Risk and protective factors
Table of Contents
When applying to the National Crime Prevention Centre for funding, you will be expected to specify:
- the crime or victimization issue you want to address, and
- the underlying root causes related to this issue that you hope to change with your project.
The following will clarify the meaning of "issue" and "root causes", or "risk and protective factors." It will also help you to identify which factors your project will address. A crime prevention project will fail to create lasting results if it tries to fix the issue only without addressing the factors causing it.
A crime or victimization issue is a crime-related problem that has a negative impact or a perceived negative impact on the safety and well-being of individuals. Examples of issues include:
- Aggression and violence at schools
- Fear of retribution
- Family violence
- Sexual aggression
- Fear of crime
Similarly, negative social issues can also have an impact on the perception of safety and well-being of individual and the community. Examples include suicide and alcohol, drug and substance abuse.
When you look at these types of issues, you could focus on the person doing the harm (i.e., the offender) or you could focus on the person who is hurt (i.e., the victim). An issue is what the problem looks like, who is involved and what you can see.
An issue does not explain why that problem exists (the hidden part of the problem). To look for the root causes, we need to get a better understanding of why the crimes are being committed. Refer to the Root causes map below.
Risk and protective factors help to explain why a problem exists. These factors suggest why certain individuals or groups are more or less likely to become victims of crime or to become involved in crime.
- Risk factors
- These are negative influences in the lives of individuals or a community. These may increase the presence of crime, victimization or fear of crime in a community and may also increase the likelihood that individuals engage in crime or become victims.
- Protective factors
- These are positive influences that can improve the lives of individuals or the safety of a community. These may decrease the likelihood that individuals engage in crime or become victims. Building on existing protective factors makes individuals and communities stronger and better able to counteract risk factors.
You will need to identify only those risk or protective factors that can be addressed and influenced by your project. A single issue can have many risk factors. A single project is only able to tackle a few of them. It's important to focus on one or two – but which ones?
Many factors influence the amount of crime, victimization and fear of crime in a community. Which are the most important factors? These may not be clear. What is clear – and what you do know – is your organization's ability to address certain factors. Some risk or protective factors cannot be changed (like gender or age). However, attitudes toward gender or age can be changed.
To identify the key factors that your project will address, you will want to:
- Consult specialists and research on the issue
- Talk to other people affected by the issue
- Consult your project partners
- Use your own experience and judgement to decide which factors your project will address
There are many possible risk factors. The extent to which they have an influence on crime or victimization will depend on the particular situation. Here are just a few examples:
- Negative attitudes, values or beliefs
- Low self-esteem
- Drug, alcohol or solvent abuse
- Children of parents in conflict with the law
- Presence of neighbourhood crime
- Early and repeated anti-social behaviour
- Lack of positive role models
- Children who witness violence
- Lack of services (social, recreational, cultural, etc)
- Family distress
- Mental or physical illness
- Low literacy
- Leaving institutional/government care (hospital, foster care, correctional facility, etc)
- Family violence
There are many possible protective factors. The extent to which they have an influence on the prevention of crime or victimization will depend on the particular situation. Here are just a few examples:
- Positive attitudes, values or beliefs
- Conflict resolution skills
- Good mental, physical, spiritual and emotional health
- Positive self-esteem
- Success at school
- Good parenting skills
- Parental supervision
- Strong social supports
- Community engagement
- Problem-solving skills
- Positive adult role models, coaches, mentors
- Healthy prenatal and early childhood development
- Participation in traditional healing and cultural activities
- Good peer group/friends
- Steady employment
- Stable housing
- Availability of services (social, recreational, cultural, etc)
If you think about what influences crime and victimization, you'll notice that underlying factors are found at many "levels." Your project activities should focus primarily on one of the following levels:
- Individual level
Focus on factors that can place individuals at risk of becoming involved in crime or becoming victims of crime. The activities encourage significant participation by individuals in all parts of the project. Examples include conflict-resolution classes, skill-building training groups or intergenerational projects where community elders share knowledge and traditions with youth.
- Family/peer level
Focus on enhancing the strength and well being of families or peer groups (such as friends, classmates). The activities may encourage the involvement, support and skill development of parents, especially parents of young, at-risk children or youth. They may also focus on kids of a certain age or in a certain neighbourhood to try to promote positive attitudes and behaviours. Examples of projects include mentoring programs for young fathers and mothers, after-school programs involving parents and teachers in leadership roles, peer mentoring programs in school subjects or social skills, programs that work with families of offenders, etc.
- Community/ school/workplace level
Focus on increasing the ability of schools, workplaces or of your community in general to prevent crime and victimization. These activities involve a wide range of partners (schools, parents, teachers, workplaces, social agencies, etc) to promote community co-operation for crime prevention through social development. Examples include hosting public meetings or workshops on community issues; developing community action plans; public awareness and consensus building; school-based anti-bullying campaigns or the creation of networks and coalitions to address crime and victimization problems.
- Societal level
Focus on increasing the ability of society to promote positive values, laws, rules and customs. These activities place priority on early intervention. Projects can address the portrayal of violence in the media, socio-economic disadvantage, sexism, racism and cultural beliefs and behaviours involving violence. Projects can also seek to increase access to support services by informing policy change recommendations. They may include initiatives that support citizens by building structures and social systems to aid in the development of a supportive, as opposed to a fragmented, society.
Identify consequences of crime problem for:
- Identify Crime Problem
- Answer the following questions:
- What crimes are being committed?
- Who is committing the crimes?
- When and where are the crimes being committed?
- To look for the root causes, we need to get a better understanding of why the crimes are being committed. To do this, begin by examining the risk and protective factors at the:
- Community and
- Societal levels
These are the root causes of the crime problem.
- Develop responses to the following:
- What is already being done?
- What needs to be done?
- Who needs to be involved? and
- What strategy is needed to impact on the crime problem and create sustained change?
- How will the strategy impact the crime?
- Strategies must show partnerships
- Address more than one root cause
- Create change
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