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'Cycle Thieves, We Are Watching You': Impact of a Simple Signage Intervention against Bicycle Theft

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Daniel Nettle, Kenneth Nott, Professor Melissa Bateson

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Abstract

Background: Bicycle theft is a serious problem in many countries, and there is a lack of evidence concerning effective prevention strategies. Displaying images of 'watching eyes' has been shown to make people behave in more socially desirable ways in a number of settings, but it is not yet clear if this effect can be exploited for purposes of crime prevention. We report the results of a simple intervention on a university campus where signs featuring watching eyes and a related verbal message were displayed above bicycle racks. Methodology and Principal Findings: We installed durable signs at three locations which had experienced high levels of bicycle theft, and used the rest of the university campus as a control location. Reported thefts were monitored for 12 months before and after the intervention. Bicycle thefts decreased by 62% at the experimental locations, but increased by 65% in the control locations, suggesting that the signs were effective, but displaced offending to locations with no signs. The Odds Ratio for the effect of the intervention was 4.28 (95% confidence interval 2.04-8.98), a large effect compared to other place-based crime prevention interventions. Conclusions and Significance: The effectiveness of this extremely cheap and simple intervention suggests that there can be considerable crime-reduction benefits to engaging the psychology of surveillance, even in the absence of surveillance itself. Simple interventions for high-crime locations based on this principle should be considered as an adjunct to other measures, although a possible negative consequence is displacement of offending.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Nettle D, Nott K, Bateson M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PLoS One

Year: 2012

Volume: 7

Issue: 12

Print publication date: 12/12/2012

Date deposited: 27/02/2013

ISSN (electronic): 1932-6203

Publisher: Public Library of Science

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0051738

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051738


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