David Weisburd and Sean Wire
Hot spots of crime, and the criminology of place more generally, deviate from the traditional paradigm of criminology, in which the primary assumption and goal is to explain who is likely to commit crime and their motivations, and to explore interventions aimed at reducing individual criminality. Alternatively, crime hot spots account for the “where” of crime, specifically referring to the concentration of crime in small geographic areas. The criminology of place demands a rethinking in regard to how we understand the crime problem and offers alternate ways to predict, explain, and prevent crime. While place, as large geographic units, has been important since the inception of criminology as a discipline, research examining crime concentrations at a micro-geographic level has only recently begun to be developed. This approach has been facilitated by improvements to data availability, technology, and the understanding of crime as a function of the environment. The new crime and place paradigm is rooted in the past three decades of criminological research centered on routine activity theory, crime concentrations, and hot spots policing.
The focus on crime hot spots has led to several core empirical findings. First, crime is meaningfully concentrated, such that a large proportion of crime events occur at relatively few places within larger geographies like cities. This may be termed the law of crime concentration at places (see Weisburd, 2015). Additionally, most hot spots of crime are stable over time, and thus present promising opportunities for crime prevention. Crime hot spots vary within higher geographic units, suggesting both that there is a loss of information at higher levels of aggregation and that there are clear “micro communities” within the larger conceptualization of a neighborhood. Finally, crime at place is predictable, which is important for being able to understand why crime is concentrated in one place and not another, as well as to develop crime prevention strategies. These empirical characteristics of crime hot spots have led to the development of successful police interventions to reduce crime. These interventions are generally termed hot spots policing.
Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is an approach to crime reduction that seeks to reduce perceived opportunities for crime through the design and management of the built or, less often, the natural environment. It is based on a set of principles, which can be applied as a guide to the design and construction of buildings, as well as the organization of spaces around them. Because CPTED provides a guide rather than a rigid specification, with a range of possible realizations, design compliance with its principles is often recognized through an award scheme, such as Secured by Design (SBD) in the United Kingdom and the Police Label Secured Housing in the Netherlands. Research has consistently demonstrated that CPTED is an effective crime reduction approach—reducing crime, alleviating the fear of crime, and enhancing feelings of safety. Its increasing recognition within planning policy reflects a growing acknowledgment of efficacy.
Ella Cockbain and Gloria Laycock
Crime science (or more accurately crime and security science) has three core tenets:
• the application of scientific methods
• the study of crime and security problems
• the aim of reducing harm.
Beyond the unifying principles of scientific research (including a clear problem definition, transparency, rigor, and reliability), tools and techniques vary between studies. Rather than following a prescriptive approach, researchers are guided in their selection of data and methods by their research question and context. In this respect, crime scientists take an inclusive view of “evidence.”
“Crime and security” is a broad construct, covering problems associated with diverse illicit goods and acts, offenders, victims/targets, places, technologies, and formal and informal agents of crime control.
Its pragmatic approach distinguishes crime science from “pure research” (i.e., the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake). Contributions to harm reduction might be immediate (e.g., evaluating a novel intervention) or longer term (e.g., building theoretical or empirical knowledge about a particular issue).
Crime science is broad: researchers may contribute to it without self-identifying as crime scientists. Indeed, its early proponents hesitated to draw its parameters, suggesting they should be defined operationally. Under a shared focus on crime, crime science research transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries. The prevalence of multi- and interdisciplinary work reflects the inherent complexity of crime and its control. The social, physical, biological, and computer sciences—and their associated technologies—all have contributions to make.
Although the term crime science was first formalized in 2001, its roots go back much further. Within criminology, it particularly overlaps with environmental and experimental criminology. As well as sharing methods with these two areas, crime science’s theoretical underpinning derives from opportunity theories of crime (e.g., routine activity theory, the rational choice perspective, crime pattern theory). Crime is conceptualized accordingly as primarily non-random and as influenced by both individual criminal propensity and environmental factors that facilitate, promote, or provoke, criminal events.
Crime science techniques have been applied to a variety of issues: primarily volume crimes (e.g., burglary), but also more serious and complex crimes (e.g., terrorism and human trafficking). There is now substantial evidence of the effectiveness of targeted interventions in tackling crimes by manipulating their opportunity structures. Claims that such approaches are unethical and merely cause displacement have been discredited. Crime science now faces other, more challenging criticisms. For example, its theoretical underpinnings are arguably too narrow and the boundaries of the field lack clear distinction. Other challenges include expanding interventions into the online world and resolving tensions around evaluation evidence.
Crime science can clearly help explain and address crime problems. Its focus on outcomes rather than outputs speaks to the growing demand that research be impactful. Evidence generated through robust studies has value for policy and designing primary, secondary and tertiary interventions. In times of austerity and increased focus on multi-agency collaboration, there is a clear audience for crime-related research that can inform targeted responses and speaks to a broader agendum than law enforcement alone.
Robert I. Mawby
While the term “defensible space” is widely referenced in literature on situational crime pre vention and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, it is commonly mentioned in passing, almost as an historical landmark, with its relationship to more recent work assumed rather than rigorously examined. Yet, Oscar Newman’s work bridged the gap between criminological theories and preventive approaches in the pre-1970s era and the more grounded and policy driven approaches that are common today. Consequently, this article looks at the context within which Newman developed his ideas and revisits his core work. It then considers the initial response from the criminology and planning communities, which focused on the methodological and theoretical weaknesses that undermined what were, essentially, a series of imaginative, exploratory propositions about the influence of design on crime patterns. In this sense, it is clear that Newman both provoked and inspired further research into the relationship between urban design and crime, and indeed, between crime, crime targets, and space, looking at the specific influence of design, technology, social engineering, and so on. Terms such as ownership, visibility, occupancy, accessibility, image, and juxtaposition, which Newman used, are now incorporated into more sophistical theories of situational crime prevention. This article thus offers a reanalysis of defensible space in the context of later refinements and the application of Newman’s ideas to current policies.
Richard E. Tremblay
Most studies conducted on the development of antisocial behavior focused on school children and attempted to understand how children learn to steal and aggress others. Results from longitudinal studies that were initiated in early childhood show that children do not learn to bully, physically aggress, and rob from their environment. These longitudinal studies show that antisocial behaviors are most frequent during early childhood and that children learn from their environment not to bully, not to aggress, and not to rob. In other words, young children are socialized by their environment. Those who do not learn well enough to control these natural tendencies are rejected very early in their development by their environment, unless they are living in an antisocial environment. The further advance of this research area will require that the next generation of researchers integrate theories and methods from the biological, psychological, and social sciences because the development of antisocial behavior involves complex interactions between biological, psychological and sociological causal factors. The lack of an integrated bio-psycho-social perspectives has been a major weakness of research in criminology up to now. Future research needs to concentrate on two central questions: (a) Why a minority of young children fail to learn to inhibit antisocial behaviors, and (b) how we can help these children learn alternatives to antisocial behavior. Valid and effective answers to these questions will come from randomized control trials which target at risk families with intensive and long term preventive interventions during early childhood, preferably at the start of a girl’s first pregnancy, with follow ups until the at risk children have become adults and are having their own children.
Frank Vitaro and Richard E. Tremblay
Traditionally, the term targeted prevention refers to interventions designed to prevent the development of adjustment problems in individuals by reducing risk factors or by implementing protective factors identified in studies of human development. Because risk and protective factors vary with development, a developmental perspective is necessary in order to identify which factors are most relevant at each period of life, based on well-defined and empirically supported etiological models. Moreover, because prevention strategies vary greatly depending on the factors that are targeted at different developmental periods and ages, a developmental perspective suggests that they need to be shaped accordingly. A further expansion of the concept of developmental targeted prevention includes the notion of “stepwise continuous prevention” for the extreme cases who do not revert to normative behavior during a given developmental period. This notion draws on the chronic-disease model of conduct problems and encompasses several developmental periods. The current debate around these issues is important as they apply to the prevention of conduct problems in youth by targeting risk factors during maternal pregnancy, early childhood, childhood, and adolescence. A consensual view of developmental targeted prevention is, however, necessary for prevention efforts to be coordinated and fruitful.
Fear of crime has been a serious social problem studied for almost 40 years. Early researchers focused on operationalization and conceptualization of fear of crime, specifically focusing on what fear of crime was (and was not) and how to best tap into the fear of crime construct. This research also found that while crime rates had been declining, fear of crime rates had stayed relatively stable. Nearly 40% of Americans indicated they were afraid of crime, even though crime was declining during the same time period. This finding led researchers to study the paradox of fear of crime. In other words, why does fear of crime not match up with actual chances of victimization? Several explanations were put forth including a focus on vulnerability (e.g., individuals felt vulnerable to crime even if they were not vulnerable) and a focus on differences in groups (e.g., women were more afraid of crime than men, even though they were less likely to be victims). Thus, many studies began to consider the predictors of fear of crime. Researchers since this time have spent most time studying these fear of crime predictors including individual level predictors (i.e., sex, race, age, social class), contextual predictors (neighborhood disorder, incivilities, and social cohesion), along with the consequences of fear of crime (psychological and behavioral). Such results have provided guidance on what individuals fear, why they fear, and what impact it has on the daily lives of Americans. Future research will continue to focus on groups little is known about, such as Hispanics, and also on the impact of behavior on fear of crime. This future research will likely also benefit from new techniques in survey research that analyzes longitudinal data to determine causality between fear of crime and other predictors such as risk and behavior.
Focused deterrence strategies are increasingly being implemented in the United States to reduce serious violent crime committed by gangs and other criminally-active groups, recurring offending by highly-active individual offenders, and crime and disorder problems generated by overt street-level drug markets. These strategies are framed by an action research model that is common to both problem-oriented policing and public health interventions to reduce violence. Briefly, focused deterrence strategies seek to change offender behavior by understanding underlying crime-producing dynamics and conditions that sustain recurring crime problems and by implementing an appropriately focused blended strategy of law enforcement, community mobilization, and social service actions. Direct communications of increased enforcement risks and the availability of social service assistance to target groups and individuals is a defining characteristic of “pulling levers” strategies.
The focused deterrence approach was first pioneered in Boston, Massachusetts and eventually tested in other jurisdictions. The available empirical evidence suggests these strategies generate noteworthy violence reduction impacts and should be part of a broader portfolio of crime reduction strategies available to policy makers and practitioners. While focused deterrence strategies attempt to prevent crime by changing offender perceptions of sanction risk, complementary crime prevention efforts seem to support the crime control efficacy of these programs. These strategies also seek to change offender behavior by mobilizing community action, enhancing procedural justice, and improving police legitimacy. Focused deterrence strategies hold great promise in reducing serious violence while improving strained relationships between minority neighborhoods and the police departments that serve them.
Danielle M. Reynald
This article provides a critical overview of the concepts of guardianship and informal social control. The discussion compares these fundamental criminological concepts and highlights areas where there is overlap, as well as key points of departure. The relationship between these concepts is scrutinized to illustrate their distinct origins as well as the distinctive ways each of these concepts have developed within the criminological literature. This article focuses on informal social control as a multi-level community process, and on guardianship as a multi-dimensional situational concept comprising, in its most fundamental form, the presence or availability of guardians, inadvertent and/or purposive supervision and direct or indirect intervention. In doing so it showcases the dimensions of guardianship which bear close resemblance to aspects of informal social control, while simultaneously emphasizing that there are important distinctions to consider when comparing some of these dimensions and the levels at which they operate. One core distinction is that informal social control is dependent on neighborhood social ties and collectively shared expectations. On the other hand, while guardianship can be strengthened by social ties at the street-block or neighborhood level, it does not necessarily require such ties to function effectively at the microlevel. Although these concepts do coincide the discussion stresses that theoretical and empirical clarification about what makes them distinct is important. In conclusion, this article shows how each concept makes a unique contribution to criminological understanding about the role of informal citizens in crime control at places.
In the context of crime, victimization, and immigration in the United States, research shows that people are afraid of immigrants because they think immigrants are a threat to their safety and engage in many violent and property crimes. However, quantitative research has consistently shown that being foreign born is negatively associated with crime overall and is not significantly associated with committing either violent or property crime. If an undocumented immigrant is arrested for a criminal offense, it tends to be for a misdemeanor. Researchers suggest that undocumented immigrants may be less likely to engage in serious criminal offending behavior because they seek to earn money and not to draw attention to themselves. Additionally, immigrants who have access to social services are less likely to engage in crime than those who live in communities where such access is not available. In regard to victimization, immigrants are more likely to be victims of crime. Foreign-born victims of crime may not report their victimization because of fears that they will experience negative consequences if they contact the police. Recently, concern about immigration and victimization has turned to refugees who are at risk of harm from traffickers, who warehouse them, threaten them, and physically abuse them with impunity. More research is needed on the relationship among immigration, offending, and victimization. The United States and other nations that focus on border security may be misplacing their efforts during global crises that result in forced migrations. Poverty and war, among other social conditions that would “encourage” a person to leave their homeland in search of a better life, should be addressed by governments when enforcing immigration laws and policy.
Neighborhood Watch or Home Watch is internationally regarded as the largest voluntary crime prevention activity in the world. It is typically citizen instigated and police facilitated, with local groups having substantial autonomy in the organization and leadership, some with access to support and materials from overarching national organizations, contingent upon adherence to basic common standards. The local group presents itself as a partnership of people coming together to try to make their community safer, and it is primarily seen as a scheme coordinated between local citizens and their police. The relative autonomy of local groups is reflected in a variety of working collaborations with local or municipal authorities, voluntary agencies, and private business. Neighborhood Watch aims to empower people to protect themselves and their properties and to reduce the fear of crime by means of improved home security, greater vigilance, increased guardianship, and reporting of incidents to the police, and by fostering a community spirit. A further aim of the organization is to improve police and community liaison by developing effective two-way communication processes by which Neighborhood Watch leaders can disseminate up-to-date information among the members. Examples of Neighborhood Watches are now to be found in many parts of the world, and while initially schemes were launched exclusively by the police, as time and the organization have progressed, active citizens are now often initiating the establishment and organization of their own schemes. The closer linkage between police and the Neighborhood Watch organizations is reflected in the fact that the United Kingdom’s Neighborhood Watch national headquarters is located within an operational police station.
Iain Coyne and Marilyn Campbell
The knowledge base on bullying within school and working contexts has matured to the extent that researchers and practitioners are developing a deeper understanding of this complex social relationship problem. Although controversies still exist, evidence to date provides estimates of the prevalence of bullying, risk factors for bullying, antecedents of bullying, and theoretical models explaining bullying behavior and experience. There is little doubt that bullying in all its forms can have severe negative impacts on those involved in the bullying situation. As a result, it is important to establish coherent and evidence-based approaches to preventing bullying behavior in schools and workplaces.
In contrast, the development and evaluation of bullying interventions has not received the same level of support. Both in school and working contexts, there are examples of preventative approaches, but either these are espoused and not directly evaluated, or, where evaluations exist, data is limited in providing definitive answers to the success of an approach. An increasingly dominant voice advocates the creation of policies and laws for preventing workplace bullying. However, the usefulness of policies and laws on their own in reducing bullying is questionable—especially if they are developed with a quick-fix mentality. Trying to prevent such a complex social phenomenon requires an integrated program of actions necessitating significant investment over a prolonged period of time. Stakeholder engagement is paramount to any intervention. Ultimately, schools and workplaces need to try to develop a culture of dignity, fairness, respect, and conflict management which pervades the institution. Challenges remain on how to create such interventions, whether they are effective, and what impact societal values will have on the success of bullying prevention strategies.
Allison Ann Payne and Denise C. Gottfredson
School violence, drug use, bullying, theft, and vandalism are costly and interfere with academic achievement. Beyond the cost of personal injury and property damage and loss, school crime is costly because it interferes with academic achievement and reduces the ability of schools to carry out their educational mission. Fear of victimization influences students’ attendance, such that students are more likely to avoid school activities or places, or even school itself, due to fear of attack or harm. Teachers in disorderly schools also spend a large proportion of their time coping with behavior problems rather than instructing students, resulting in lower levels of student academic engagement, academic performance, and eventually graduation rates. Student misbehavior is also one of the primary sources of teacher turnover in schools.
Responses to school crime have become increasingly formal since the 1990s, with greater recourse to arrest and a turn toward juvenile courts rather than school-based discipline, furthered by zero-tolerance policies and increased hiring of uniformed officers to police the schools. The shift has been from administrative discretion to mandatory penalties and from in-school discipline to increasing use of suspension or arrest. At the same time, there has been a considerable investment in the use of surveillance cameras and metal detectors. There is no evidence to suggest that this tightening of school discipline has reduced school crime.
By contrast, considerable evidence supports the effectiveness of alternative strategies designed to prevent youth crime and delinquency. Several school-based programs targeting student factors such as self-control, social competency, and attachment to school have been demonstrated in rigorous research to be effective for reducing crime and delinquency. In addition, several aspects of the way schools are organized and managed influence crime and disorder.
The term “school climate” encompasses several school characteristics that influence crime and disorder. Evidence supports the importance of the discipline management of a school, including both the fairness and consistency of rules and rule enforcement as well as the clarification and communication of behavioral norms in reducing crime and disorder in schools. The social climate within the school, specifically the existence of a positive and communal climate among all members of the school community, is also important. Research demonstrates that is possible to manipulate these aspects of school climate. Rigorous research shows that efforts to increase clarity and consistency of rule enforcement and to clarify norms for behavior are effective for reducing crime and disorder. More research is needed to test a fully comprehensive intervention aimed at creating a more communal social climate, but preliminary studies suggest positive effects.
Several challenges to creating more positive school climates are discussed, and possible solutions are suggested.
Joshua D. Freilich and Graeme R. Newman
Situational crime prevention (SCP) is a criminological perspective that calls for expanding the crime-reduction role well beyond the justice system. SCP sees criminal law in a more restrictive sense, as only part of the anticrime effort in governance. It calls for minutely analyzing specific crime types (or problems) to uncover the situational factors that facilitate their commission. Intervention techniques are then devised to manipulate the related situational factors. In theory, this approach reduces crime by making it impossible for it to be committed no matter what the offender’s motivation or intent, deterring the offender from committing the offense, or by reducing cues that increase a person’s motivation to commit a crime during specific types of events. SCP has given rise to a retinue of methods that have been found to reduce crime at local and sometimes national or international levels. SCP’s focus is thus different than that of other criminological theories because it seeks to reduce crime opportunities rather than punish or rehabilitate offenders.
SCP emerged more than 40 years ago, and its major concepts include rational choice, specificity, opportunity structure, and its 25 prevention techniques. Contrary to the common critique that SCP is atheoretical, it is actually based upon a well-developed interdisciplinary model drawing from criminology, economics, psychology, and sociology. Importantly, a growing number of empirical studies and scientific evaluations have demonstrated SCP’s effectiveness in reducing crime. Finally, the SCP approach inevitably leads to a shifting of responsibility for crime control away from police and on to those entities, public and private, most competent to reduce it.
Anthony Petrosino, Claire Morgan, and Trevor Fronius
Systematic reviews and meta-analyses have become a focal point of evidence-based policy in criminology. Systematic reviews use explicit and transparent processes to identify, retrieve, code, analyze, and report on existing research studies bearing on a question of policy or practice. Meta-analysis can combine the results from the most rigorous evaluations identified in a systematic review to provide policymakers with the best evidence on what works for a variety of interventions relevant to reducing crime and making the justice system fairer and more effective. The steps of a systematic review using meta-analysis include specifying the topic area, developing management procedures, specifying the search strategy, developing eligibility criteria, extracting data from the studies, computing effect sizes, developing an analysis strategy, and interpreting and reporting the results.
In a systematic review using meta-analysis, after identifying and coding eligible studies, the researchers create a measure of effect size for each experimental versus control contrast of interest in the study. Most commonly, reviewers do this by standardizing the difference between scores of the experimental and control groups, placing outcomes that are conceptually similar but measured differently (e.g., such as re-arrest or reconviction) on the same common scale or metric. Though these are different indices, they do measure a program’s effect on some construct (e.g., criminality). These effect sizes are usually averaged across all similar studies to provide a summary of program impact. The effect sizes also represent the dependent variable in the meta-analysis, and more advanced syntheses explore the role of potential moderating variables, such as sample size or other characteristics related to effect size.
When done well and with full integrity, a systematic review using meta-analysis can provide the most comprehensive assessment of the available evaluative literature addressing the research question, as well as the most reliable statement about what works. Drawing from a larger body of research increases statistical power by reducing standard error; individual studies often use small sample sizes, which can result in large margins of error. In addition, conducting meta-analysis can be faster and less resource-intensive than replicating experimental studies. Using meta-analysis instead of relying on an individual program evaluation can help ensure that policy is guided by the totality of evidence, drawing upon a solid basis for generalizing outcomes.
Paul Cozens and Terence Love
This chapter provides an overview of the principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). The paper focuses on the “dark side” of CPTED, a relatively underreported element to this theory, which relate to the negative outcomes that can result if CPTED is not implemented thoughtfully and equitably as a process. This chapter highlights why it is important to understand the “dark side” and provides examples of “dark-side” CPTED outcomes, such as the excessive use of target hardening, governance issues, and the use of CPTED as “crime prevention through exclusionary design.” The chapter highlights CPTED as a process, which can be enhanced to consider “dark-side” issues, using program logic models.
Ronald V. Clarke
Situational crime prevention is radically different from other forms of crime prevention as it seeks only to reduce opportunities for crime, not bring about lasting change in criminal or delinquent dispositions. Proceeding from an analysis of the circumstances giving rise to very specific kinds of crime and disorder, it introduces discrete managerial and environmental modifications to change the opportunity structure for those crimes to occur—not just the immediate physical and social settings in which the crimes occur, but also the wider societal arrangements that make the crimes possible. It is therefore focused on the settings for crime, not on delinquents or criminals. Rather than punishing them or seeking to eliminate criminal dispositions through improvement of society or its institutions, it tries to make criminal action less attractive. It does this in five main ways: (1) by increasing the difficulties of crime, (2) by increasing the immediate risks of getting caught, (3) by reducing the rewards of offending, (4) by removing excuses for offending, and (5) by reducing temptations and provocations. It accomplishes these ends by employing an action research methodology to identify design and management changes that can be introduced with minimum social and economic costs. Central to this enterprise is not the criminal justice system but a host of public and private organizations and agencies—schools, hospitals, transit systems, shops and malls, manufacturing businesses and phone companies, local parks and entertainment facilities, pubs and parking lots—whose products, services, and operations spawn opportunities for a vast range of different crimes. Some criminologists believe that the efforts that these organizations and agencies have made in the past 20 or 30 years to protect themselves from crime are responsible for the recorded crime drops in many countries.
Situational crime prevention rests on a sound foundation of criminological theories—routine activity theory, crime pattern theory, and the rational choice perspective—all of which hold that opportunity plays a part in every form of crime or disorder. There is therefore no form of crime that cannot be addressed by situational crime prevention. To date, more than 250 evaluated successes of situational crime prevention have been reported, covering an increasingly wide array of crimes including terrorism and organized crimes. Many of the studies have found little evidence that situational interventions have resulted in the “displacement” of crime to other places, times, targets, methods, or forms of crime. Indeed, it is commonly found that the benefits of situational crime prevention diffuse beyond the immediately targeted crimes. Despite these successes, situational crime prevention continues to attract much criticism for its supposed social and ethical costs.
Arthur J. Lurigio and Elizabeth Maine Ellis
Civil abatement involves the use of non-criminal remedies to address crime and public disorder in communities. Such remedies can hold accountable nonperpetrators of criminal activities, such as property and business owners, if those activities occur on the premises of the buildings or establishments that they are responsible for managing. Known as third-party policing, civil abatement strategies can also seek equity for non-criminal behaviors (e.g., standing in a public way), which are deemed to pose a threat to public safety, disrupt social order, and precipitate subsequent crimes. For example, antigang and antidrug ordinances are designed to alter situations or environments that provide opportunities for criminal activities. By bringing petitions to the civil courts, injunctions can be issued against the agents of public nuisances, such as known gang members who threaten the public by loitering on the streets or drug sellers who operate clandestinely from apartment buildings or drinking establishments. Violations of court injunctions can result in the closure of a property, the loss of a liquor license, or an arrest.
The uses of civil remedies to curtail or eradicate gang and drug activities have been challenged in the courts. For example, antiloitering ordinances have been found to be too vague in their proscriptions, too broad in their scope, and too nebulous in their targeting of residents. Such ordinances have also been found in violation of First or Fourteenth Amendment Rights. Nuisance abatement programs to reduce drug selling on private properties have resulted in modest successes in terms of enlisting property owners’ cooperation in evicting dealers from apartment buildings and appear to be effective with only an issuance of warning letters to landlords.
Using Naturalistic Observation to Develop Crime-Control Policies in Nighttime Entertainment Districts
For the last 20 years, research based on the idea that opportunities for crime are related to specific times and places has informed crime-control policies in nighttime entertainment districts. In order to examine crime in these areas, many studies have relied on large data sets that associate city- and neighborhood-level factors with crime and delinquency. These studies have helped us understand the importance of environmental and situational factors, as well as the impact of changes in legislation and regulations to control alcohol availability (e.g., reducing the density of alcohol outlets and trading hours) and the implementation of interventions in licensed premises to reduce intoxication and disorder. However, when informing crime-control policies, the use of alternative methods to examine entertainment districts, such as naturalistic observations, can be vital. Because nighttime entertainment districts are extremely complex environments, observation is useful to examine and identify situational factors and local dynamics that increase or decrease the opportunities for crime in specific places. Observational methods can be particularly useful to understand the context in which criminal behavior and aggressive incidents occur, the interplay of situational risk factors specific to a public drinking environment, and the social and cultural factors (e.g., the relationship between police, staff, and customers) that can facilitate or challenge the implementation of crime-control strategies in these multifaceted contexts.
Naturalistic observation is a data-collection method that involves accessing the field to systematically record and describe features of the space, people’s characteristics and patterns of movement, individual behaviors, and exchanges between actors in natural settings. It can be used in both quantitative and qualitative designs, although in different ways. In entertainment districts, researchers have used this method to understand crimes that are underreported and underregistered, such as sexual harassment, and to study patrons’ behaviors in licensed premises and surrounding streets, as well as staff management practices and control strategies. While they have some limitations, such as the fact that information is filtered by what observers see and how they interpret events, observation methods can uniquely contribute to the development of crime-control policies in entertainment districts by focusing on specific situational and cultural factors relating to violence and crime at a local level, as well as suggesting differentiated responses to the types of incidents that take place in these settings.