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Praise for
The Prevention of Crime

The Prevention of Crime is scholarly, comprehensive, and accessible—three essential criteria for making a text ideal for classroom use. But two insights, integrated across its pages, allow this volume to provide a special learning experience. First, it shows that crime can be prevented in diverse ways, whether across the life course or across social contexts. And second, it shows that evidence matters, playing a crucial role in telling us which interventions are most likely to save offenders from a life in crime and to make communities safer.

Francis T. Cullen, University of Cincinnati

This is the first text on evidence‐based crime prevention that provides a comprehensive overview of how to identify effective programs, what they offer, what is required to implement them, and their current utilization. Both authors played leading roles in identifying and promoting evidence‐based programs, and in making them more accessible to public officials and practitioners.

Peter Greenwood, Association for the Advancement of Evidence‐Based Practice

The Prevention of Crime is an indispensable resource for prevention researchers, instructors, and students. This tour de force combines in one source up‐to‐date research on all aspects relevant to the prevention of crime. It provides definitions of crime and prevention, relates the history of crime prevention, summarizes theories about the causes of crime and research on the causes and consequences of crime, and discusses crime measurement and standards for intervention research. It provides a comprehensive framework for thinking about different prevention approaches and summarizes what is known about each approach generally as well as about specific examples of policies and practices within each approach. It discusses challenges to translating research on effective programs into usual practice. This book is a valuable reference for prevention researchers and will quickly become the main text used for teaching about prevention.

Denise C. Gottfredson, University of Maryland

The Prevention of Crime



Delbert Elliott and Abigail Fagan












Our aim with this text is to present a fresh, up to date, comprehensive, and first‐hand account of what is currently known about crime prevention. The content includes the theoretical foundation of crime prevention, new strategies and methods for evaluating the effectiveness of prevention programs, the identification of interventions that have been proven to work, and issues involved in getting these programs adopted and well implemented on a national or state‐wide scale. As you may or may not know prior to reading this book, there are also programs that have been proven ineffective and in some cases even harmful. We will identify these interventions as well. It is as critical to know what does not work as what does work, especially since most interventions used in the past were ineffective, and even today, interventions shown to increase crime are being used.

An updated approach to crime prevention is needed because in the past decade, there has been a paradigm shift in theoretical thinking about the causes of crime. This shift in thinking about the causes of crime has led to new research findings and new approaches to the design, evaluation, and implementation of crime prevention and rehabilitation programs. It also involves the emergence of the life course developmental paradigm which views crime as a response to social, emotional, and physical barriers to a positive course of child and adolescent development. A new field of prevention science based on the public health approach to prevention and involving a new classification of types of prevention programs has also emerged. In addition, we now have improved measures of criminal behavior based upon the National Research Council’s (1986) study of criminal careers that improve our understanding about different dimensions of involvement in criminal activity. These are relatively recent developments which have reshaped criminological thinking about crime prevention, and we draw from these advances with the goal of stimulating your interest in prevention science and providing you with scientifically proven methods for significantly reducing rates of criminal behavior.

We are now in what has been called “the golden age” of evidence‐based interventions. Evidence‐based interventions are prevention programs, practices, and policies that have been proven effective in experimental evaluations, primarily in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) like those used to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of new medical drugs. National task forces have been created to review the scientific standards that should be used to certify interventions as evidence‐based, and many federal justice, health, and human service agencies, as well as a number of related professional organizations, have established registries with lists of interventions shown to be evidence‐based in order to promote their increased use. In the United States, federal legislation has funded large‐scale initiatives to increase the dissemination of specific evidence‐based programs, including those that claim to prevent delinquency, like the $1.5 billion initiative (2010–2014) funding evidence‐based home visitation programs and a $109 million (FY 2014) initiative for evidence‐based teen pregnancy prevention programs. Recent legislation (in 2016) has established a federal bipartisan Commission on Evidence‐Based Policymaking. And there is now strong public and private support for RCT evaluations as the preferred standard for certifying evidence‐based interventions. All of these developments will be described in this book with particular attention to their significance for the prevention of crime.

We have chosen to write this book because we have been on the front lines of current research on crime prevention. Dr Elliott’s research includes directing one of the few national longitudinal studies of crime, substance use, and mental health problems. The National Youth Survey involved a representative panel of American youth followed into their middle adult years, allowing identification of the major risk factors and barriers to a successful course of child and adolescent development that predicted later involvement in criminal behavior. Dr Elliott also directs one of the current evidence‐based registries of effective prevention programs, Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development, a Consumers Reports type initiative which reviews all the evidence for a program’s effectiveness and certifies those programs proven to work. Both authors have conducted many evaluations of delinquency, drug and crime prevention programs, including RCTs of individual programs and evaluations of community‐based systems and national crime prevention initiatives designed to increase the dissemination of evidence‐based initiatives. Dr Fagan has provided one‐on‐one training and consultation to numerous schools, community coalitions, and other groups to improve the implementation of evidence‐based interventions. We are intimately aware of the issues surrounding the identification of evidence‐based crime prevention programs, practices, and policies, and why so few of these interventions are being well implemented in communities and at a scale necessary to have some impact on national rates of crime. We believe this text represents the cutting edge of knowledge about crime prevention and provides insight into what is known about crime prevention, what is controversial, and the direction of future work on the prevention of crime.

Finally, we have tried to present this information in an engaging, forthright manner. If you find it boring, we will have failed. We think that understanding why persons come to engage in criminal behavior and how we can intervene to prevent this type of behavior are among the most exciting tasks we can engage in as scientists and practitioners of crime prevention. These topics should not be boring. They are complex and will require some study and diligence on your part, but if the information you learn in this textbook leads to a deeper understanding and/or to a career in some aspect of crime prevention, we will have realized our goal. In any event, we thank you for reading the text and welcome your comments and suggestions.

Delbert Elliott and Abigail Fagan
August 2016


This book discusses findings generated by passionate, dedicated, and forward‐thinking scientists too numerous to count. We want to offer a general acknowledgment of all those working to increase our understanding of how to effectively prevent crime. Without your insights, we could not have written this textbook.

More personally, Del’s acknowledgment’s are as follows: I would like to acknowledge Dr Clarence Schrag, the person who introduced me to the study of criminal behavior in graduate school, made this an exciting field of inquiry, and supported and encouraged me during my early research career in criminology. When invited to write this text, the first person I thought of as a co‐author was Dr Abby Fagan, a brilliant young criminologist I had the pleasure of mentoring in graduate school. Abby’s early career also involved working with me on the Blueprints for Violence Prevention initiative, a kind of Consumer’s Report website identifying crime prevention programs that have been proven to work. So it was only natural we should co‐author this text. My career in criminology now spans over 55 years and no one has been more supportive and encouraging over these many years than my wife, Mary Grace Elliott.

Abby’s acknowledgments are as follows: I would like to acknowledge my appreciation for the opportunity to collaborate on this book with Dr Del Elliott, my first mentor in the field of crime prevention. Del has had a tremendous impact on my knowledge and attitudes regarding the causes and prevention of youth delinquency. Similarly, my understanding of community‐based crime prevention could not have been gained without the mentoring of Drs David Hawkins and Richard Catalano at the University of Washington. I am honored to follow in the footsteps of these three prevention giants! I would also like to acknowledge and thank the undergraduate and graduate students who assisted me in conducting literature review searches, proofreading chapters, and preparing materials for the book: Molly Buchanan, Andrea Lindsey, Stephanie Mintz, Danielle Rapapport, Mary Ann Thursh, and Kathryn Zambrana.

About the Companion Website

Don’t forget to visit the companion website for this book:

There you will find valuable material designed to enhance your learning, including:

Section I
Introduction to Crime Prevention