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.