu and Moris Triventi propose in this lecture a solution on how it is possible to assess the effectiveness of a large-scale crime prevention policy with an evidence-based evaluation. In their research, they have assessed the impact of a large-scale security policy based on security pacts (2007-09) on various types of crimes in Italy. They have built a macro-level dataset with repeated measures for the 103 Italian provinces, covering a period spanning between 2004 and 2013. The results of fixed-effects panel regression models indicate that security pacts significantly reduced thefts and micro-criminality in the cities in the largest provinces, but did not affect robberies and homicide rates. They also have found some evidence of heterogeneous effects along province population size and according to the political orientation of the actors involved in the policy implementation.
Marco Calaresu is an Assistant Professor at the University of Sassari (Italy), where he teaches Political Science and Public Policy Analysis. He earned a PhD in Political Science at Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane – Scuola Normale Superiore (Florence-Pisa, Italy). He was Visiting Scholar at New York University and Erasmus+ Visiting Professor at Cardiff University. His research interests include security policies, local mobility and transportation policy, and the quality of democracy. Among his recent publications: Security Pacts: the Italian Experience (Eleven International Publishing, 2017); Policing and Urban Control in Rome and Milan. A View From the Southern Edge of Europe, (with R. Selmini, in A. Edwards, E. Devroe, P. Ponsaers, Policing European Metropolises, Routledge, 2017); “Democra-city”: Bringing the City Back into Democratic Theory for the 21st Century, (with M. Tebaldi, in City, Territory and Architecture, 2015).
Moris Triventi is Senior Assistant Professor at the University of Trento (Italy), where he teaches Social Research Methods and Sociology of Education. He earned a PhD in Applied Sociology at the University of Milan-Bicocca and was Research Fellow at the European University Institute (Florence, Italy). He was Visiting Scholar at the University of Amsterdam, University of Cologne and Trinity College Dublin. His research interests include social stratification and inequality, education, labour market, crime, impact policy evaluation and quantitative methods for social research. He published several international edited books and peer-reviewed articles in journals such as European Sociological Review, Social Science Research, Work Employment & Society, and Economics of Education Review.