The Crime reduction programme in England and Wales: Reflections on the vision and the reality

Mike Maguire*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The article contrasts the original vision behind the Crime Reduction Programme - an ambitious plan (initially intended to run for 10 years) to accumulate, disseminate and use research-based knowledge about the effectiveness of a wide variety of interventions - with the reality of the multiple problems experienced during its implementation in England and Wales between 1999 and its premature end in 2002. Ultimately, few projects were implemented as planned, with the knock-on effect of a dearth of conclusive research findings. It is argued that the Crime Reduction Programme benefitted initially from an unusual 'window of opportunity' when such a programme appeared attractive to politicians, administrators, practitioners and researchers alike, resulting in a level of funding for pilot projects and evaluation which was unprecedented in the UK in the crime reduction field. However, it was undermined significantly by inherent risks and tensions that became increasingly prominent as circumstances (and the political climate) changed. While initially conceived as research-driven, it was 'sold' to politicians as contributing to the government's challenging crime reduction targets, an aim which progressively took priority over research. It was over-ambitious in scale and raised unrealistic expectations of its outcomes. It suffered from major practical problems caused by unfeasible timescales, slow-moving bureaucratic procedures, and shortages of 'capacity'. Low commitment to project integrity, cultural resistance among practitioners, and insufficient attention to differences between academics' and policy makers' understandings of research, also contributed to its problems. While some useful outcomes can be claimed, the results of the Crime Reduction Programme as a whole were unquestionably disappointing. In the light of these experiences, it might be argued that - tempting as it was to seize the rare opportunity of major funding - the ideal of 'evidence-based policy' may be more effectively pursued as a quiet iterative process over the longer term, rather than through a risky investment in one high profile and rapidly implemented 'programme' which promises more than it can guarantee to deliver.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)213-237
    Number of pages25
    JournalCriminal Justice Matters
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


    • Crime reduction
    • Evaluation
    • Evidence-based policy
    • What works


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