Measure type: Intervention force

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Arrest of a protester in Hamburg

Establishing a intervention force is the measure of having adequate resources (first responders) to react to emergencies in order to minimise impact and restore a normal situation as soon as possible.


An intervention force is the last link in the reaction chain detection-perception-interpretation-formulating action-acting of the comprehensive approach. The essence of deploying an intervention force lies in intervening in an observed incident. This is done by way of first responders, who by their action minimize impact, restore the situation to normalcy and in general also take actions to facilitate the prosecution, if needed.


Intervention forces can be officially appointed, ad-hoc, public or private. Examples of forms of intervention force are:

  • Police force
  • Army
  • Private security companies
  • Neighbourhood watches/other citizens initiatives


The effectiveness of a intervention force against crime lies in two effects:

  • the mitigating effect of authority present
  • the direct actions undertaken by the intervention force to mitigate the effects of an incident
  • make contributions to the prosecution of crime (gathering evidence and leads and arresting suspects)

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

Security issues
Financial gain Boredom or compulsive behaviour Impulse Conflict in beliefs
Burglary{{#info:Burglary is the crime of illicitly entering a building with the intent to commit an offence, particularly (but not limited to) theft.}} Physical assault{{#info:Assault, is a crime which involves causing a victim to fear or to experience any type of violence, except for sexual violence}} Destruction by riots{{#info:Destruction by riots is the act of vandalism of property by organised groups for a shared rational or rationalised reason.}} Mass killing{{#info:Mass killing is the crime of purposely causing harm or death to a group of (unknown) people in order to make a statement or to influence the public opinion. This threat is exerted out of wilful action by fanatics: terrorists or criminal activists.}}
Ram-raiding{{#info:Ram raid is a particular technique for burglars to gain access to primarily commercial premises, by means of driving -usually stolen- vehicles into locked or closed entrances, exits or windows.}} Sexual assault{{#info:Sexual assault is assault of a sexual nature on another person, or any sexual act committed without consent}} Destruction of property by fanatics{{#info:Destruction by fanatics is the crime of purposely causing damage in order to make a statement or to influence the public opinion.}}
Pickpocketing{{#info:Pickpocketing is a form of theft that involves the stealing of valuables from a victim without their noticing the theft at the time. }} Vandalism{{#info:Vandalism is the act of wilful or malicious destruction, injury, disfigurement, or defacement of property without the consent of the owner or person having custody or control.}}
Robbery{{#info:Robbery is the crime of taking or attempting to take something of value by force or threat of force or by putting the victim in fear. It is used her exclusively for acts committed to individual persons.}} Graffiti{{#info:Grafitti is the defacement of property by means of writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed on a surface in a public place without the consent of the owner or person having custody or control. }}
Raid{{#info:Raid is the crime of taking or attempting to take something of value from a commercial venue by force or threat of force or by putting the victim in fear.}} Antisocial Behaviour{{#info:Antisocial behaviour is an accumulation category of relatively small crimes that highly influence the security perception of citizens. }}
Vehicle theft{{#info:Vehicle theft is the crime of theft, or attempt of theft of or from a motor vehicle (automobile, truck, bus, motorcycle, etc.).}}
table to be updated if security issue pages finished


General considerations

  • For a intervention force to be effective, they need to be well aware of the situation; what parties are involved, in what way, what are their motives, goals, backgrounds and means, what has happened and where are the parties located.
  • In order to get this awareness, it is essential that the reaction chain is unbroken. As often the links in the reaction chain are managed by different people or organisations, the communication in this chain is of vital essence.
  • A timely arrival at the location of the incident is essential to keep the number of options to resolve the situation as open as possible; an incident can escalate very quickly, making gentler interventions impractical or impossible.

The extent to which a intervention force can operate effectively in an urban context is dependent of:

Urban planning considerations

Traditionally policing has been structured around an incident based approach to crime control, which is generally more reactive in nature. Dialogue should be facilitated and supported between crime control agents and urban development actors, particularly urban planners so that appropriate interventions can be employed to tackle crime from the design stage of developments and public space.

Safety/security considerations

The duration and impact of incidents can be minimized by applying proper incident management, which requires among others a good cooperation between the agencies responsible for incident management. Incident management is used to reduce the time to detect and verify an incident occurrence; implement the appropriate response; and safely clear the incident, while managing the affected flow until full capacity is restored[1].

The publicity resulting from a large-scale deployment of intervention force can deteriorate the status of a neighbourhood, which can attract more crime.

The use of violence in interventions can cause damage and injuries.

Intervention forces can be highly flexible and therefore also perform as a means to provide safety. For instance, security officers might be knowledgeable in providing first aid.

Social considerations

The deployment of intervention forces can lead to feelings of victimization on the side of the affected public.

Economic considerations

Economic effectiveness

Intervention forces are in most cases the responsibility of public authorities, exacting economic impact. Although the costs of police services vary from country to country and include both direct and indirect costs, intervention forces are above all characterised by the permanent investments in training, equipment and salaries of the team members. Hence, intervention forces require more long-term investments than, for example, target hardening measures (i.e. toughened glass or concrete walls) or remote surveillance with the help of cameras[2].

Being the first line of defence, public authorities annually spend billions on policing. There exist, nevertheless, relatively few rigorous studies by economists, political scientists, and criminal justice researchers on the impact of policing, and specifically the function as a intervention force. According to Levitt (2004)[3], until the start of this decade, most studies found an insignificant or negative correlation between the number of police forces and criminal offences. According to Levitt, however, this is due to the fact that these studies failed to account for the fact that policing does not only influences crime, but also the amount of crime influences the amount of policing. Correcting for this effect, more recent studies conclude that more police is associated with reductions in crime, and Levitt (2004)[4] concludes that, based on a crude approximation, the effectiveness of policing from a cost-benefit perspective is “attractive”, but should not be the sole focus to reduce crime.

Mobility considerations

The deployment of a intervention force is a relatively expensive measure, as it needs to be maintained at all times in order to be deployable when needed.

Ethics considerations

Legal considerations

Footnotes and references

  1. Traffic Incident Management Handbook, Prepared for: Federal Highway Administration,Office of Travel Management. Prepared by: PB Farradyne, November 2000
  2. Although also in the case of CCTV there are permanent costs due to e.g. the permanent monitoring of cameras
  3. Levitt, S.D.(2004). Understanding why Crime fell in the 1990s; Four Factors that Explain the Decline and Six that do not. Journal of Economic Perspectives--Volume 18, Number 1-pages 163-190.
  4. Ibid