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.