Engaging with deviant communities to prevent crime

The crime prevention program outlined below was implemented in a high burglary crime suburb of Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (ACT). It reduced burglary crime by 42%. This is how it was done.


The methodology outlined in the article ‘Using Ethnography to Identify Deviant Behaviors, for the Development of Crime Prevention Interventions’, describes a program that was utilised in a high crime suburb of Canberra, Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The program was conducted between July 2018 and January 2020 inclusive. The program reduced burglary crime by 42%, compared to the comparison pre-intervention period. The program also compared favorably in the relationship between control and treatment areas.

This methodology is primarily focused on developing an understanding of the beliefs and behaviours of deviant communities and the individuals within them. Once identified, it is possible to develop and implement crime prevention interventions designed to guide individual members along alternative non-deviant pathways prior to actuation of a crime.


Initially, a review of the operational area was made to determine the scope of the desired operation. In this case it was identified that the Canberra suburb of Kambah, had one of the highest burglary crime rates in the ACT. It was decided that by implementing this program methodology it might be possible to reduce the incidence of burglary crime. Kambah West was chosen as the treatment area, and Kambah East as the control area. The interventions would be applied during a nineteen-month intervention period.

The steps to undertake the process were:

 Literature Review

A literature review was conducted to determine what information was available regarding the type of crime and criminals that inhabited the treatment area.

Information of interest included the crime rates of the area, past crime trends, burglary crime locations, geographical and demographical considerations, media reports that described past incidences of burglary crime, and the identification of several deviant communities.

 Field Observation

This step involved the observation and engagement with deviant communities. By employing the academic discipline of Ethnography, it was possible to observe and engage with deviant communities.

 In the Kambah case, it was possible to identify various deviant communities (gangs), and several subgroups that specialized in committing burglary. In addition, it was possible to determine the deviants’ reasoning for committing burglary crime, and the reasoning behind their burglary methodology. Finally, it was possible to determine how the subgroups conducted their intelligence gathering of their intended targets, the planning that was undertaken, and the preparations that were made prior to actualising burglary on their intended target.

 Intervention development and implemented

 Based on the identified beliefs and behaviours of the different deviant subgroups, it was possible to develop several interventions. The aim of the interventions was to guide deviants along non-deviant pathways, and away from committing burglary crime. That is, the interventions targeted the process that the deviants were following, rather than specifically implementing a method to prevent entry to a target eg locks on doors.

 The interventions included:

 Active Management

This involved the continual oversight of the interventions, as well as the continual engagement with the deviant communities.

 Peer and sibling influence

This intervention involved the engagement with a network of peers and elder siblings of the burglary deviants. The aim being to provide a form of influence over the identified burglary deviants, that informed them of alternative pathways to follow as opposed to burglary crime.

 Neighbourhood Watch

Given that this operation was conducted within a residential area it was determined that a community group that lived within that area would be ideal to deliver the interventions. Using meetings and newsletters delivered to residents within the treatment area, it was possible to provide residents with methods that could be used to influence deviants in the process of planning, preparing and gathering intelligence on a specific target. This in turn would cause the deviants to abort their activities prior to a burglary being committed.


 Several methods were utilised to determine the effectiveness of the interventions. These included conversations with former and active burglars, information provided by community residents and local business owners. The acquired information indicated that numerous deviants were influenced by the varying interventions.

 Also, statistical evidence provided by ACT Policing indicated that the incidence of burglary crime within the treatment area reduced by 42%. This was in comparison to the nineteen-month pre-intervention phase.

 Finally, an extensive review indicated that it was highly unlikely that there were other reasons for the dramatic reduction in burglary crime.


By using this methodology, it was possible to dramatically reduce burglary crime by 42% within the treatment area. Also, it shows that it is possible to divert deviants along non-deviant pathways rather than through the judicial system.

 In addition, if this methodology was to be combined with specific Development Crime Prevention measures, Crime Prevention through Environmental Design applications, and Situational Crime Prevention measures, even greater prevention of crime could be achieved.

Should you wish to review the original article please follow this link to the Journal of Applied Security Research:


Should you wish to discuss this methodology’s academic foundations, or practical application measure, please contact the author, David Harding of Anshin Consulting, via LinkedIn.

David Harding
David Harding’s experience is gained from more than 30 years within the protective security field, including serving in the Australian Army’s Special Air Service (SASR) and the Australian Federal Police’s Air Security Officer (Air Marshal) program. David is currently the Managing Director of Anshin Consulting, a Threat Management and Security consultancy that focuses on Threat Management, security, specialised training, research and advisory services. In this capacity, David has protected several of the world’s richest and influential businesspersons and conducted private investigations and security operations spanning four continents. David has advised leading businesspersons, diplomats and Ambassadors on non-state threat actors, insurgents and terrorists. David is an international lecturer and trainer, and his articles and novel not only entertain, but have within them deeper meanings for security and counter-terrorism development. David has a Masters of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism from Macquarie University in Sydney Australia. David is a research associate at the Australian Security Research Centre, a Registered Security Professional (Aust.), and has been a NSW Police SLED approved Certificate III trainer. Most recently David developed and implemented a crime prevention policy for one of Canberra’s, ACT high crime areas. This program, implemented through Neighbourhood Watch reduced burglary crime by 42%. Anshin Consulting: https://anshinconsulting.com/