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Community notification policies seek to prevent crime, raise awareness, or otherwise educate the public about criminal activity by requiring or permitting the police or other community actors to disseminate information to the public. Policies can focus on potential victims, potential offenders, the community at large, or some combination of these three. Victim-oriented policies seek to reduce the likelihood of victimization by encouraging precautionary behavior on the part of at-risk individuals. Offender-oriented policies publicize information (e.g., the severity of penalties or the likelihood of arrest) with the aim of deterring potential offenders from engaging in harmful activities. Community-oriented policies provide the public with information in hopes of increasing cooperation and communication with law enforcement. Policies are usually oriented toward more than one audience. To be effective at reducing criminal activity or its costs, community notification information must reach its target audience and its content must be clear, salient, and capable of altering behavior. Community notification policies also carry risks of unintentionally exacerbating criminal activity. On the whole, relatively little rigorous evidence exists on the consequences of these policies.


© 2019 SAGE Publications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This work was originally published as Prescott, J.J. "Community Notification Policies." In vol. 1 of The SAGE Encyclopedia of Criminal Psychology, edited by Robert D. Morgan, 138-43. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2019. DOI: