CRIME FREE by Michael Castleman


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Spottily useful suggestions on reducing crime by a veteran self-help writer and community organizer who, not surprisingly, stresses self-help and community organization. Castleman emphasizes ""secondary"" crime prevention--enhancing citizens' chances of deterring impulsive, opportunistic crime--rather than attacking the social causes of crime (primary prevention, and difficult) or imposing longer prison sentences on criminals (tertiary prevention, and ineffective). Most criminals pick the target, not the take, and engage in very little planning. Thus, in some cases at least, very simple countermeasures can and do work: the 7-Eleven store chain lowered robberies dramatically by placing cash registers up front, behind well-lighted, unobstructed windows (what hoodlum wants to be ""on stage"" while pulling a holdup?), and installing time-access safes (who wants to wait five long minutes for the money to come out?). Simple, ""target-hardening"" measures can help reduce the chances of home burglary, and Castleman offers solid advice on improving the security of doors (where 80 percent of burglars come in) and of windows, the discussion of locks is particularly good. Target-hardening against street assault involves, well, just waking up. Convicted muggers say their prime targets are ""people who look like they're in a fog""--so keep your wits about you, stride purposefully, and trust your intuition about passing strangers (""better a little jumpy than jumped""). Castleman profiles Detroit's Crary/St. Mary's block-group program as a successful example of community anti-crime organization (""the police help those who help themselves""), and offers some pointers for other communities: keep it small, be patient, make friends in the process, use the media, do victimization surveys and crime maps so you know where the problems really are. All of this, however, is padded out with Castleman's off-the-mark discussions of crime victim recovery, domestic violence, and the ""minimal"" impact of gun control on crime. Good on ""opportunity control"" strategies; otherwise, of limited value.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1984
Publisher: Simon & Schuster