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Prólogo de Mario Arroyo

Mario Arroyo One of the biggest challenges that governments, businesses and citizens alike are facing today on a worldwide scale is the triple threat of common crime, organized crime and cyber-crime. This situation provides new challenges and opportunities for organizations seeking solutions to prevent, investigate and punish both known and emerging criminal activities. In contemporary thought, several security paradigms have been put forward over the years, in close connection with the notion of crime prevention. In recent decades we have heard of such concepts as public security, citizen security and human security. In general terms, and to provide a clearer notion of the breadth and meaning of these concepts and of their relevance for crime prevention, we shall make a brief description of them.

Public security, according to the International Report on Crime Prevention and Everyday Security: Tendencies and Perspectives1, is a term no longer in use. Few countries still use it, and its discredit is a result of two basic factors: a) the authoritarian use of the State's instruments of legitimate coercion against its own citizens, as was the case during the 20th century in several countries under dictatorships, which used the notion of public security as a synonym for internal security, employing the police or the military to torture or disappear political opponents to the regime; b) even if the State's security apparatus is not used openly and in a generalized fashion against its citizens, it is clear that governments that adopt or uphold the notion of public security still posit stability or social order as the highest value; thus they prevent or prosecute criminal deeds giving priority to institutional objectives, while casting aside the protection of individual interests, going as far as neglecting or abusing fundamental rights.

Citizen security. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), this term refers to "the social situation in which every person is able to freely enjoy their fundamental rights, while at the same time public institutions are sufficently able, within the rule of law, to guarantee their exercise and to respond effectively whenever they are abused (…) in this way, the citizens themselves are the main object of protection by the State"2. Some of the fundamental rights protected by citizen security are: the right to life; the right to physical integrity; the right to freedom; the right to due process of law; and the right to peaceful employment of possessions3.

Human security, according to the human development paradigm, is one of the pillars, alongside equity, sustainability, growth and participation, representing a planified development strategy, an effective combination allowing the verification of the level of life security achieved by people within a society, and the assessment of its possibilities and challenges, in order to move closer to the goal of full and sustainable development. This notion was first used in the World Report on Human Development in 1994. What matters here in terms of security is not that states and societies focus on guaranteeing conditions for peace, vis-à-vis an external threat, but that they guarantee the minimal conditions for people to be and feel secure within their own societies. Human security entails two basic dimensions: a) protection against chronic threats such as hunger, disease and repression, and b) protection against sudden and harmful interruptions of the patterns of everyday life, be it at home, at work or in the community4.

Now then, how do these definitions relate to the issue of crime prevention? In terms of security and particularly on the issue of prevention, the first decade of the 21st century saw a growing consensus regarding the need for a multidisciplinary approach to designing public policies. In its annual report for 2010, the International Center for Crime Prevention justly pointed out that "The goal of public policies of prevention is to improve citizen coexistence and the quality of everyday life, beyond a mere decrease in criminal activities. The definition of crime prevention has been progressively constructed, as reflected in various United Nations resolutions, and in practices and policies implemented around the world. The stress has been placed not only on criminal behavior and the means to reduce it, but on the means to maintain and strengthen social cohesion, building upon each community's ability to act and foster a high-quality collective life"5. In this sense, the United Nations Directives for crime prevention6 distinguish four types of prevention:

1)Prevention through social development, or social prevention of crime.
According to the United Nations Directives, "They foster the welfare of the people, as well as a favorable behavior towards society through the application of social, economic, health and education measures, with special emphasis on children and young people, while focusing attention on risk and protection factors associated with criminal activities and victimization". This includes social, educational, health and formative programs geared at children;

2) Prevention on a local level, or community prevention.
Instead of being aimed at individuals, it is addressed to areas where the risk of falling into criminal activities or being a victim of criminal activities is high. This includes areas with high levels of scarcitiy, both in terms of infrastructure, services and material goods, and of a lack of community cohesion. The goals of these programs are to raise the sense of security and protection among the members of certain communities; to respond to anxieties and local criminality issues affecting the population; and to increase services, as well as social capital or cohesion within the community;

3) Situational crime prevention.
It includes approaches aiming at reducing the opportunities to commit crimes, increasing the risks and costs of being apprehended, and minimizing the benefits for the criminal. Techniques associated with this type of prevention are applied in very specific ways to particular kinds of crime; they asume the perpretator to be a rational being who calculates the risks and benefits involved in each criminal act, in order to make a decision when it comes to choosing victims and targets. According to the United Nations Directives, this type of prevention helps "prevent crimes by reducing the opportunities to commit them, increasing the risk of being apprehended, and reducing to a minimum any potential benefits, even through such means as environmental design, while providing assistance and information to actual and potential victims";

4) Relapse prevention, or crime prevention through social reinsertion.
This refers to all programs aimed at children, young people or adults who are already involved in the criminal justice system, including detainees and those rejoining the community. According to the United Nations Directives for crime prevention, it is important "to prevent relapses by providing assistance for the social reintegration of criminals, as well as through other prevention mechanisms". People condemned for a crime run a higher risk of relapsing, since they have already broken the law, they have few opportunities and abilities to lead a legitimate lifestyle, and it is possible that they have strong bonds with other criminals and with the criminal way of life. Prison programs can help prepare them for their release, providing them with new working skills, for instance, or increasing their education level and social skills, such as the ability to mediate in conflictive situations, while resorting to other restorative justice approaches as well.

In addition to the strategies and methodologies suggested on a global scale, it is necessary to establish a common agenda between authorities, citizens and organizations, to establish priorities and continue to carry out actions aimed at resolving specific and local problems. Never forgetting that a social justice problem cannot be solved only through penal sanctions, and that all actions carried out must be real and not just rhetorical, because once the mechanisms of social control lose efficacy and legitimacy, there arises the possibility of social dissolution, of falling into a state of anomie. Avoiding this scenario greatly depends on having each one of the agents involved pledge their willingness, committment and resources to work together in a coordinated and institutional way, to improve security conditions. What is clear, after a historical overview and an analysis of the various theoretical and practical approaches developped thus far, first to understand crime and then to try to "prevent" or "reduce" it, is that these issues will continue to be a reference point in all security debates. The ideal, ultimate goal is that prevention policies are no longer restricted to reducing criminality and victimization rates, but that they aim instead at improving citizen coexistence and the quality of life of every person.

As ASIS International's Crime Prevention Council states, traditional prevention systems are not enough to solve the problem of insecurity. It is necessary to strengthen a culture of prevention. We are certain that reading this Security Manual and applying its lessons will contribute to furthering these aims.

Mario Arroyo Juárez



Is an expert on national security, terrorism and crime prevention. He is an ASIS International member, advisor and trainer for governmental and private organizations. He holds a MSc degree in Criminal Justice Policy for the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and a PhD. in Sociology for the National Autonomus University of Mexico (UNAM). Currently he is Executive Director of Human Security SC.

>> Read the Spanish version

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1 Centro Internacional para la prevención de la criminalidad (CIPC). Informe Internacional sobre Prevención de la Criminalidad y la Seguridad Cotidiana, Montreal 2010. (International Center for Crime Prevention. International Report on Crime Prevention and Everyday Security. Montreal, 2010)
2 Programa de Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo (PNUD). Informe sobre desarrollo humano. Nueva York: Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo, 1994 (United Nations' Development Program. World Report on Human Development. New York, 1994)
3 Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. Informe sobre Seguridad Ciudadana y Derechos Humanos (CIDH). Washington, DC: Organización de los Estados Americanos, 2009, p.7. (Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Report on Citizen Security and Human Rights. Washington, 2009).
4 PNUD, Op. Cit.
5 CIPC, Op. Cit.
6 Ibidem.

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