Kevin Bacon and Crime Prevention

The Kevin Bacon ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ theory proposes that, based on his or her film role, anyone in the industry can be connected to Kevin Bacon within six degrees or less. I’d argue that the same is true for the standard concept of crime prevention. That is to say, any activity, within six degrees or less, may conceivably be connected to preventing crime.

Let’s use crumbling sidewalks as an example.

  1. If you mend sidewalks in need of repair, there will be fewer obstacles.
  2. If there are fewer obstacles, one is less likely to trip and fall.
  3. If we reduce preventable falls, we’ll reduce frustration.
  4. If we reduce frustration, we’ll reduce tension at home.
  5. With less tension at home, the likelihood of disputes is reduced.
  6. By mending sidewalks, we are reducing violence.

I’m exaggerating. But you get the point.

In my opinion, this conventional concept of ‘crime prevention’ is almost too broad. It often gives licensing to do well-meaning, but ill-informed, work.

It’s this thinking that has caused the Neighbourhood Empowerment Teams (N.E.T.) to revisit who we are and what role we play in Edmonton neighbourhoods. Although it can be a difficult conversation, it’s an extremely critical one to have.

Much of this exercise has been about tightening up the program to make our work more strategic and intentional. I like to think of it as a homecoming – a return to our program’s fundamentals.

What we’ve arrived at is this: We’re really good at reducing residential break and enters, theft from vehicles, theft of vehicles, and assaults. Along 118 Avenue, for instance, residential break and enters have dropped 50% since we arrived in 2009. During our time in Bonnie Doon, residential break and enters were down 45%. Now, we can’t attribute this solely to our efforts, but we’re confident that we’ve been a major player.

The second issue we took on is program creation. At times, programs are a reasonable solution, but they are not the only solution. Sometimes, when approached top-down, they can even do harm. For the purposes of our work, education trumps programs. Programs to deal with crime come and go, but the transference of skills around navigating the system, and knowing what levers to pull when faced with an issue – that’s sustainable.

We’ve also taken on a ‘model of practice’ that helps guide our work: the SARA model. It’s a policing model that has been around for some time, but its usefulness is far reaching. It’s an acronym for Scan, Analyze, Respond, and Assess. It encourages work focused on strong indicators, good analysis, and reflection. This is how we weed out the aforementioned sidewalk mending approach to the work.

In essence, what we’ve arrived at is a clean and more honest version of ourselves, a model that focuses on the fundamentals as the primary responsibility.

If you have one of our N.E. Teams in your neighbourhood, you’ll hopefully now know what to expect, or at least have a deeper understanding. Our teams are still focused on crime prevention and reduction; we’re just a leaner, more focused version of ourselves.

For more information, please visit Neighbourhood Empowerment Teams (N.E.T.).

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About the Author
Kris Andreychuk
Kris Andreychuk is a social worker with the City of Edmonton and a supervisor with the Neighbourhood Empowerment Team. These teams have played an integral role in community policing and crime prevention in Edmonton for the past 8 years and are the result of a four way partnership with the City, EPS, The Family Centre and the United Way.
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