In the United Kingdom crime prevention has been a central issue in public policy debate for many years. This article reviews the origins and the development of this issue, beginning with the crisis of the welfare state and its re-socialisation policies in the Fifties and Sixties. The issue is then placed in the context of the policy options of the various conservative governments of the Eighties. The final section comprises a critical analysis of selected recent events in British history: the success of zero tolerance policies and new legislation concerning criminal behaviour (Crime and Disorder Act, 1998). This reconstruction highlights the main characteristics of the British model of "new prevention": the prevailing role of the police, conflict between local and central government, supremacy of physical and technological prevention strategies.