The carbon footprint of crime and crime prevention – a green opportunity?

Skudder H*1, Brunton-Smith I1, Druckman A1, McInnes A2, Cole J3

1University Of Surrey
2Secured by Design, Police Crime Prevention Initiatives
3Home Office, HM Government

*Corresponding author:

Carbon emissions arise as a result of police investigations, criminal justice proceedings, imprisoning and rehabilitating offenders, replacing items that get stolen and supporting or caring for victims and their families. While these emissions represent significant environmental impact, they are not generally considered by policy-makers. Crime prevention delivers social and economic benefits, but if emission reductions can also be achieved from preventing crimes there are potential added benefits for the natural environment – a green opportunity.

Using a carbon footprinting technique known as Environmentally-Extended Input-Output Analysis, this paper quantifies the carbon footprint of crime within England and Wales. Drawing on recorded crime data from the last 20 years we demonstrate that the fall in crime has been associated with a drop of over 38 million tonnes of carbon. Our results show that a decline in the number of burglaries and vehicle thefts is responsible for a large proportion of these savings, and in particular a fall in emissions from replacing damaged or stolen property (i.e. vehicles).

We also show that crime prevention measures, specifically related to burglary, can be both effective and low carbon, presenting a win-win situation for security and sustainability. Looking at crime through this environmental lens provides new information about the impacts of crime and may provide an opportunity to help inform more sustainable approaches to crime prevention in the future.


Helen Skudder is in her final year studying for an Engineering Doctorate (EngD) at the University of Surrey, United Kingdom. Her project, researching the carbon costs of crime, is sponsored by the Home Office (HM Government department), Secured by Design (Police Crime Prevention Initiative) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

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