Burglary reduction and the myth of displacement


Burglary remains a significant crime problem across Australia. While the Australian Institute of Criminology is keen to encourage burglary reduction initiatives, it often encounters the view that targeted operations simply displace crime to another area. This perception of total crime displacement is common, but has no strong evidential basis. While some studies have measured a modest degree of displacement in some types of crime, they are rarely significant in relation to the benefits accrued from a successful crime reduction campaign.

This paper reviews the existing body of knowledge about spatial displacement in regard to burglary initiatives. It examines the results of a study undertaken to explore the displacement impact of Operation Anchorage, a burglary reduction initiative undertaken by the Australian Federal Police(AFP) in Canberra in 2001. An unusual aspect of the operation was the flexibility accorded to operational commanders; this paper describes a methodology for assessing displacement under these circumstances.

The results indicate that no significant spatial displacement took place during the first weeks of Operation Anchorage, yet the AFP was able to reduce burglary by a considerable amount. The implications for broader policy are that crime reduction initiatives can be successful without merely moving crime into another place, and that additional diffusion of crime prevention benefits can add value to a carefully considered crime reduction campaign.

This paper is taken from the report of research undertaken with the assistance of a grant from the Criminology Research Council.