Definitions for prevention, disruption, response and enforcement

The following definitions are currently being used for reporting and case studies in the AFP's performance framework (see PBS and Corporate Plan). As all police services employ and deliver enforcement, response, prevention and disruption strategies and impacts, it is relevant to define how the AFP approaches these concepts. The interpretation is shaped by the agency's national remit and international engagement per the AFP Act 1979 (Cth). In areas like response for example, the AFP has a clearly differentiated role to state and territory services.


One of the strategies the AFP uses to prevent offending that causes harm is to ensure that the crime does not take place. To achieve this, the AFP:

  • works to reduce anticipated victimisation of a person, place or thing
  • works with potential offenders and vulnerable individuals to ensure they do not engage in crime
  • targets underlying social, procedural or system vulnerabilities that are likely to be exploited
  • strengthens institutions, the rule of law and police legitimacy to ensure order is maintained, enforcement occurs and the majority of citizens voluntarily adhere to the law.

Many of our prevention approaches are well known. For example, police are involved in school safety and industry/consumer education. Others are less recognisable. Enforcement can be seen as preventive because it has a downstream impact of deterrence in that effective enforcement makes criminals less likely to offend. However, prevention can also be achieved through preventive legal structures—for example, the National Sex Offender Registry and offences in the counter terrorism  space where people commit crimes for planning an act—and by identification of system vulnerabilities by investigative taskforces. Enforcement, disruption and prevention are closely interrelated in policing.


The AFP's disruption strategy is an important part of its crime prevention activities. Disruption involves delaying, diverting or otherwise complicating the commission of crimes or the operations of a criminal entity. Many different operational tactics and strategies can be used to effect a disruption.

Disruption can involve a tailored response to a specific investigation or criminal threat with the response reflecting the challenges at hand, especially if victims are at risk. Disruptions may need to be used numerous times during an investigation given the resilience of criminal groups. As disruption often occurs during investigations, they are often seen as linked to enforcement activities but may occur outside a case as a generic response to a crime; for example, cancelling visas for travelling sex offenders.

Disruptions can also be the most appropriate response when securing a successful prosecution in Australia may not be feasible or cost-effective. Also, for some crimes it is better to use disruption to interrupt harm from continuing—for example, in human trafficking, counter-terrorism, drug imports and instances of anonymous but trackable offending.


The AFP's response role is diverse and has a number of facets. It can involve the AFP in domestic time-critical activities such as initial drug seizures at the border; phone calls from vessels in distress; alarms at high office holder and foreign diplomat premises; incidents at designated airports and coordinating and participating in counter-terrorism first response. The AFP can also assist other agencies in national emergencies.

The AFP's role can also be international, supporting other Australian and foreign agencies with offshore liaison to return Australians home. The AFP may work alongside local police and the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to assist with offshore civil unrest. It can coordinate Australian policing support to international emergencies created by regional natural disasters.

The AFP's response role reflects the AFP's links to national policing, the Australian Government and Australian interests. It differs from the state and territory police services emergency roles, which have a range of publicly well-defined roles and avenues of contact.


The AFP conducts enforcement activities to compel compliance with laws, rules or regulations. It investigates the commission of federal criminal offences (and other relevant offences) and assists other regulatory/enforcement agencies to enforce their laws/regulations.

For the AFP, core enforcement activities include:

  • undertaking investigations related to offences against the Commonwealth or national security
  • providing community policing in Australia and internationally as well as carrying out peacekeeping duties that operationalise criminal and community safety laws, leading to civil order and security
  • actioning Commonwealth policing provisions contained in various laws and initiatives—for example, child sex offender registration, INTERPOL, international alerts, assets confiscation or mutual assistance
  • responding to criminal breaches of court processes related to topics that the AFP is responsible for—for example, family law and AFP investigations/prosecutions
  • assisting other agencies to do their investigations or enforcement. AFP officers may assist with warrants, interviews, surveillance and intelligence. AFP may have powers that other investigative agencies lack, so we can provide specialist policing services to help the agency investigate. The AFP may also help another law enforcement agency to locate criminals and return them to face charges/court in their home territory or help a regulatory agency to enforce a decision by offering a police presence.

Enforcement is the most commonly recognised element of any police service. The ways it occurs, its rationale and goals vary, as do the social outcomes with these shaped by the working of the criminal justice system.

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