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doi:10.1093/bjc/az1092 BRIT.J. CRIMINOL.

(2007) 47, 373-389

Advance Access publication 29 November 2006


Why Did 'CrimePrevention'Develop So Late?


While crime prevention is taken to exemplify governance in the 'risk society, it may represent a
retarded example of risk-based urban security. Crime prevention was unaffected by risk-based
prevention characteristicof much nineteenth-century government of this domain. The develop-
ment of risk-basedfire prevention, by contrast, was substantially in place at the turn of the twen-
tieth century, promoted by the convergence of insurance and other interests in securingproperty.
Rather than seeing crime prevention as exemplifying the move toward the 'risk society' thesis, it
may be better understood as a case in which neo-liberalgovernance and insurance technologies
transformed a domain of governance that had been unusually resistant to risk-based

Crime Prevention and the Risk Society

It is widely accepted that the rise of crime prevention is linked with a convergence of
social forces associated with the 'risk society' and the ascendancy of neo-liberal governance
from the 1970s forward (Hughes 1998; Ericson and Haggerty 1997; Garland 2001).
This transformation in crime control is characterized by the networking of state and
non-state agencies aimed at effecting reductions in rates of offending by deploying risk-
based or 'actuarial' interventions. Among the earliest to recognize signs of a shift of
this sort, Stan Cohen's (1985) Visions of Social Control pointed to a declining faith in the
traditional welfare sanction, most especially with respect to attempts to uncover the
social causes and individual motivations that lead to offending. In its place, Cohen
detected an increasing emphasis on behaviours, and, in particular, increasing attention
to spatial distributions of crime and opportunities to offend. In the same year, Shearing
and Stenning (1985) noted the emergence in the private sector of a more instrumental
form of control in which environments were being constructed in order to minimize
opportunities for unwanted behaviour. In a host of mundane ways using innocuous or
covert devices such as railings, cameras, gates and signposts, authorities were 'invisibly'
channelling people into orderly and conforming behaviour, focusing not so much on
disciplining individuals but on regulating mass distributions and flows. Shearing and
Stenning alerted criminologists to the importance of noting that such transformations
in many ways displaced the need for coercive and disciplinary interventions by state
police: civil society was becoming an increasingly important site for crime control. As
well, they drew attention to the fact that such preventative models of regulation were
driven by an intention to reduce losses rather than a concern with moral reform. This
business ethic and its implications for crime control, they hinted, offered up signs of a

* Pat O'Malley, Faculty of Law, University of Sydney, 173-175 Pitt Street, Sydney, NSW 2000. Australia;
Steven Hutchinson is at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, and can be reached at

©TheAuthor 2006. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Centre for Crime andJuslice Studies (ISTD).
All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:

possible future in which risk management would prevail over moral reform. At the
same time, other commentators (Reichman 1986; Simon 1987) were linking similar
changes to the dissemination of models native to insurance risk management. Whereas
the collection of crime data had previously been linked primarily to issues of the social
causes of crime, in new developments they were being used to inform the identification
of risk factors, typified by the practice of situational crime prevention. In place of evid-
ence on 'broken homes', 'anomie' or 'zones of transition'-with their implications for
social justice concerns-the new statistical evidence related to security, to the identifi-
cation of what David Garland (1996) was later to call 'criminogenic situations'. In turn,
these interventions were being subjected to cost-benefit analyses, indicative that the
key issue was loss prevention rather than moral rectification (Reichman 1986). Most
presciently, although this theme was not to be taken up for some years, Jonathan
Simon (1987) regarded these changes in crime control as associated with a far broader,
insurance-informed transformation toward a 'risk society'.
By the late 1980s, while still little recognized in much criminology, a new focus on risk
was taking shape. The next decade saw this become something of a new criminological
orthodoxy. Feeley and Simon's (1992; 1994) major intervention took this in the direction
of analysing penology with their theorization of risk-based or 'actuarial' justice. In place
of sentencing based on judicial experience and pre-sentence reports based on reform-
oriented expertise, actuarial tables would dictate sentences whose content would prima-
rily take the form of incapacitation. Justice was thought to be shifting ground, from pro-
portionality between offence and sentence to proportionality between future risk and
sentence, from rehabilitation of offenders to risk reduction for potential victims (Floud
and Young 1982). With respect to crime prevention, O'Malley's (1991; 1992) work
helped to valorize what were to become three major threads in this analysis: the role of
the insurance industry; the importance of networked connections between police, insur-
ance and others; and the neo-liberal shaping of risk techniques. The insurance industry
was seen not only to be providing actuarial models for the technical governance of pre-
vention, but also as acting the part of an agent of prevention by requiring policyholders
to introduce new 'target hardening' modifications to their property. Networking was
stimulated through insurance requirements that policyholders also report burglaries to
the police, and through industry funding and promotion of crime prevention pro-
grammes such as Neighbourhood Watch (O'Malley 1991). On the other hand, the neo-
liberal shaping of risk was characterized by the change in risk techniques. Previously,
crime prevention had been a rather latent issue, thought to be effected largely through
social engineering, of the sort exemplified by the 'Chicago School' approaches, and
through the deterrent effects of sentencing. By the mid-1990s, crime prevention was not
only recognized as becoming more central, but also as permeated by a neo-liberal risk
focus on financial accountability that linked crime prevention to cost-benefit analyses.
The broader forms of social intervention had ever been dogged by their own admission
that social engineering would only reduce crime in the long run. In the new environ-
ment, also consistent with insurance-based thinking, benefits were to be demonstrable in
the short run, and on a financial register.
By the mid-1990s, then, criminology had identified a threefold trend in crime con-
trol: first, toward statistical and actuarial preventative technologies; second, toward the
networked extension of the government of crime beyond police and the state-notably
involving the insurance industry; third, toward to a focus on 'designing out' crime and


on situational opportunity reduction rather than previous preventative models that

focused on deterrence, correction and the social and psychological causes of crime. In
the late 1990s, the last part of the emerging analytical framework was set in place when
a number of writers (e.g. Hebenton and Thomas 1996; Ericson and Haggerty 1997)
linked these developments to the risk society thesis of Ulrich Beck (1992). Crime pre-
vention now emerged-as had been suggested by Simon (1987) a decade earlier-as a
cutting edge of a much broader contemporary social transformation in which risk was
displacing other forms of governance.
A very considerable literature has developed in the last decade that has been map-
ping, refining and updating this understanding of risk and crime prevention. Broadly
speaking, a double shift was identified in which crime prevention was changing its
nature in the direction of risk-based techniques, and at the same time was moving from
the sidelines of crime control to being among its most prominent domains. Accord-
ingly, it appears almost odd to ask why did risk-based crime prevention occur, historically
speaking, so late? Yet, despite our current fixation with the risk society, it is not at all the
case that risk-based prevention is new. To the contrary, the nineteenth century was the
site of some of the most spectacular governmental projects in urban security, environ-
mental design and risk reduction. Notable were the huge engineering commitments
involved in the development of sewerage and the provision of pure drinking water
(Osborne 1996), while the 'designing-out' of disease and disorder was a priority of
urban planning (Joyce 2003). As Patrick Atiyah (1979) had stressed, the nineteenth
century saw the discovery and generalization of a recognition that changing individuals
was difficult and expensive, and that it was far cheaper and more effective to redesign
environments so that individual morality or rationality ceased to be pivotal. For
Foucault (1984), this distributional and environmental governance was the second
'axis' of power that developed at the time, alongside that of discipline. In criminology
and penology, as elsewhere in the social sciences, there has been an inordinate amount
of attention to the growth of disciplinary institutions-notably the panoptical prison.
Perhaps it was the intense focus on individual discipline in Foucault's (1977) Discipline
and Punish that has been responsible for the apparent novelty of risk-based governance
in more recent analyses. Nevertheless, Foucault also stressed that the 'regulatory' axis,
governing distributions and aggregates, was of equal importance. In fields such as
mental health and eugenics, statistical and distributional techniques were being
deployed in ways that were to affect whole sectors of the population, simultaneously
'improving' population health and removing those who represented risks from general
circulation (Castel 1991).
Such nineteenth-century developments in relation to risk-based or preventative gov-
ernment could arguably be differentiated from current risk manoeuvres because of the
latter's being shaped by neo-liberalism. It has been stressed, for example, that current
approaches to risk are distinguished by the fact that they individualize risk and 'respon-
sibilise' the citizenry (O'Malley and Palmer 1996; Garland 2001). In the crime preven-
tion field especially, individuals have been rendered responsible for their own risk
management, with respect to both their bodies and their property (Stanko 1990;
O'Malley 1992). But, in this, there is little that is peculiar to the present. Early liberal
government also prioritized a preventative orientation in its cellular relations of con-
tract and individual prudence. As the work ofJeremy Bentham illustrates, liberal political
theory assumed the formation of subjects who exercised foresight, who made plans and

provided for anticipated accidents and misfortunes, and who took practical steps to
avoid harm (O'Malley 2004). For example, the doctrine of 'contributory negligence'-
in which an injured worker was found negligently to have contributed to his or her own
injury-effectively denied compensation to many. However, this was regarded as 'just'
because the workers rather than the employers were seen as in the best place to avert
the harm. To award damages against the employer appeared not only unjust, but
removed the most effective risk reduction mechanism-the self-interest of the worker.
Thus, if 'situational crime prevention' has its parallel in nineteenth-century 'situational
disease prevention' (hydraulic engineering that 'designed out' typhus and dysentery),
and if the statistical identification and incapacitation of high-risk potential offenders
has precursors in contemporaneous psychiatric shift from dangerousness to risk, so the
'responsibilised' potential victim of crime prevention had her parallel in the subject of
the law of accidents.
Of course, it might be argued that these developments are so far removed from the
governance of crime that crime prevention interventions based on risk were in some
way overlooked. But, in our view, this runs foul of a vital comparison to which we briefly
turn attention: that of fire prevention. The governances of fire and crime were, in prac-
tice, rather closely linked. Apart from obvious issues of overlap relating to security of
property, public safety and order, in both Britain and North America fire services were
often formally combined with police. At the close of the nineteenth century, this was true
in a number of major boroughs, including Bristol, Liverpool, Nottingham, Portsmouth
and Lancaster (Blackstone 1957: 283-6) and in many major North American cities
(James 1955; Bugbee 1971). It is highly significant, then, that risk-based, networked
and responsibilizing fire-preventative governance was set in place during the last quar-
ter of the nineteenth century in Britain and North America. With respect to tech-
niques, discourses and forms of governance, fire prevention at this time bears a
startling resemblance to developments that were not to occur in the field of crime
prevention for almost a century.

Risk-Based Prevention and the Government of Fire

While our current thinking about 'prevention' might not include the operations of
fire-fighting, nevertheless, this was clearly understood well into the nineteenth century
as a principal means of 'fire prevention'. In Britain and North America, fire-fighting
was provided until well into the 1800s by volunteer brigades, often funded and some-
times organized by fire insurers. In practice, this was the primary form of fire preven-
tion practised by insurers who averred that other forms ran counter to their interests by
too much reducing fire risks. While there is much dispute over why volunteer brigades
were displaced by municipal and professional departments-including the claim that
insurers demanded more effective intervention-it is clear that by the 1850s, they had
established a definable masculine culture associated with 'fighting' fire (Blackstone
1957; Greenberg 1998). It was taken for granted that this dangerous work was exclu-
sively to be performed by men, but because of the nature of early equipment-which
required great athleticism to drag fire engines through streets and operate manual
pumps-by mid-century, fire-fighting was associated with a melange of Victorian
manhood: strength, fitness, heroism, dedication and skill. Perhaps not surprisingly, bri-
gades were from an early date equipped with military-style uniforms, which, in keeping

with the times, were often quite spectacular. These survived their municipal transfor-
mation (Greenberg 2003) and, indeed, all of these masculine attributes were taken
over into the municipal departments, where their previously democratic organization
was displaced by a quasi military hierarchy. Prevention, in this context, had come to be
associated with the prevention of conflagration and the saving of lives: the containment
of harm and damage rather than a more risk-based approach that prevented the initial
outbreak of fire. Combined with the imagery of heroic manhood, the culture, organiza-
tion and structure of fire departments were thus wedded to a masculine model of
'protection'-in the sense of 'preventing by fighting'. As will be seen, this is markedly
similar to what occurred with the contemporaneous development of police.
However, after the middle of the nineteenth century, new interest in more risk-based
fire prevention began to develop. One of the first indicators of this was a move from
fire insurers on both sides of the Atlantic against the fact that they were required to
fund fire-fighting brigades (normally through a tax on premiums). Thus, in Britain,
the secretary of the Phoenix insurance company reported to a Select Committee in
1876 that the fire offices' contribution should be diminished because a large propor-
tion of fire-fighting resources:
...had been diverted to another purpose in which the fire insurance offices had no interest whatever.
The protection of life was a subject altogether foreign to the interests of the fire offices. The insurance
companies wanted stations in the centre where the big warehouse risks were, not in the suburbs.
(Quoted by Blackstone 1957: 209)
On the United States, likewise, Tebeau (2003: 213) notes that two very different
courses were being plotted: 'firefighters increasingly associated fire danger with its
human cost, whereas fire underwriters saw fire as primarily economic risk.' Fire-fighting
was thus beginning to be differentiated from a quite distinct idea of prevention by a
double-pronged shift-and, like crime prevention long after, not always without some
tension between 'fighters' and 'preventers'. On the one hand, saving lives was regis-
tered by the development of reactive technologies facilitating fire-fighters' entry into
burning buildings, which fitted well with the heroic legacy. On the other hand, while
fire insurance pursued its traditional concern with property, new risk-based predictive
developments appear. In Britain and America, insurers had long collected information
about fire hazards. But, hitherto, this had occurred on a small scale, intermittently and
unsystematically. Data were processed into rules of thumb and homilies about specific
kinds of fire dangers, such as the need for fire doors to be closed and the dangers asso-
ciated with wall openings through which belt pullies ran (Arkwright 1912). As Pearson
(2004: 319) notes with respect to British fire insurance, the tendency was for flurries of
activity investigating types of risk in the wake of short-term crises. In his view, little
systematic data collection was carried out because fire insurance of business and indus-
trial risks was, as yet, small beer. Most fire insurance ran at a loss in the first half of the
nineteenth century, but was cross-subsidized by the highly profitable insurance of the
residential insurance policies of the large industrial and commercial policy holders.
Fire policies were issued on businesses largely as a goodwill practice (Pearson 2004: 321).
After the middle of the century, however, information began to be gathered more
systematically. As well, these data were being analysed and worked upon by engineers,
surveyors and actuaries employed by the insurers, with the aim of systematically iden-
tifying, recording and quantifying fire risks (Manufacturers Mutual 1935). In turn,

while engineering knowledge remained of central importance, the systematic empiri-

cism of that profession was being linked with the statistical knowledge of actuaries.
Both were built upon and tested in insurance industry laboratories focusing on the 'fire
sciences'. The expense of this work, and the need for wide-ranging data on which to
base accident tables, led to networking and collaboration among fire insurers and
others-for the most part, funded by the non-state sector (BFPC 1902: xiii). During the
same period, fire insurers and private companies-particularly Goad's company in
Britain and Canada, and the Sanborn firm in the US-provided 'fire plans' that
mapped the fire risks of factories, warehouses and eventually whole towns, by plotting
such risk factors as building materials, the distribution of fire hydrants and fire doors
(Long 1936). Over the last half of the nineteenth century, fire risk was being rendered
calculable statistically and visually: 'by objectifying the problem of fire in terms of stat-
istical categories, underwriters created order where seemingly none had previously
existed' (Tebeau 2003: 124).
Such developments reflected changing relations between insurers and manufacturers
that were associated with capital intensification. Where capital intensity was low and
fire regulation costly, businesses would self-insure and even resist attempts at the regu-
lation of fire risks. This occurred, for example, in Ottawa-where the timber industry
was dominant-as late as the turn of the twentieth century (Fear 1979). On the other
hand, as noted already, under such conditions, fire losses were likely to be manageable
and could be tolerated by the insurers. As capital intensity increased, however, the
interests of industry and insurers in risk-based prevention converged and changed. We
begin to find that insurers started to impose-indicating, too, that they were able to
impose-considerable and expensive preventative requirements on their policy hold-
ers. Industrialists could no longer afford to self-insure. In Britain, Clayton (1971: 117)
notes that around the middle of the century, 'there was a strong school of thought
which maintained that the function of an insurance company was to insure and not to
inspect or maintain'. However, from the early 1870s, insurers began to implement
regular inspections of risks such as steam boilers as a condition of providing insurance,
and these inspections, in turn, came to be regarded as 'perhaps more important than
insurance itself (Clayton 1971: 117). This evaluation of 'importance' is not simply
made with hindsight, but was based on contemporary observation that the use of insur-
ance rates did have the effect of making factories comply with improvements in fire-
prevention knowledge (Kingsley 1899). These improvements, required as a condition
of insurance, became extensive and expensive. They included the installation and
upgrading of sprinkler systems and hydrants-developed in the United States and rap-
idly adopted in the United Kingdom-provision of heating to ensure that these did not
freeze in winter; replacement of roofs, walls and windows with fire-proof materials; and
extensive restrictions on what goods could be stored on site (O'Malley and Hutchinson
2006). Reviewing the state of the British fire insurance sector, Dickson (1960: 160) con-
cludes that 'they were using the price apparatus at their disposal in a largely successful
attempt to make the construction and working of the factories conform to scientifically
devised standards of safety'.
In such ways, fire insurers were becoming regulators of fire risks, using their now
considerable financial hold over policy holders (and prospective policy holders) as a
means to secure compliance. As insurers amassed engineering and actuarial data, they
began to network with the manufacturers of fire equipment, providing certification of

fire-prevention materials and technologies that came to be much sought-after by the

producers of such commodities-thus extending further their effective regulatory
reach. By the end of the century, this regulatory networking process was developing in
many directions, including interpenetration of state and insurance regulations. In
Britain, this began as early as the 1870s, with legislation relating to boiler safety's being
shaped by insurance knowledge (Clayton 1971: 117-18). The formation of the British
Fire Prevention Committee in 1897-composed of insurers, engineers, architects and
surveyors-created a body that both carried out tests on materials and published find-
ings and recommendations for fire-prevention regulations (BFPC 1902). The parallel
formation of the American National Fire Prevention Association in 1896 brought
together the resources and expertise of US and Canadian fire insurers, and increased
the capacity of the industry not only to regulate its own customers, but increasingly to
provide regulatory models and standards for much wider consumption. One of the
most important of these was to be the provision of draft fire codes for adoption by
municipalities (Bugbee 1971). More than this, fire insurers not only had long lobbied
for better municipal governance of fire risks, but had used the same techniques that
they used with respect to private industry to regulate the public sector-most notably
through the setting of fire insurance rates for cities and towns (Tebeau 2003). Effec-
tively, this levied a fine on those municipalities that failed to conform to insurers' pre-
ferred standards with respect to such matters as building codes, fire hydrants and
zoning regulations. Nor was the potential to regulate fire departments in this way
ignored by fire insurers. In the years that followed the turn of the twentieth century,
leverage on municipalities allowed insurers to assess and rate fire departments them-
selves. This put pressure on fire departments to develop their own fire-prevention offic-
ers and bureaus-a process that advanced rapidly during the first 20 years of the new
century (O'Malley and Hutchinson 2006).
In addition, across North America, insurance leverage resulted in the formation of
many fire marshal's offices (often funded out of a levy in fire insurance contracts)
which had further regulatory implications for fire departments, and more widely. An
early development, paralleled on a more modest scale by the British Fire Prevention
Committee, was the mounting of public fire-prevention campaigns. This reflected the
growing concern with the 'moral factor' of carelessness that had become a recurring
theme in late-nineteenth-century insurance literature. Thus, in 1884, Edward Atkinson-one
of the founders of the Boston based 'Factory Mutuals' network of fire insurers-
bemoaned that 'the only persons who can prevent loss by fire are the owners or occu-
pants of the premises. Upon them rests the responsibility for heavy loss in nearly every
fire' (Manufacturers' Mutual 1935: 96). By the end of the First World War, this concern
had grown in significance to the point at which it had come to be targeted as the single
most important risk factor (Grove Smith 1918). To a risk-based and networked regime
of prevention ranging across the public and private sectors had been added a strong
theme of 'responsibilisation'.
We will return to some of the wider implications of this in the conclusions to the
paper. However, here, we want to stress that late-twentieth-century crime prevention
then was not at the cutting edge of such risk-based preventative government in urban
security, as we may have assumed. It had significantly comparable precursors in fire-
prevention developments of almost a century earlier. Consequently, we now wish to
return to our unexpected question-which may now appear less quirky. Why does

crime prevention occur so late in the genealogy of the risk-based government of urban

Police, Police Science and LiberalPreventioni

It is often argued that the fear of the continental system of Police played a key role in
shaping the modern Police force, and, from that observation, it could be deduced that
this was highly relevant to the fate of early crime prevention. Up to a point, this is true,
although it is essential to note the 'exception' offered by Colquhoun. As is well known,
Colquhoun proposed that the new Police of the nineteenth century should rather
closely mirror the preventative and all-surveying mandate of Police. In his view, 'the
prevention of crimes and misdemeanours is the true essence of Police' (Colquhoun
1796: 259). As Neocleous (2000) points out, Colquhoun's preventative blueprint for
police involved giving them wide-ranging powers. These powers were not to be limited
to the specific field of criminal law and justice, because Colquhoun related the origins
of crime to more general issues of disorder and especially to the problem of indigence.
Thus, the criminal police were to be a uniformed body with powers to enforce the crim-
inal law, but the Municipal Police, of which they were a branch, were to carry out a gen-
eral watch function, and to regulate cleaning of public spaces, license activities that
encourage fraud, oversee the measures for preventing and fighting fires, govern trans-
portation and roads, remove and abate nuisances, police the building of houses and an
unspecified array of other 'useful improvements'. It is clear that what Colquhoun had
in mind was a centralized organization composed of many branches, of which the crimi-
nal police were but one (Colquhoun 1796: 35). Together, these various branches were
(as the subtitle of his Treatise on Police states) to prevent harms to 'Public and Private
Property and Security'. In this sense, he can be regarded as developing a conception of
urban security that was prescient rather than retrogressive.
While the Municipal Police certainly took a form consistent with the detested Police
Science, which likely ensured that Colquhoun's scheme would never get off the
ground, nevertheless, his proposal foreshadows the formation of urban security net-
works over the next two centuries. That is, while the idea of a centralized police agency
was anathema to liberals, William Novak's (1996) work reveals that the regulatory functions
envisaged in Colquhoun's police-minus the overarching focus on crime prevention-
were to emerge in dispersed and fragmentary form in the work of a host of inspectors,
by-law officers, court officers and police. Significantly, his analysis ignores the role of
the private sector, already seen to be vital in the regulation of fire, and which was later
to become important in crime prevention. Functions more closely linked with the
criminal police-which nevertheless still preserved a preventative focus of a specific
sort-were to appear in related form in Robert Peel's proposal for a Metropolitan
Both Henry Fielding and Robert Peel were, like Colquhoun, part of the surge of
preventative governance associated with the development of liberal government. For
Peel, in particular, the basic concept of the Metropolitan Police was to be preventative:
It should be understood, at the outset, that the principal object to be attained is the prevention of
crime. To this end every effort of the police is to be directed. The security of persons and property,
1We would like to acknowledge the meticulous research assistance provided by Daniel O'Malley in the preparation of this section.


the preservation of public tranquility, and all the other objects of a Police Establishment will thus be
better effected than by the detection and punishment of the offender, after he has succeeded in com-
mitting the crime. (Quoted in Gilling 1997: 108)

Prevention was thus directly linked with what we see as the formation of modern police.
However, we should not read 'prevention' in the context of the emerging (criminal)
police as coterminous with crime prevention of the twentieth century, although,
clearly, there was some degree of overlap. Thus, for both Peel and Colquhoun, a key
preventative role concerned the gathering of information relevant to possible crimes
and the surveillance of known offenders. While these have potential for risk-based
development, this was not to occur, for they remained primarily linked to knowledge of
specific events in the form of 'detective' work. Even so, perhaps most important of all
was the assumed preventative role of police patrols-a model still firmly in place by the
1960s. In other words, while police were associated with the preventative telos of the
time, we should not read history backwards and assume that police involvement in
crime prevention meant then what it means now, after the 'revolution' of the 1980s.
Nevertheless, we might still want to ask why criminal police did not shift in the direction
of risk-based crime prevention since, as will be seen, fire departments (as part of
Colquhoun's broader preventative police) were to do this-albeit also often unwillingly-
by the turn of the twentieth century; and, second, why didn't the broader preventative
network of agencies or 'branches' focused on crime prevention, as envisaged by
Colquhoun, shift toward risk-based models, also until the last quarter of the twentieth
century? In some degree, these questions can be answered separately.

Police, Risk and Insurance

From 'the mid 19th century to about 1950 the trend in police activity was away from
organized preventative activity' (Hudson 1974: 293). Hudson's thesis, later supported
by Emsley (1983), is that this reflects the difficulties of demonstrating the effectiveness
of crime prevention, for it is hard to assess when a crime has been prevented. After
1856, when the Metropolitan Police model became the standard required by the state,
funding for uniforms and equipment was to be made available relative to efficiency,
and this was difficult to demonstrate with respect to preventing crimes. Rather, num-
bers of arrests and clearance rates-the effectiveness specifically of crime fighting and
reactive detection-came to be the critical issue. Accordingly, emphasis on prevention-
even in the limited form assigned to criminal police-tended to give ground to reactive
measures. But, as Gilling has noted, while this shift may be attributable to pressure
from the top, 'it is unlikely that it went without support at the bottom'. Preventative
work of the sort outlined by Peel was likely to be uncomfortable and tedious, whereas
crime fighting and reactive detection 'must have looked like a glamorous and more
productive alternative to an occupational culture geared primarily to the removal of
sources of trouble from the streets' (Gilling 1997: 111). Equally to the point, as the
plethora of studies on police 'working culture' reveal, this specific orientation became
embedded in the informal organization of policing, so much so that while (masculine)

2 Nor had this view changed a century later. In the 1960s, the Chief Constable of Shropshire noted that 'crime prevention does
not lend itself easily to statistical analysis. A crime completely prevented is a crime unrecorded .... Crime prevention is essentially
a matter of faith in the value of the work being done' (Osmond 1962: 225).


crime fighting appears as 'real' police work, crime prevention and its sibling, com-
munity policing, have not sat well with this even into the present day (Chan 2003).
In short, one part of this story is that while nineteenth-century liberalism generated a
strong emphasis on prevention, with respect to crime prevention this was primarily
translated into a specific form-in which the primary body to focus directly on crime
control had little or no incentive, and rapidly declining interest, in pursuing even its
limited mandate in prevention. Crime fighting-in the sense of patrol, detection and
apprehension-came to be seen as preventative in the sense of deterring offenders and
protecting the public. Thus, even in the 1950s, it was still possible for a member of the
Home Office Working Party on Crime Prevention to believe that 'crime prevention was
the responsibility of every member of the service and that it would be a retrograde step
to set up crime prevention departments' (Security Gazette 1964: 175). This view, persist-
ing well into the 1960s, assumed that:
The twin police duties of preventing and detecting crime are interchangeable: prevention may often
lead to detection, and detection followed by imprisonment prevents crime by at least one individual
for some time to come. Since the mere presence of a constable can be a deterrent it is also true to say
that every officer in uniform is concerned with crime prevention'. (Security Gazette 1964: 209)
As the Report of the Royal Commission on the Police (1962) stated rather more succinctly,
'the uniform man on the beat . . . provides the most effective deterrent
to crime'
(quoted in Rawlings 2002: 203).'
In turn, this orientation was supported by a police working culture that came to val-
orize a style of masculinity that emphasized danger, courage, action, the threat of viol-
ence and the need to organize around this. No doubt, its formation was inflected by
the Victorian cult of manhood, which was also influential in the related field of fire-
fighting. It may be true that this did not reflect the reality of much police work, for gen-
erations of sociologists have' mapped out the mundane labour of police as quite distinct
from that of the heroic 'thin blue line'. (And much the same is true for fire-fighters.) It
may also not even be particularly important that the imagery of the masculine-heroic
police officer has been culturally valorized in the mass media. What matters here is that
within the police, as they have developed across Britain and North America, there were
marked (and masculine) pressures that do not favour the pursuit of a risk-oriented
crime preventative model. 'Protectiveness', rather than risk-based 'prevention', is
perhaps the better descriptor of how police had come to be oriented by the twentieth
century. This was still at the centre of much police consciousness as late as the
mid-1960s, if not later. In 1964, there was a serious increase in specific types of crime,
notably burglaries and housebreaking, which increased by nearly 15 per cent over the
previous year (Security Gazette 1965: 288). While, elsewhere, the Home Office and the
insurance industry were beginning to respond to such developments with the risk-
oriented prototypes of what would become late-twentieth-century crime prevention, the
Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police ignored this direction. He proposed instead a
three-pronged attack: the creation of a special crime squad; the harnessing of the uni-
formed branch to the investigation and detection of crime; and the formation of a special
patrol group (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis 1964). Thus, 'crime fighting'

3 Or, again, consider the judgment of the Chief Constable of the Lancashire Constabulary that 'the most effective
crime preven-
tion measure yet devised is certainty of detection' (Security Gazette 1965: 170).


and 'prevention through patrol' remained most salient in police consciousness. This was
also, perhaps, cemented in place by the tendency of police to protect its turf. That is,
while networking came to be the hallmark of crime prevention in the late-twentieth cen-
tury, it was still the case in the 1960s that this was regarded as a problem for implement-
ing crime prevention. Thus, the (diplomatic) editor of the Security Gazette (1963: 6)
commented that while the police were renowned for their skills:
Nevertheless their practice of modern crime prevention techniques tends to be handicapped by two
basic defects: a certain distrust of public relations principles and a suspicion, more natural to trade
union psychology, that appear to impinge on professional spheres of interest.., few police authorit-
ies really show any practical desire to work intimately with outside bodies.

To the extent that networking becomes the hallmark of preventative governance, as

was the case with fire prevention and late-twentieth-century crime prevention, clearly,
this resistance represents a further barrier, and perhaps one of the factors inhibiting
the development of crime prevention from within police.
No matter in what form, as far as police and the Home Office were concerned at this
time, crime prevention still occupied 'a position of relative obscurity and unpopularity'
(Gilling 1997: 69). Nevertheless, there were some stirrings. In Britain, for example, in 1951,
the Home Office had run a National Crime Prevention campaign (not to be repeated until
1965). Over the next decade, some police forces began to introduce crime prevention offic-
ers. Usually one-officer concerns, these crime prevention units were very small in scale,
marginal in the organization and specialized in providing advice to crime victims, mostly in
the business sector, on how to improve security. As this implies, the emphasis was to be on
property. On this matter, Hudson (1968: 213)-formerly head of the crime prevention
programme at Staffordshire Police College-is revealing, commenting that:
The immediate aim of the police prevention activity in Britain has nevertheless been a modest one: to
raise security levels in property by persuading occupiers of vulnerable premises to take simple-and
often inexpensive-measures to reduce the risk of crime. In a word, to secure the cooperation of
occupiers to remove the opportunities which are available to criminals in this time of affluence, when
such opportunities and incentives for crime are more numerous and greater than ever before.
First, the focus on property is indeed significant, so much so that when the Home
Office created a Standing Committee on Crime Prevention in 1967 (under sustained
pressure from the insurance industry (Wilmott 1968: 253)), it was divided into two sub-
committees-surprisingly, not 'property crime' and 'crimes against the person', but
'static' and 'mobile property'. Perhaps this is less surprising when we consider that the
organizations represented on that committee were, in addition to the Police Service, all
from the world of insurance (four representatives) and commerce and industry (nine
representatives) plus a single representative from the British Security Industry Associa-
tion. This focus on property suggests that a second aspect of Hudson's assessment may

' Muir (1962: 190) indicates a typical pattern of activity which-as will be seen-is reminiscent of the scale and level of
(un)sophistication of fire insurance inspectors' reports ofalmost a century previous:
In connection with this scheme we have a Crime Prevention Advice Book. This book, with leaves in triplicate, is filled in on the spot
by the Officer making the survey or giving advice. The original and one copy is then sent to Force Headquarters, the other copy
remaining in the book. The original is sent to the owner of the premises with an accompanying letter and the remaining copy
becomes a working copy. The working copy is returned to the Division when a check-up visit is due and the officer making the
check-up records his observations on the back of the form. He also completes the back of the form remaining in the Advice Book.


be highly relevant: the post-war emergence of the 'affluent society'. The development
not simply of 'prosperity' but, more crucially, of the consumer society may have been a
factor that influenced the insurance industry to become increasingly involved in lobby-
ing for crime prevention and pressuring the police to become more involved in this
field. So, where had the insurance industry been all this time? Why had insurers-who
were to become so important in late-twentieth-century crime prevention-not effected
the kinds of changes that had shaped risk-based fire prevention so much earlier?
Perhaps the central issue is that property theft and burglary did not become signific-
ant issues for the insurance industry until quite recently. While fire prevention had
been becoming a core insurance concern over the last half of the nineteenth century,
this was not the case with crime-with the exception of arson, which substantially fell
into the field of fire prevention. 5 In 1890, there were only two companies issuing bur-
glary policies in Britain-and, until the end of the nineteenth century, burglary insur-
ance had been regarded by the industry with contempt (McMillan 1922: 248). Until
well into the twentieth century, insurance of this kind remained marginal; the indus-
try's Insurance Guide and Handbook did not even have a section on burglary insurance
until its 5th edition in 1912 (Simmonds 1912). In the 6th edition of 1922, it was made
clear that burglary insurance was not a mass industry but was largely restricted to cer-
tain 'shopkeepers and householders who had special reasons for desiring to be pro-
tected against loss by burglary' (1922: 249). Overwhelmingly, the latter referred to the
wealthy, for, even by this comparatively late date, the three insurance classes of prin-
cipal concern to the industry were 'collections of pictures, glass and curios', 'silver and
gold plate' and jewellery, furs, dressing cases and similar property' (McMillan 1922:
249-50). The poor state of development of the industry in this respect is reflected by
the fact that, as McMillan complains (1922: 270-1), so little accumulation and pooling
of relevant data had occurred that there was no satisfactory method even of assessing
the premium to be charged for burglary risks of any magnitude.
In practice, this field of insurance remained relatively minor, if profitable, until well after
the Second World War, when losses from burglaries and related 'outside' losses sustained
by commercial concerns began to gain significance (Litton 1982).6 During the 1960s, insur-
ers began to respond to increasing losses by imposing improved security requirements on
businesses (Pugh 1976). At least in the view of the insurers ('Companyman' 1977: 2094),
this had a roll-on effect, for so effective were business crime prevention interventions seen
to be that this 'started to make things rather difficult for the professional thief and there
was a noticeable turn by the criminal fraternity to the private house risk'. It was this dis-
placement that was assumed by some insurers to be responsible for the industry's pressur-
ing householders to take greater precautions (Litton 1982: 129). In other accounts from
within the industry, the problem was more simply interpreted as 'soaring losses due to
theft' (Security Gazette 1965: 410)-and, while this could be put down to exaggeration by the
insurers, it is significant that such protests were a new phenomenon, and the Security Gazette

'Thus, arson investigation was to be the central concern of the fire marshal's offices set up around the turn of the twentieth cen-
tury (O'Malley and Hutclhinson 2006).
6 It should be noted that losses occasioned by businesses in the absence of clear evidence of breaking and entering
had long
been excluded bv insurers due to the difficulties of establishing the causes of stock losses in settings in which breakage, shoplifting,
mistakes in serving and theft by employees are all possible. These were 'so much under the control of the insured it is regarded by
the companies as being outside the scope of any practicable scheme of insurance' (McMillan 1922: 254). No doubt, this is one of
the stimuli behind the growth of private security agencies in the industrial and commercial sector, and likely a reason why insur-
ance interests were little exercised on the question of commercial crime prevention until the 1960s.


here estimated that for the first time, crime losses had reached half the level of fire losses.
Linked direcdy to this observation, unfavourable comparisons were drawn between the two
fields of fire and crime prevention. For example, it was lamented that police crime preven-
tion officers were small cogs in the police machine, and possessed few powers--certainly
none to match the Fire Prevention Officer's statutory powers of inspection of premises, and
the existence of an effective 'propaganda' or public relations organization (Security Gazette
1965: 124). As this latter editorial mourned, given that the evidence pointed to the growing
cost of crime, and the fact that this was approaching the cost of fire losses, 'Why is it then is
it that one type of emergency can stimulate the government to arrange cooperative counter
action, but in another the CPO (crime prevention officer) is left to fight a lonely battle?'.
In short, our answer to this question is that despite the significant development of a
preventative telos of government in the nineteenth century, a number of forces had
propelled police away from a risk-oriented framework of prevention. On the one hand
was the development of police as a quasi-military form of organization and the growth
of a police culture that emphasizes a form of masculine heroism. As with fire depart-
ments, this pressed them toward crime fighting and protection rather than the kind of
risk-based crime prevention that was to arise in the last quarter of the twentieth century.
With respect to fire prevention, however, the insurance industry had entered the field
early and aggressively, developing its own regulatory initiatives toward risk-based, net-
worked and 'responsibilising' prevention in the late 1800s. By the early twentieth century,
this had extended, via influence on municipal governance, to colonization of the fire
departments themselves-something that was not to happen with respect to police and
crime prevention until the last quarter of the century. With respect to crime prevention,
however, the insurance industry was not oriented toward crime prevention until into the
1960s, at which point, it began an involvement that was to become increasingly active
both as a pressure group and as an 'agent of prevention', helping to effect and generalize
a new approach to crime prevention (O'Malley 1991; 1992; Ericson et aL 2003).

Conclusions:Neo-Liberalism, Risk and Preventative Government

It is not our intention to turn current theses on their head, and suggest that their
reading of the impact of neo-liberalism on shaping and promoting such develop-
ments as crime prevention have been wrong or grossly exaggerated. The evidence
supporting such claims is far too strong to permit such a position. What our evidence
does suggest, however, is that risk-based preventative government, with its correlative
elements of responsibilisation and networking, were in place in contiguous domains
in the nineteenth century. There, they were nestled quite comfortably with contem-
porary (and enduring) liberal concerns about the significance of prevention and
foresight, and of the central place to be given to utilitarian ideals and to individual
responsibility. While actuarial techniques were developing earlier in such fields as
life insurance, fire insurance proved to be a site in which actuarial techniques were
developed, and indeed were innovated with prevention rather than just (insurance)
compensation in mind. While risk developed in fire prevention-and in related and
overlapping fields such as engineering and architecture at this time (Clayton 1971:
117-18)-risk did not automatically spread-at least in this form-throughout all
domains of government. Crime prevention is an example of an area in which non-risk
practices were set in place organizationally and by the working culture of practitioners

pivotal to the field and in the absence of other impetus toward risk-originating, for
example, from the insurance industry-risk-based prevention did not take root.
We have been, to this point, self-consciously silent about areas in which crime prevention
did develop in ways foreshadowed by Colqhoun's Municipal Police. Criminology, social work,
psychology, the courts and the correctional service, inter alia, all engaged with crime preven-
tion in this period. Significantly, such developments took off particularly in the late
nineteenth century, especially with respect to young people. But, for the most part, the pre-
ventative model deployed was only peripherally related to risk-at least in the sense that
crime prevention was to become identified with it by the 1980s. Rather, the focus was to be
upon the causes of crime-those causes that the welfare state and its experts identified and
treated through 'the welfare sanction' and all manner of community interventions. Indeed, it
is the contrast between such social-causal approaches and the emerging risk-based tech-
niques that was to give the new wave of 1980s crime prevention much of its character.
Together with the crime prevention models of traditional policing, welfare-focused crime
prevention was to be the 'other' against which risk-based crime prevention defined itself
(O'Malley 1992; 1999).
Perhaps what this reveals is that under the influence of neo-liberal governance, risk-
based prevention-like 'responsibilisation' to which it is linked-was being re-invented in
the late twentieth century rather than generated de nova. After the 1970s, it was applied-
often against resistance from institutions occupying the field-to areas of governance in
which it had not previously taken hold, or in which it had been displaced by techniques of
the social. In this, of course, there are strong and significant comparisons to be made with
the reinvention of 'markets' by neo-liberals in which certain techniques associated with
markets, such as outsourcing, competitive tendering and consumer audits, were general-
ized and applied to sites such as state offices where this had previously appeared 'inappro-
priate' (Rose 1999). Nowhere has this been more apparent than with respect to policing,
with the rise of police customer audits, new developments in financial accountability and
management practices, and competition with private sector providers (O'Malley and
Hutchinson, forthcoming; O'Malley 1997). In this respect, the development of risk-based
crime prevention and its impact on police appears at the convergence of at least two devel-
opments that have rather different genealogies. On the one side was the development of
neo-liberalism. While its opposition to welfare interventions in the governance of crime
has been endlessly explored, also vital is its determination to reform police. Against signi-
ficant resistance, neo-liberal governments have struggled to bring police into line with
political axioms of accountability, market reform and new managerialism. This did not, by
itself, guarantee that risk-based crime prevention would appear on the agenda, even
though this can be seen to be a development consistent with neo-liberalism (O'Malley
1992). What did put this firmly on the agenda, we suggest, was the increasing interest and
lobbying of the insurance industry and its recognition that risk-based prevention-
exemplified by fire prevention--could have major affects on loss reduction.7 It was a

7 Reference may here be made to almost any edition of the Security Gazette between 1962 and 1968. The Gazettewas fond
of repro-
ducing and editorializing about the speeches and articles of senior police managers, Home Office officials and cabinet ministers on
this topic, as well as having its own regular column from its 'insurance correspondent'. Of course, it may be taken for granted that
these reports are highly selective, reflecting the security industry and insurance industry preferences for reform. However, if it can-
not necessarily be taken as a representative index of what these various constituencies thought across the board, it does index what
many industry leaders and senior government officials were thinking about at the time--and, from the sheer frequency and range
of such reports and sources, these must have constituted a significant current of opinion at the time.


change that fitted admirably with just about everything dear to neo-liberal doctrine, and
thus became part and parcel of a series of reforms that would be carried through against a
resistance that the insurance industry alone was unlikely to have overcome. The emer-
gence of risk-based crime prevention is thus not best seen as an inevitable effect of the rise
of a risk society, any more than was true for the emergence of much earlier and very simi-
lar regime of fire prevention. Instead, it appears as one of a number of neo-liberal imagin-
ings whose transformational implications were none the less significant for being


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Prevention|DS Develop So Late?
SOURCE: The British Journal of Criminology 47 no3 My 2007
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