Glossary of Key Terms in Crime Prevention

The Glossary of Key Terms in Crime Prevention contains definitions to help understand general and technical terms used in crime prevention. The definitions are taken from a wide range of government and non-government sources.

The main purpose of this glossary is to provide practitioners with a practical reference tool, while promoting common use of language and understanding of crime prevention approaches and strategies. As a reference tool, this glossary contains many terms specific to prevention as well as other terms pertaining to project development and management.

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Aboriginal People in Canada
Persons who reported identifying with at least one Aboriginal group, that is, North American Indian, Métis or Inuit, and/or those who reported being a Treaty Indian or a Registered Indian, as defined by the Indian Act of Canada, and/or those who reported they were members of an Indian band or First Nation (Statistics Canada, 2008).
First Nations
Also known as Indians. The First Nations is a group made up of 633 First Nations Bands, representing 52 nations or cultural groups, and more than 50 languages. The First Nations is one of three distinct cultural groups that are described in very general terms as aboriginal, native or indigenous.
Today, the term is used broadly to describe people with mixed First Nations and European ancestry who identify themselves as Métis, distinct from Indian people, Inuit, or non-Aboriginal people (Métis National Council, 2007).
An Aboriginal people in Northern Canada, who live in Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Northern Quebec and Northern Labrador. The word means "people" in the Inuit language - Inuktitut. The singular of Inuit is Inuk.
Actions taken or work performed through which inputs, such as funds, technical assistance and other types of resources are mobilized to produce specific outputs (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2002). (See also: Inputs, Outputs and Outcomes)
Antisocial behaviour (ASB)
Behaviour that transgresses the accepted morals and norms of behaviour of a given society without being necessarily criminal. For example, the UK has included nuisance neighbours; rowdy and nuisance behaviour; intimidating groups taking over public spaces; vandalism and graffiti; people dealing and buying drugs on the street; people dumping rubbish and abandoning cars; begging and anti-social drinking; as being antisocial (Home Office, 2004).
At-risk populations
Individuals who are exposed to multiple risk factors that increase the likelihood that those individuals will commit delinquent or criminal acts (Wilson, 2000). Other definitions of risk include the higher probability of having negative developmental outcomes, difficulties in social adaptation, academic success, and mental health (Trudel and Puentes-Neuman, 2001).


Balance sheet
A concise statement of financial assets, liabilities, and equity at a particular point in time, usually at the end of the fiscal year (Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, 2002). (See also: Cash flow statement and Financial statements)

Base-line study
An analysis describing the situation prior to an intervention, against which progress can be assessed or comparisons made (Adapted from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2002).

Usually refers to school-based behaviour. Bullying is characterized by acts of intentional harm, repeated over-time, in a relationship where an imbalance of power exists. It includes physical actions (punching, kicking, biting), verbal actions (threats, name calling, insults, racial or sexual comments), and social exclusion (spreading rumours, ignoring, gossiping, excluding) (National Crime Prevention Centre, 2008).


Capacity building
The process by which individuals, organizations, institutions and societies develop abilities (individually and collectively) to perform functions, solve problems as well as set and achieve objectives. It is an approach that builds independence by increasing competencies (Institute on Governance, 2001).

Cash flow statement
A financial statement that records the cash flow of a project or financial entity. Synonymous with sources-and-uses-of-funds statement (Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, 2002).

Closed circuit television (CCTV)
A form of situational crime prevention. Consists of cameras that are set up to collect images. These images are transferred to a monitor where they are saved and later watched and reviewed. CCTVs assist police and other law enforcement in responding to and gathering information about incidents (Gill and Spriggs, 2005).

Community engagement
Involving the community in the definition, scoping, measuring, and intervention on any given project.

Comprehensive approach
A response framework composed of three main components: prevention, early intervention, and graduated sanctions. The graduated sanctions component consists of a system of sanctions, including arrest, adjudication, intensive probation, incarceration, and aftercare for juvenile offenders, along with a continuum of rehabilitation options (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2000).

"A transfer payment subject to performance conditions specified in a funding agreement. A contribution is to be accounted for and is subject to audit" (Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, 2009).

Core funding
Monies necessary to maintain essential organizational capacities such as long-term programs, staffing positions (salary and benefits), and administrative expenses (Statistics Canada, 2004).

Any act punishable under the Criminal Code whether or not it has come to the attention of the police.

Crime prevention
Strategies and measures that seek to intervene on and modify identified risk factors in order to reduce the likelihood that a criminal act will be committed. (Bratingham, Patricia et al., 2005):

Primary crime prevention
Programs designed for the general population that address broad-based socio-economic factors believed to be related to increased likelihood of later offending. For example, early child care, income distribution programs, and employment support programs.

Secondary crime prevention
Programs or interventions designed to address the risk factors related to pathways to offending among children and youth, or to address situations that may enhance crime in neighbourhoods.

Tertiary crime prevention
Directed towards the prevention of criminal re-occurrence. This includes measures such as physical modification of repeatedly victimized buildings, offender rehabilitation programs, etc.

Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED)
An approach to planning and development that reduces opportunities for crime by applying design principles that make it difficult for crimes to be committed. Examples include increasing surveillance to maximize the ability to spot suspicious individuals, ensuring that the buildings in the area are clean and free of graffiti, target hardening by increasing physical barriers and security devices, and by increasing the territoriality by fostering the resident's control over the neighbourhood (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 1998).

CPTED can reduce crime and fear through:

  • Territoriality - fostering residents' interaction, vigilance, and control over their neighbourhood.
  • Surveillance - maximizing the ability to spot suspicious people and activities.
  • Activity support - encouraging the intended use of public space by residents.
  • Hierarchy of space - identifying ownership by delineating private space from public space through real or symbolic boundaries.
  • Access Control/Target Hardening - using physical barriers, security devices and tamper-resistant materials to restrict entrance.
  • Environment - a design or location decision that takes into account the surrounding environment and minimizes the use of space by conflicting groups.
  • Image/Maintenance - ensuring that the buildings in the area are clean, well maintained, and graffiti-free.

(See also: Situational Crime Prevention)

An individual's propensity to offend. Criminality as a concept is (1) the systematic, causal component of crime; (2) driven by social, biological, and psychological factors; and (3) time varying (Bushway et al., 2001).


Delinquent youth
A person between the ages of 6 and 24 who has engaged in one or more types of the behaviours set out in the Criminal Code of Canada (Savoie, 2006). Youth over the age of 12 who engage in behaviours listed in the Criminal Code of Canada can be charged under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA). Youth aged 18 years and older will be charged in adult court.

Deviant behaviour
Deviant behaviour involves actions that contravene informal rules or norms, but not necessarily criminal laws. For example, truancy is not listed within the Criminal Code, but is deviant because it contravenes norms. (Mucchielli, L. 2000).

Any substance which is taken to change the way the body and/or mind functions (Health Canada, 2007).


Evaluability assessment
An evaluability assessment is done to determine whether a project is ready for a formal evaluation. It can suggest which evaluation approaches or methods would best suit the project (National Crime Prevention Centre, 2006).

The systematic and objective assessment of an on-going or completed project, program or policy, its design, implementation and results. There are two types of evaluation of significant importance to the NCPC: process and impact.

Process evaluation
This type of evaluation is concerned with how the program is delivered and provides information on identifying and solving implementation problems and assessing progress towards achieving the project's expected results. In general, process evaluation focus on two areas: coverage and process. Coverage relate to the characteristics of the program clientele as well as to the 'dosage' or the intensity of a program intervention on the particular clientele. More particularly, it identifies what was done (types of interventions), by whom (i.e., characteristics of the professionals, staff of the organization or partner agencies, etc.), with whom (the recipients of the interventions, i.e., parents, children, age, gender, etc.), in what circumstances (i.e., time of day, frequency, duration, etc.). Process relates on the other hand to the path of the clientele that entered into the program, the length of stay and what actually happened vs what was planned. (World Health Organization, 2000).

Impact evaluation
Impact evaluation assesses the changes in the well-being of individuals that can be attributed to a particular intervention, such as a project, program or policy (World Bank, n.d.). For instance, it examines the extent to which the intervention successfully modified the risk factors and the behaviour of the individuals targeted. It also seeks to determine how well these effects are maintained over time.(See also: Outcome)

Evidence-based crime prevention (EBCP)
Uses the highest level of evidence available to consider the decision of whether to implement a program designed to prevent crime. This requires that results from evaluation be integrated into decisions about interventions. Additionally, one must use the most rigorous methods available to assess the available research evidence and must use the highest quality evaluation designs to investigate the effects of crime prevention programs. The evidence used in EBCP must be scientific evidence, meaning the program has been scientifically tested and demonstrated to work in several social and cultural contexts. (Welsh B., 2007).


Family at-risk
See: Vulnerable family

Financial statements
The medium by which a company discloses information concerning its financial performance. The balance sheet, the income statement and the cash flow statement make up an organization's financial statements. (See also: Balance sheet and Cash flow statement)

Funding agreement
"A written agreement or documentation constituting a binding agreement between the Government of Canada and an applicant or a recipient with respect to one or more transfer payments" (Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, 2001).


The process of matching crime incidents with particular addresses (usually postal codes) in order to create maps of the geographical distributions of crime (Savoie and Bédard, 2006).

A broad, high-level statement of a desired outcome, in general terms, to be achieved over an unspecified period of time. A goal should reflect an organization's "Mission" (Justice Canada, 2006). (See also: Mission)

The process whereby societies or organizations make important decisions, determine whom they involve and how they render account (Plumptre, n.d.).

"A transfer payment subject to pre-established eligibility and other entitlement criteria. A grant is not subject to being accounted for by a recipient nor normally subject to audit by the department. The recipient may be required to report on results achieved" (Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, 2001).


High-risk offenders
"Offenders who have committed serious offence and who are under federal and provincial responsibility which there is a reason to believe they could commit another offence, including sexual assault". Also, "offenders who are at high risk of re-offending at the time of their bail" (Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, 2008).


Positive and negative, primary and secondary long-term effects produced by an intervention, directly or indirectly, intended or unintended (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2002). (See also: Outcome)

Incidence (of crime)
The number of criminal acts within a given-sized population used as a measure of the volume of crime. For instance, the number of violent criminal acts per 1,000 people.

Quantitative or qualitative factor or variable that provides a simple and reliable means to measure achievement, to reflect the changes connected to an intervention, and to help assess the performance of an intervention (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2002). (See also: Outcome indicator and Process indicator)

Innovative program
Program intended to explore new interventions with at-risk populations. Unlike model or promising programs, they are not rooted in the existing evidence base in crime prevention. The innovative program may, for example, come from another field such as health, mental health or education, and the purpose of the project is to adapt and test the approach as a crime prevention measure. The project proposal for the implementation of an innovative program should provide a plausible rationale that links the proposed intervention to the desired outcomes (reductions in offending and positive changes in risk and protective factors). (National Crime Prevention Centre, 2008). (See also: Model Program and Promising Program)

Inputs refer to the resources invested in the delivery of a program or project. Sample inputs include funding, human resources (both paid and volunteer), equipment, project materials, transportation costs, client related factors, services, etc. (National Crime Prevention Centre, 2006).

Integrated approach
Recognition that delivery of crime prevention interventions (a) generally requires involvement of more than one agency such as schools, social services, community police, etc. and (b) need to form part of the continuum of response to crime (Public Safety Canada, 2009).




Logic model:
Management tool used to improve the design and evaluation of interventions, most often at the project level. It involves identifying strategic elements (inputs, outputs, outcomes, impact) and their causal relationships, indicators, and the assumptions or risks that may influence success and failure. It facilitates planning, execution and evaluation of an intervention (Adapted from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2002).


A statement identifying an organization's business, purpose and reason for existence - critical areas within which goals, objectives and standards should be set (Justice Canada, 2006).

Model program
Program that meets the highest standards for effectiveness as evidenced in published evaluations including in peer-reviewed journals. These programs have been demonstrated to produce significant, sustained prevention or reduction in problem behaviour (anti-social/criminal), or the reduction of risk factors, or the enhancement of protective factors related to this behaviour. Furthermore, model programs have been shown to maintain their effectiveness over time and have been replicated in different community settings. They have been designated as model programs by organizations that gather and assess the scientific evidence on crime prevention programs, including Blueprints for Violence Prevention, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).(Mihalic S. et al., 2002). (See also: Promising Program and Innovative Program)

A continuing function that uses systematic collection of data on specified indicators to provide management and the main stakeholders of an ongoing intervention with indications of the extent of progress and achievement of objectives and progress in the use of allocated funds (Adapted from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2002).

Multisystemic approach
The multisystemic approach views individuals as being nested within a complex network of interconnected systems that encompass individual, family, and extra-familial (peer, school, neighborhood) factors. Intervention may be required in any one or a combination of these systems (Pollak and Sundermann, 2001).



A statement of specific results to be achieved over a specified period of time. Objectives are generally lower-level and shorter term than goals (Justice Canada, 2006). (See also: Goal)

Persons who have been found guilty of an offence in a criminal court. Adult offenders include all persons 18 years of age and older who breach the provisions of provincial, territorial and federal criminal legislation such as the Criminal Code of Canada. Young offenders include persons aged 12-17 years, at time of offence, who are subject to the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act and are processed through a separate youth justice system (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 1998).

Outcome (Result)
An external consequence attributed, in part, to an organisation, policy, program or initiative. Outcomes are not within the control of a single organization, policy, program, project or initiative; instead they are within the area of the organisation's influence. Outcomes are usually further qualified as immediate, intermediate, or ultimate (final), expected and direct. (Adapted from Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, 2009). Three types of outcomes are particularly relevant for National Crime Prevention Centre and are defined as:

Immediate Outcome
An outcome that is directly attributable to a project's outputs. In terms of time frame and level, these are short-term outcomes and are often at the level of an increase in awareness of a target population.

Intermediate Outcome
An outcome that is expected to occur once one or more immediate outcomes have been achieved. In terms of time frame and level, these are medium term outcomes and are often at the change of behaviour level among a target population.

Final Outcome
The highest-level outcome that can be reasonably attributed to a project in causal manner, and is the consequence of one or more intermediate outcomes having been achieved. These outcomes usually represent the raison d'être of a project. They are long-term outcomes that represent a change of state of a target population. Ultimate outcomes of individual projects contribute to the higher-level departmental strategic outcomes.

Outcome indicator
The construct that provides evidence that the project has achieved its measurable objectives. (See also: Indicator)

The direct products/services of program activities and processes. Outputs are usually measured in terms of the volume of work accomplished (number of classes taught, counselling sessions conducted, educational materials distributed, hours of service delivered, participants served), how much and what kind of products or services are generated from the program, and how many people are served by the program or policy (Canadian Outcomes Research Institute, 2003).


Performance monitoring
A continuous process of collecting and analyzing data to compare how well a project, program or policy is being implemented against expected results (Adapted from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2002).

Prevalence (of crime)
The proportion of the population that has committed at least one crime or delinquent behaviour during the period of study. It is also applicable to the level and extent of victimization within a population.

Process indicator
The construct that provides evidence that a project activity has taken place as planned. (See also: Indicator)

Project goal
See: Goal

Project objective
See: Objective

Promising program
Program designed to address known risk and protective factors in a specific at-risk population with interventions (e.g., skills training, mentoring, engagement in pro-social activities) and attributes (e.g., intensity, trained staff, strong partnerships) that are rooted in the evidence base of what works to prevent crime. With evaluations in multiple sites and further development of the knowledge of its core components, a promising program could become a model program. (Mihalic S. et al., 2002). (See Also: Model Program and Innovative Program)

Protective factors
Positive influences or circumstances that can improve the lives of individuals or the safety of a community. These may decrease the likelihood that individuals engage in crime and/or become victims. Building on existing protective factors makes individuals and communities stronger and better able to counteract risk factors (National Crime Prevention Centre, 2007). (See also: Risk Factors)


Qualitative measures
Measures that provide descriptive information using words and symbols in a non-numerical format that explains how and why things occurred. When combined with quantitative measures, qualitative measures can provide context to the results of a study. On their own, they provide rich information that can help to explore different issues, including how and why projects work the way they do. Qualitative information is usually collected through open-ended interviews, direct observations, and written documents (National Crime Prevention Centre, 2006).

Quantitative measures
Quantitative data are numeric measurements. They tell us about quantity, frequency, intensity, and duration. Quantitative data is usually statistically analyzed and often generalized to larger populations (National Crime Prevention Centre, 2006).


Recidivism is the act of a person repeating a behavior that brings attention to the criminal justice system after they have either experienced negative consequences of that behavior, or have been treated to eliminate that behavior. It is also used to refer to the percentage of former offenders who are rearrested, reconvicted, or returned to custody. (Henslin, J. 2008).

A universal and innate human capacity, which can empower a child, adult, family, group, community, or business organization to prevent, minimize or overcome the damaging effects of adversity. Masten and Coatsworth (1998) define resilience as "manifested competency in the context of significant challenges to adaptation or development."

See: Outcome

Risk factors
Negative influences or circumstances in the lives of individuals, groups of persons, or communities. These may increase the presence of crime, victimization and/or fear of crime in a given community and may also increase the likelihood that individuals engage in crime and/or become victims. Risk factors can be divided into five general categories or domains: (1) individual characteristics; (2) peer group; (3) school; (4) family; and (5) neighbourhood/community (National Crime Prevention Centre, 2007). Examples of risk factors include poor parental supervision, low school attachment, and early aggression. (See also: Protective Factors)


SARA Model
SARA stands for scanning, analysis, response, and assessment. It is a problem-solving approach aimed at reducing the impact of crime in a community:
  • Scanning involves the identification of recurring incidents.
  • Analysis stage uses a variety of community sources to determine why the incidents are occurring.
  • Response involves the creation and implementation of a strategy that aims to prevent future occurrences, protect the victims of crime, and make crime locations less conducive to criminal behaviour.
  • Assessment involves the measurement of the impacts and the effectiveness of the strategy (Levi and Maguire, 2004).

Situational crime prevention
Aimed at reducing the opportunities to commit crime and victimization (Clarke, 1995). Examples include closed circuit television (CCTV), environmental and product design.

Social crime prevention
Interventions designed to modify the risk factors among individuals or groups of individuals (as opposed to situations or places) by using psychological, sociological or community-oriented measures (Government of South Australia, nd).

Social reintegration
Development of social and interpersonal relationships that give offenders the opportunity to be actively engaged in roles that allow them to gain useful and valued skills, and practice 'being competent'. This may involve: finding accommodation, employment, securing a place in further education or establishing basic daily social routines such as picking up children from school, shopping and cooking (Buchanan, 2004).

Substance abuse
The use of illegal substances or the inappropriate use of legal substances. The repeated use of these substances to produce pleasure, to alleviate stress, or to alter or avoid reality (or all three). The use of these substances must have a negative impact on social, familial, and economic aspects of an individual's life (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2000).




Vulnerability is viewed by many researchers as "a set of characteristics or circumstances, which predispose an individual to manifest problems in adaptation". Other researchers differentiate risk factors from vulnerability by associating risk with environmental influences and associating vulnerability with the child (Trudel and Puentes-Neuman, 2001).

Vulnerable family (family at-risk)
A family that has an accumulation and interaction of risk factors, including such things as: inadequate and ineffective parental practices, parental and/or sibling criminality, family violence, parental substance abuse, family mobility, extreme economic deprivation and poor neighborhood. A family that is incapable of overcoming the challenges it faces to become resilient, and provide a safe, structured, and supportive/nurturing environment for their children (National Crime Prevention Centre, 2008).


Wraparound (services)
A complex, multifaceted intervention strategy designed to keep delinquent individuals out of institutions whenever possible. This strategy involves "wrapping" a comprehensive array of individualized services and support networks "around" individuals, rather than forcing them to enrol in pre-determined, inflexible treatment programs (Walker and Schutte, 2003).



Youth at-risk
Youth between the ages of 6 to 24 who are at risk of engaging in delinquent behaviours or criminal activity. Youth may have had negative contact with various agencies such as law enforcement and schools however this may not always be the case. Youth at-risk have been exposed to one or more risk factors such as substance abuse, poor attachment to school, poor parenting, abuse, etc. These risk factors work against a young person's ability to develop the cognitive, social, emotional, and physical ability of a well-adapted adult (Statistics Canada, 2009).

Youth gangs
Youth gangs typically consist of young people who self-identify as a group (i.e. having a group name); are generally perceived by others as a distinct group; and are involved in a significant number of delinquent incidents that produce consistent responses from the community and/or law enforcement agencies (National Crime Prevention Centre, 2007).



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