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Body Cameras and Policing  

Bryce Elling Peterson and Daniel S. Lawrence

Body-worn cameras (BWCs) are small devices that police officers can affix to their person—in a head-, shoulder-, or chest-mounted position—that can audio and video record their interactions with community members. BWCs have received strong support from the public and, in recent years, widespread buy-in from police leadership and officers because of their ability to improve accountability and transparency and enhance the collection of evidence. Implementation guidelines recommend that officers activate their BWCs during each officer–citizen interaction and inform the people they encounter that they are being recorded. Early research on this technology found that officers equipped with body cameras were significantly less likely to engage in force and receive citizen complaints. However, more recent studies with larger samples have had mixed findings about the impact of body cameras on use of force, citizen complaints, and other police activities and behaviors. Numerous legal and ethical considerations are associated with BWCs, including their implications for privacy concerns and public disclosure. However, police officials, policymakers, civil rights groups, and the public must continue to weigh these privacy concerns against the potential for BWCs to enhance police accountability and transparency. Future scholarship should focus on the degree to which BWCs can improve police–community relations and yield valuable evidence for both criminal cases and internal investigations.

Article

Crime Analysis in Policing  

Eric L. Piza and Rachael A. Arietti

Crime analysis involves the use of data to study crime-related problems. This includes identifying spatial and temporal patterns of crime events, understanding the characteristics of crime scenes, and identifying high-risk victims and offenders. Work products of crime analysts provide police the ability to understand the nature of crime problems in their jurisdiction. This information is then used to develop crime prevention interventions. Crime analysis is a requirement of the types of proactive, focused, problem-solving activities that work best in policing. Crime analysis can be categorized into four broad types: crime intelligence analysis, tactical crime analysis, strategic crime analysis, and administrative crime analysis. Crime mapping has become an important skill that cuts across the different crime analysis types and informs many activities of modern police agencies. The crime analysis profession has increased in size and scope over the early 21st century. However, some core components of crime analysis have existed in policing as far back as the mid-1800s in Great Britain and the early 1900s in the United States. The evidence-based policing movement—which advocates for policy solutions to be based on scientific evidence about what works best in preventing crime—presents opportunities for further advancement of the crime analysis profession. Barriers to maximizing the benefits of crime analysis relate to inconsistent training standards, reliance on outdated models of policing, and a lack of clarity regarding roles and agency standing for crime analysts. An increased commitment to applied research efforts may help navigate these barriers in the future.

Article

Crime Hot Spots  

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.

Article

Crime Mapping and Policing  

Lisa Tompson

The empirical truism that crime clusters geographically has increasingly informed police practice in the first two decades of the 21st century. This has been greatly aided by crime mapping, which can be thought of as a summary term for the geographic analysis of data related to crime and disorder. Crime analysts use a range of mapping techniques to describe and explain patterns in data, being mindful of the unique qualities of geographically referenced data. These include point pattern maps, thematic maps, kernel density estimation, and GI* statistic maps. Rate maps are also used when the aim is to understand the risk of victimization. Crime maps can be used to identify hot spots for targeted action, identify recently committed crimes that might form part of a linked series, monitor the impact of police initiatives, and aid understanding of crime problems. Environmental criminology theory is often used for the latter of these purposes, as this can explain spatiotemporal patterns revealed through crime mapping and assists in understanding the mechanisms driving the patterns. The logic for organizing police efforts around geographical crime concentration is instinctive: by focusing on a small number of locations with high crime volumes, police can be more focused and hence effective. Thus, “hot spots policing” has become business as usual in many jurisdictions, focusing attention at small units of geography. Hot spot policing has, in many countries in the early 21st century, evolved into “predictive policing,” which is a data-driven crime forecasting approach. However, this approach has attracted strong criticism for further entrenching bias in the criminal justice system. Critics argue that the data sets on which the predictive policing algorithms are founded are racially biased and perpetuate police attention on communities of color. This serves to highlight the systematic biases that can be present in crime-related data, and professional crime analysts use a range of approaches to mitigate such biases, such as triangulating data sources.

Article

Law Enforcement and Public Health  

Isabelle Bartkowiak-Théron

The law enforcement and public health (LEPH) movement is an emerging area of practice and scholarship that aims to consolidate responses and research addressing a range of complex issues relating to areas of crime and deviance that are deeply rooted in public ill-health. Despite recent growth in political, professional, and academic interest, LEPH collaborations are not new. However, LEPH collaborative problem-solving and the associated delivery of support services to the communityremain difficult to implement, sustain, and evaluate. LEPH is a promising platform from which to view systemic change unfold, and its future appears to be increasingly important given the current calls for the abolishment or defunding of the police, with the accompanying recommendation to re-fund public health services. The opportunities for shared practices and language, as well as the debates around disciplinary remits (particularly how these remits necessarily overlap in practice), focus on how vulnerable people can benefit from the articulation or integration of joined support services in health and criminal justice. Collaborative endeavors in LEPH are not only desirable but also necessary to effectively address the significant overlapping issues presented to police and public health agencies. In a context of global public dissatisfaction with the public sector and the entrenchment of inequality and deprivation, LEPH efforts may offer the next best step to address the ways in which communities have been disadvantaged by inflexibly siloed areas of government.

Article

Place Managers and Crime Places  

John E. Eck

Place management theory—a part of routine activity theory—explains why a relatively few places have a great deal of crime while most places have little or no crime. The explanation is the way place managers carry out their four primary functions: organization of space, regulation of conduct, control of access, and acquisition of resources. Place managers are those people and organizations that own and operate businesses, homes, hotels, drinking establishments, schools, government offices, places of worship, health centers, and other specific locations. They can even operate mobile places such as busses, trains, ships, and aircraft. Some are large—a multi-story office tower for example—while others are tiny—a bus stop, for example. Place managers are important because they can exercise control over the people who use these locations and in doing so contribute to public order and safety. Consequently, it is important to understand place management, how it can fail, and what one can do to prevent failures. Place management has implications beyond high-crime sites. When crime places are connected, they can create crime hot spots in an area. The concentration of high crime places can inflate crime in a neighborhood. Moreover, place management can be applied to virtual locations, such as servers, websites, and other network infrastructures. There is considerable evaluation evidence that place managers can change high crime locations to low crime locations. Research also shows that displacement to other places, though possible, is far from inevitable. Indeed, research shows that improving a high crime place can reduce crime at places nearby places. Although much of this research has studied how police intervene with place managers, non-police regulatory agencies can carry out this public safety function.

Article

Policing Violent Extremism in Canada and the United States  

Sara K. Thompson

The changing and increasingly complex nature of violent extremism has prompted important changes to the ways police in Canada and the United States understand and respond to this violence. A burgeoning research literature examines the reasons underpinning these changes, documents the corresponding expansion of national security apparatuses in both countries and the policy and operational innovations that drove this expansion, and raises important questions about the way forward: Can an operational combination of enforcement and prevention-based programming complement and supplement one another in ways that improve the police response to extremist violence? How have public health frameworks been deployed in the context of police co-led extremism prevention programming? What are the most salient operational challenges for police and partner agencies? Is it possible to ensure that the police response is equitable and effective in responding to the current threat landscape? What role can research and evidence-based practice play to inform and assess the efficacy of current approaches? Such questions mirror the ways traditional, reactive, and enforcement-based approaches to policing violent extremism have been morally interrogated as the primary response to this violence. Lessons learned from an overemphasis on such approaches are imperative to the development of effective, legally and socially responsible approaches for responding to extremist violence in North America.

Article

Predictive Policing in the United States  

Fei Yang

Predictive policing, also known as crime forecasting, is a set of high technologies aiding the police in solving past crimes and preventing future ones. With the right deployment of such technologies, law enforcement agencies can combat and control crime more efficiently with time and resources better employed and allocated. The current practices of predictive policing include the integration of various technologies, ranging from predictive crime maps and surveillance cameras to sophisticated computer software and artificial intelligence. Predictive analytics help the police make predictions about where and when future crime is most likely to happen and who will be the perpetrator and who the potential victim. The underpinning logic behind such predictions is the predictability of criminal behavior and crime patterns based on criminological research and theories such as rational choice and deterrence theories, routine activities theory, and broken windows theory. Many jurisdictions in the United States have deployed or have been experimenting with various predictive policing technologies. The most widely adopted applications include CompStat, PredPol, HunchLab, Strategic Subject List (SSL), Beware, Domain Awareness System (DAS), Palantir, and Patternizr. The realization of these predictive policing analytics systems relies heavily on the technological assistance provided by data collection and integration software, facial and vehicle identification and tracking tools, and surveillance technologies that keep tabs on individual activities both in the physical environment and in the digital world. Some examples of these assisting technologies include Automatic License Plate Recognition, Next-Generation Identification System, the Global Positioning System, Automatic Vehicle Location, next-generation police body-worn cameras with facial recognition and tracking functions, aerial cameras and unmanned aircraft systems, DeepFace, Persistent Surveillance Systems, Stingrays/D(i)RT-Box/International Mobile Subscriber Identity Catcher, and SnapTrends (which monitors and analyzes feeds on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Picasa, Flickr, and YouTube). This new trend of using predictive analytics in policing has elicited extensive doubt and criticism since its invention. Whereas scholarly evaluation research shows mixed findings about how effectively predictive policing actually works to help reduce crime, other concerns center around legal and civil rights issues (including privacy protection and the legitimacy of mass surveillance), inequality (stratified surveillance), cost-effectiveness of the technologies, militarization of the police and its implications (e.g., worsened relationship and weakened trust between the police and the public), and epistemological challenges to understanding crime. To make the best use of the technologies and avoid their pitfalls at the same time, policymakers need to consider the hotly debated controversies raised in the evolution of predictive policing.