Measure: Removal of crime motivator

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Removal of a crime motivator is the measure of reducing risk by removing the benefits of a crime.


A crime motivator is an important reason of the offender to commit his or her crime. For a burglar, for instance this would be financial gain, a graffiti artist would like his work to be visible to the intended audience, a vandal likes a spectacular way of failing (like shattered glass) of or damage to the object and a terrorist would like his act to be widely advertised.

The measure of removal of the crime motivator is directed at denying the offer the 'rewards' of his or her crime. For example, by removing the opportunity to sell stolen goods, the motivation for burglary can be removed.


  • Making goods unsellable by marking them
    Bicycle marked against theft
  • Constructing street furniture and street art out of invaluable materials, so stealing and selling the metal does not pay
  • Constructing vandalism-prone objects from materials that fail in non-spectacular fashions
  • Designing street furniture for rapid repair (for example by modular design)
  • Designing walls designed for rapid removal of graffiti (by for instance coating them)


Security issues where this measure can be effective and influenced by the urban planner, are:

Financial gain Boredom or compulsive behaviour Impulse Conflict in beliefs
Burglary Physical assault Destruction by riots Mass killing
Ram-raiding Sexual assault Destruction of property by fanatics
Pickpocketing Vandalism
Robbery Graffiti
Raid Antisocial Behaviour
Vehicle theft


General considerations

There are no specific environmental conditions required to make removal of crime motivators effective, but a good removal of crime motivators measure does require a good understanding what motivates a perpetrator and some creativity to remove this aspect from the environment without impairing the function of the object (too much).

Urban planning considerations

Urban planning could play an important role in the removal of crime motivators through the creation of places that feature high levels of natural surveillance, and limiting or removing spaces that are not overlooked or observed. This reduces or removes the opportunity for criminals to commit crimes within such locations, making them safer and more secure. The use of natural surveillance is more desirable than active surveillance methods, as not only are such places more cost effective to secure, but areas which feature a high proportion of active surveillance measures can become counterproductive in some instances by making such places oppressive in character.

Safety/security considerations

As long as safety functions of the concerned objects and materials are sufficiently considered, removal of crime motivators has no effects on safety and security.

Social considerations

The removal of crime motivator is a perfect case example of the designing out approach, or as an aspect of sustainable design, which seeks a balanced consideration of social, economic, cultural and environmental aspects in urban design. As a measure it will be accepted by the public if it takes the existing security culture into account. This can best be accomplished by appropriately involving citizens, based on a set of introduced methods of citizen participation as compiled by VITRUV.

Ideally, planning for the measure of removal of crime motivator should include an usability test. An example of a specific practical method to accomplish this is the safety audit, that focuses on local and context-specific solutions to address security issues. It should be considered that the measure of removing a crime motivator can probably not always be implemented. Social aspects should be closely taken into account. For example, cultural norms that define masculinity can act as enablers (motivators) for violence by marginalised young men who feel themselves excluded from normal paths of enacting gender-specific norms of virility.

Economic considerations

From a rational-economic perspective, the resolvement of potential rewards will (in a positive way) shake up the risk-benefit analysis of a (potential) criminal whether or not to commit a crime. Put differently, it will make the next best alternative more attractive compared to the intended criminal act, increasing its opportunity cost. This process of deterring and preventing a criminal act leads to a reduction in crime, and automatically also of the negative economic impact of crime. The installment of vandal proof glass, for instance, will not just prevent material and immaterial damage to urban objects and infrastructural facilities, but will also prevent indirect economic damage to the economy, as it contributes to a safe and whole environment (attracting economic activity).

The economic cost of measures like the removal of crime motivators contain the relatively straightforward direct expenditures on capital equipment and operational cost such as investments in coatings for wall (against graffiti) or the construction of vandalism-prone objects. In addition, the removal of crime motivator generates various types of secondary effects as the result of subsequent rounds of expenditure ('re-expenditures') of business companies, households and public authorities outside the security market.

Considering the direct and indirect cost of security measures, one should always investigate if the potential benefits of the specific set of security measures outweigh its cost. Of course, the answer to this question depends on many factors and the specific situation. Nevertheless, two fundamental aspects of this economic analysis should always be part of this investigation. These aspects are:

  1. Are the envisioned measures cost effective from a socioeconomic point of view, or do there exist better alternatives?
  2. Which specific agents (individuals, companies, sectors, authorities) are affected by the envisioned measures, and to which extend? How do the envisioned measures change/alter the behaviour of these agents, and, of course, the behaviour of criminals/terrorists (in economic terms)?

Economic tools can help decision makers to answer these questions and to prevent wasteful expenditures on security. In terms of benefit-cost ratio, the removal of crime motivators can be considered as a type of security measure which in a relatively subtle way increases security, in contrast to measures such as security guards, big concrete walls and barb wire that may be pervasive, but can also arouse feelings of fear and anxiety[1]. As this specific security measure belongs to the designing out approach, or to sustainable design, it indeed in general demands larger investments than traditional security measures, but at the same time these (more sustainable) types of measures will avoid future cost due to the long-term prevention of crime (see the case example below).

Cost-effectiveness of removal of crime motivators aimed at criminal juveniles:

"Many social and economic policies designed for other purposes may also reduce the incidence of serious crimes. Programs to encourage young people to remain in school, for example, have proved to be one of the most cost-effective crime-reduction strategies" (Greenwood, 2004)[2]. Another study by the Australian Institute of Criminology (1998)[3] finds that economic and social disadvantages have a disruptive effect on parenting skills (in terms of neglect and abuse), causing juveniles to participate in criminal activities, especially in crime prone areas. Hence, the study conclude that long-term measures against juvenile crime aimed at improving parenting skills (e.g. by reducing the level of economic stress (poverty) or the introduction of family and child support programs) will contribute significantly to the reduction of juvenile crime, even though these benefits will not be realised as fast as in comparison to, for example, policing, which is mostly aimed at reducing the frequency of offences, and not so much the supply of motivated offenders.

Mobility considerations

Mobility is normally not affected by removal of crime motivators, since it will not affect the road infrastructure or the traffic demand. Also, traffic or traffic infrastructure is usually not a crime motivator in itself. There could be a (negligable) effect of attracting less traffic to places which used to be attractive for crime offenders, after the crime motivator was removed.

Ethics considerations

Since not all crime motivators have an inherent criminal quality , removing motivators may in some cases involve a risk of departure from normal liberal democratic standards.

Pinpointing specific ethics aspects related to removal of crime motivators need to consider citizen security cultures and citizens' personal concerns. There are no ethics considerations that can be planned or implemented without prior identification and addressing of citizens' perceptions. To support this, VITRUV offers a commented list of methods to determine ethics aspects in relevant urban planning.

Legal considerations

Legal considerations when considering removal of crime motivator measures are:

  • Appearance - Measures for removal of crime motivator may conflict with appearance rules

Footnotes and references

  1. Coaffee, J., P. O’Hare, and M. Hawkesworth (2009): The Visibility of (In)security: The Aesthetics of Planning Urban Defences Against Terrorism. Security Dialogue 2009 40:489.
  2. Greenwood, P. (2004): Cost-Effective Violence Prevention Through Targeted Family Interventions. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1036: 201-214. In: Shapiro, J. and K.A. Hassett (2012): The Economic Benefits of Reducing Violent Crime. A Case Study of 8 American Cities: 5
  3. Weatherburn, D. & B. Lind (1998): Poverty, Parenting, Peers and Crime-Prone Neighbourhoods. Australian Institute of Criminology. Trends & Issues in crime and criminal justice. No.85