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Article

Consumer Fraud  

Shanna R. Van Slyke and Leslie A. Corbo

Consumer fraud is the intentional deception of one or more individuals with the promise of goods, services, or other financial benefits that either never existed, were never going to be provided, or were grossly misrepresented. In contrast to ancient times when consumer fraud and other white-collar crimes were considered to be at least as serious as violence and other street crimes, today’s consumer fraudster tends to be viewed as less dangerous and deserving of harsh sanctioning. Despite several social movements against consumer fraud and a proliferation of popular and scholarly literature on the topic, contemporary U.S. society has maintained a relatively lenient stance toward white-collar crime—a “soft on crime” position that is inconsistent with conservative “tough on crime” approaches that have dominated U.S. penal policy since the 1960s.

Article

Higher Education in Law Enforcement and Racial Disparity in Arrests  

Thaddeus L. Johnson, Natasha N. Johnson, Sarah Sepanik, and Maria H. Lee

Raising the educational standards for police officers represents a perennial police reform theme in the United States. Among other benefits, proponents herald college degree requirements as key to improving the quality and fairness of policing outcomes, including the chief formal response to crime: arresting suspected lawbreakers. However, the evidence base regarding college education requirements’ consequences for agency arrest behaviors is formative for various reasons, namely, the absence of studies examining whether these policies contribute to racially equitable arrest outcomes. The presented data show steeper decreases in the racial gap in Black and White people arrested for degree-requiring agencies compared to nondegree-requiring agencies between 2000 and 2016. Albeit encouraging news, the disparity rate for agencies with a college standard remains relatively higher. While what is implied is that college degree requirements alone will not resolve racial disparities in police arrests, it is premature to draw concrete conclusions about this often taken-for-granted association until more rigorous research is conducted.

Article

Colonialism, Crime, and Social Control  

Viviane Saleh-Hanna

Crime is a distinctly European concept that was institutionalized into the criminal justice system through the penal code, created in the 1700s by founding theorists of criminology’s classical school of thought. In practice, crime is a concept that limits what can be defined as harmful and violent. Written at the height of Europe’s genocidal colonial wars and chattel slavery, the penal code excluded, and continues to exclude mass atrocities and violations committed through these institutions. Since criminal justice institutions were birthed through and spread by Western Europe’s colonial wars around the globe, the study of colonialism, crime, and social control requires a re-evaluation of the pillars of Western European thought and the peculiar colonizing economies and punitive praxis that produced the criminal justice system. Through an anticolonial, genealogical framework scholars and researchers can better locate criminal justice institutions, practices, and concepts within their colonial contexts, allowing for a more thorough understanding of how history, power, politics, and economy shape crime and practice social control in the 21st century. At the core of an anticolonial study of crime and social control is an understanding that Europe’s crime-concept depends upon institutionalized constructions of dangerousness for colonized people and nations, and lack thereof, for colonizing people and nations. Dangerousness, as defined by colonial renditions of race, gender, sexuality, ability, class, nation, and so forth, anchors the cultural and implemented processes of criminalization; as a result, proper and comprehensive deconstructions of colonizing definitions of dangerousness require an intersectional understanding of power and oppression. Therefore, an effective framework for the study of colonialism, crime, and social control necessitates a re-evaluation and re-articulation of the following questions: what is colonialism?; what is crime?; what is colonial social control?; and what is criminology’s relationship to colonialism?

Article

Social Control of Crime in Asia  

Hua Zhong and Serena Yunran Zhang

The social control of crime is diversified across societies. The social control of crime in Asia inherits features that are unique to Asian cultural traditions (e.g., Confucianism and Islamism) and strives by exploring more effective models by balancing formal and informal social control. These social controls are also greatly influenced by socioeconomic developments and the dominance of the polity in Asian societies. Overall, Asian countries are going through the struggles between capitalism–socialism, democracy–authoritarianism, and traditionality–modernity. Such changing dynamics will continue to shape and reshape the way that formal and informal social institutions and processes exert control over crime and deviance. Cultivated by different civilizations, Asian societies have provided unique and valuable evidence to understand and refine the existing social control models developed from Western societies.

Article

Borders, Mobilities, and Governance in Transnational Perspective  

Richard Staring and René van Swaaningen

Despite the dominant notion that people are now allegedly living in the “era of globalization,” accompanied by rosy stories about a “global village,” borders have never lost their significance. On the contrary, the importance of borders has grown significantly under recent global and European crises. Not only have the number of borders increased, but borders also have become fluid as they moved outside national territories in order to protect countries, as well as political and economic unions, against the perceived threats of transnational organized crime, pandemics, unwanted migration, and terrorism. This externalization of borders through (financial) support and bilateral agreements with other countries led to a relocation of borders far beyond the geographical borders of nation states. In addition, borders have been renewed, reinforced, (temporarily) reactivated, and transformed. Specific attention is paid to some developments surrounding borders, including a responsibilization process on border control, in which governments increasingly stimulate or enforce private parties to take up responsibility in controlling their companies, and ultimately their borders, with respect to irregular migration and crime. Borders are also embodied in different kinds of measures and policies of nation-states that guard access of welfare state provisions, and through the merging of criminal law and immigration law (i.e., crimmigration). Finally, the “border industry” means business for construction, infrastructure, biometrics, and identity technology companies, as well as for security forces, research institutes, aid organizations, and human smugglers. The commodification of borders is an ongoing process as envisioned not only in popular culture as music, literature, reality TV and movies, but also in borders that have become important touristic attractions. The framing of borders through this commodification process as inevitable and as a necessity in turn expresses and legitimates current state agendas.

Article

Situational Crime Prevention  

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.

Article

Routine Activity Theory  

Lacey Schaefer

Historically, criminological theories have aimed to explain criminal propensity, providing explanations for why some individuals are more likely than others to commit an offense. Conversely, less attention has been paid to the other element of a crime event: opportunity. This trend was radically altered from the 1970s onward, in large part due to Lawrence Cohen and Marcus Felson’s creation of a “routine activity approach” to understanding crime trends. The scholars proposed that, beyond the necessity of a motivated offender, crimes occur when suitable targets are present and capable guardians are absent. The contribution of routine activity theory increased interest in the role of criminal opportunity substantially, with various streams of research coalescing into a school of criminological thought known as “environmental criminology,” sometimes referred to as “crime science.” Routine activity theory is central to these approaches and is focused on crime reduction through the prevention and control of chances to commit crime. Routine activity theory was initially proposed as a sociological perspective, as Cohen and Felson explored aggregate associations between social trends (such as sociodemographic changes in household activity and urbanization) and the risk of victimization. Their analyses suggested that as changes occurred in the routine activities of Americans post-World War II, crime rates increased. From this original conceptualization, routine activity theory has evolved into the “crime triangle,” which provides a way of analyzing crime problems. The triangle depicts that crime events occur when motivated offenders and attractive targets converge in space and time in the absence of guardianship. Research has further specified that three crime control actions paired with these elements—handling for offenders, guarding for targets, and managing for places—can reduce crime events. There are now hundreds of studies that examine the relationship between routine activities and crime, with many of these empirical investigations organized around the crime triangle. Theoretical advancements have outlined the role of targets and guardians, the levels of responsibility of crime controllers, the attractiveness of targets, the characteristics of (in)effective guardianship, and the social processes related to the presence or absence of handlers, guardians, and managers. Considering the combined contributions of this canon of literature, the evidence is clear in demonstrating the utility of routine activity theory for understanding and preventing crime.

Article

Self-Control Theory and Crime  

Michael Gottfredson

Gottfredson and Hirschi advanced self-control theory in 1990 as part of their general theory of crime. Self-control is defined as the ability to forego acts that provide immediate or near-term pleasures, but that also have negative consequences for the actor, and as the ability to act in favor of longer-term interests. An individual’s level of self-control is influenced by family or other caregiver behavior early in life. Once established, differences in self-control affect the likelihood of delinquency in childhood and adolescence and crime in later life. Persons with relatively high levels of self-control do better in school, have stronger job prospects, establish more stable interpersonal relationships, and attain higher income and better health outcomes. Self-control theory was initially constructed to reconcile the age, generality, and stability findings of criminological research with the standard assumptions of control theory. As such, it acknowledges the general decline in crime with age, versatility in types of problem behaviors engaged in by delinquents and offenders, and the generally stable individual differences in the tendency to engage in delinquency and crime over one’s life-course. Self-control theory applies to a wide variety of illegal behaviors (most crimes) and to many noncrime problem behaviors, including school problems, accidents, and substance abuse. A considerable amount of research has been undertaken on self-control theory and on Gottfredson and Hirschi’s general theory of crime. As a result, self-control theory is likely the most heavily researched perspective in criminology during the past 30 years. Most reviews find substantial empirical support for the principal positions of the theory, including the relationship between levels of self-control and delinquency, crime, and other problem behaviors. These relationships appear to be strong throughout life, among most groups of people, types of crime, in the United States and other countries, and over time. The posited important role of the family in the genesis of self-control is consistent with substantial bodies of research, although some researchers argue in favor of important genetic components for self-control. The theory’s expectations about the age distribution of crime, versatility of offending, and stability of individual differences over long periods of time also receive substantial support. Researchers have long studied variations in age effects, particularly seeking continuously high levels of offending for the most serious offenders, but reviewers have found that the evidence for meaningful variability is not convincing. For public policy, self-control theory argues that the most promising approach for crime reduction focuses primarily on prevention, especially in early childhood, and secondarily on situational prevention for specific types of crimes. Gottfredson and Hirschi argue that self-control theory is inconsistent with reliance on the criminal justice system to affect crime levels. On the one hand, general reviews of the empirical literature on deterrence and incapacitation support the expectations of self-control theory by finding little support for severity of sanctions, sanctions long removed from the act, and selective incapacitation for “serious offenders.” On the other hand, experimental studies from education, psychology, and criminology generally support the idea that early-childhood family and educational environments can be altered to enhance self-control and lower expected delinquency, crime, and other problem behaviors later in life.

Article

Ideology in the Crime Genre  

Timothy O. Lenz

The media inform the public about crime while also reflecting and shaping thinking about crime. The news media primarily provide information when they report on crime as part of the coverage of public affairs, but they also shape thinking about crime. The entertainment media, particularly television and film crime stories, primarily entertain audiences, but they also reflect and shape public opinion about the threat of crime, the causes of crime, criminal justice policies, and the criminal justice system. The media effect on the general public’s thinking about crime includes both the news media and the entertainment media because the trends toward infotainment in the news media (e.g., docudramas and true crime reality shows) and realism in the crime genre (stories that are based on or inspired by actual events) have blurred the distinction between fact and fiction. The study of ideology in the crime genre includes the development of theories; empirical analyses of the media effect; explaining ideology, film, and television crime stories as legal texts explaining criminal procedure; and the exploration of current issues related to thinking about rights, law, violence, and justice.

Article

Justice-System Monitoring Technologies and Victim Welfare  

Craig Paterson

The evolution of criminal justice technologies is inextricably linked to the emergence of new modes of electronic and digital governance that have become essential components of a surveillance and crime control culture continually seeking out novel responses to actual and perceived threats. The slow emergence of these technologies in the second part of the 20th century was often theorized through a discourse of order and control that has subsequently evolved in the 21st century to emphasize the protective potential of technologies oriented toward the interests of victims. The potential of criminal justice technologies to improve public safety and address issues of repeat victimization has now been subjected to significant scrutiny from scholars across the globe. While it would be conceptually inaccurate to split offenders and victims into two discrete groups, there has been an increase in analytical focus upon the intersections between victims of crime and technology within the context of criminal justice processes that had traditionally been oriented toward offenders. A more sophisticated understanding of the psychological and behavioral potential of criminal justice technologies has emerged that has permanently adjusted the landscape of crime and disorder management and has had a transformative impact upon the relationship between victims, technology, and criminal justice. Yet, at the same time, the integration of digital technologies into the crime control and criminal justice infrastructure still is at an early stage in its evolution, with future trends and patterns uncertain.

Article

Rural and Remote Policing  

Rick Ruddell

Although many city residents think of life in the countryside as peaceful, there are rural and remote communities with very high crime rates. In addition, some rural populations, such as Indigenous peoples and women, are at higher risk of victimization than their urban counterparts. Regardless of where one lives, levels of crime in the countryside and the formal and informal responses to those acts—including policing—have been shaped by a series of historical, political, geographic, economic, and demographic factors, and many of those factors are interconnected. Rural crime is further distinctive as some offenses, including illegal hunting (poaching) or environmental crimes, rarely occur in cities. Moreover, responses to those acts may be carried out by military organizations, nonpolice authorities, and police officers. The involvement of these quasi-police organizations in responding to rural crime is increasing in some nations. Rural is defined in this entry as a community or place with fewer than 2,500 residents located at least 30 miles from the nearest metropolitan area. Despite recognizing that crime in the countryside is unlike what occurs in cities, there has been comparatively little scholarship on rural or remote policing. Instead, most police research is conducted and disseminated by urban researchers—what some call an urban-centric focus—and as a result knowledge about rural policing is underdeveloped. There has been even less scholarship focusing on policing remote communities, and that is a significant limitation given the distinctive patterns of crime in some of these places. Although policymakers have developed a diverse range of interventions to respond to antisocial behavior, disorder, and crime in rural and remote jurisdictions, the people in these places have a common expectation: They want the same quality of policing city residents receive. The nature of rural policing, however, makes that a very difficult goal to achieve, as officers are often stretched thin and work in more dangerous conditions than their urban counterparts. Rural officers are also expected to respond to every conceivable call for service even though they often work alone and have limited backup. This is because many stand-alone rural police services are cash strapped as they draw from sparsely populated or impoverished tax bases. Inadequate funding also limits their ability to recruit officer candidates and inhibits the sophistication of investigations, opportunities for officer training, officer retention, and the ability to provide safe working conditions for their personnel. Four issues are of key importance to understanding rural and remote policing: (a) Rural crime differs from urban crime, and in some jurisdictions, the volume of crime is similar to (or greater than) city crime rates, although the nature of crime differs (e.g., some types of crimes occur more often in rural places); (b) rural officers carry out their day-to-day duties in a distinctively different manner than municipal officers; (c) the informal and formal expectations for rural officers are higher than their counterparts working in urban areas; and (d) the challenges of rural policing are magnified in remote locations.

Article

Armed Robbery (Commercial)  

Rob Hornsby and Dick Hobbs

The United Kingdom has seen the rise and subsequent demise of armed robbery by serious and organized criminals. The emergence of armed robbery must be considered within a context of criminal progression forged by the wider political economy and its developments, which shape the opportunities and characteristics of professional criminals. The shift from a cash-based economy towards a credit-constructed economic milieu witnessed the demise of craft crimes such as safe-cracking and the growth of project-based criminality such as armed robbery. The subsequent decline in professional armed robbers attacking banks, post offices, building societies, and cash-in-transit targets can be regarded as the result of control-of-crime strategies and situational crime prevention tactics. There has been increasing use of security measures, including (but not exclusively) within the banking sector, such as in-house closed-circuit television (CCTV), indelible dyes for tainting stolen money, and wider “risk society” measures including, for example, widespread street CCTV, automated number plate recognition, and an increasing shift to credit or debit card transactions. This approach to situational crime control has been successful, leading “elite” professional criminals to seek alternative illicit opportunities and leaving contemporary armed robbers, generally amateurs, deskilled and often desperate individuals.

Article

Situational Action Theory: Toward a Dynamic Theory of Crime and Its Causes  

Per-Olof H. Wikström

Situational Action Theory (SAT) is a general, dynamic, and mechanism-based theory of crime and its causes. It is general because it proposes to explain all kinds of crime (and rule-breaking more generally). It is dynamic because it centers on analyzing crime and its changes as the outcome of the interactions between people and their environments. It is mechanism-based because its explanation focuses on identifying key basic processes involved in crime causation. SAT analyzes crime as moral actions and its explanation focuses on three basic and interrelated explanatory mechanisms: the perception–choice process (the situational mechanism) that explains why crime events happen; selection-mechanisms that explain why criminogenic situations occur; and mechanisms of emergence that explain why people develop and change their crime propensities (psychosocial processes), and why places develop and change their criminogeneity (socioecological processes).

Article

Visual Criminology  

Michelle Brown

Visual criminology emerges from a call to rethink the manner in which images are reshaping the world and criminology as a project. The mobility, malleability, banality, speed, and scale of images and their distribution demand that we engage both old and new theories and methods. Visual criminologists pursue a refinement of concepts and tools as well as innovative new ones to tackle questions of crime, harm, culture, and control. Concerned with how ways of seeing are foundational to social orders, visual criminology gives close attention to the production of crime’s power and spectacle in the visual field and relies upon emergent conceptual terms and vocabularies to do so. It insists that it is no longer possible to understand crime and control separately from how they are represented. Visual criminology is born as an alternative academic space that is neither supplementary nor secondary to mainstream social science; rather, it calls us to understand the power of crime and punishment beyond the written and numeric registers of reports, studies, and research. The concerns of visual criminology are numerous. Visual criminologists are interested in the role of vision and the visual in the historical foundations of criminology as a discipline. They push crime and media scholars to investigate more deeply the role of the image itself, beyond conventional studies of crime and media. Using a growing and sophisticated set of theories, methods, and concepts, they track how the various optics of criminology and criminal justice (defined by disciplinary, institutional, and epistemological boundaries) are produced, culminating in popular and scientific perspectives that inevitably bring certain principles, claims, and possibilities into the line of vision and omit others. They also give attention to how these optics are contested and transgressed. Focal points of this work span a variety of media and artistic modes that continue to grow at an unprecedented rate: photodocumentary, photoethnography, new and social media, interactive and social documentary, architecture, data visualizations, design, conceptual and performance art, mixed media, theater, embodiment, spatialization, surveillance and aerial/satellite/drone technology, graffiti and urban aesthetics, ruins and dark tourism, models, exhibitions, and imaginative interventions to envision crime and punishment otherwise. Even as this visual focus expands the disciplinary tools and insights of criminology, it also broadens the field’s boundaries, drawing from a rich theoretical terrain of interdisciplinary studies.

Article

Social Disorganization Theory  

Paul Bellair

Contemporary sociologists typically trace social disorganization models to Emile Durkheim’s classic work. There is continuity between Durkheim’s concern for organic solidarity in societies that are changing rapidly and the social disorganization approach of Shaw and McKay (1969). However, Shaw and McKay view social disorganization as a situationally rooted variable and not as an inevitable property of all urban neighborhoods. They argued that socioeconomic status (SES), racial and ethnic heterogeneity, and residential stability account for variations in social disorganization and hence informal social control, which in turn account for the distribution of community crime. Empirical testing of Shaw and McKay’s research in other cities during the mid-20th century, with few exceptions, focused on the relationship between SES and delinquency or crime as a crucial test of the theory. As a whole, that research supports social disorganization theory. A handful of studies in the 1940s through early 1960s documented a relationship between social disorganization and crime. After a period of stagnation, social disorganization increased through the 1980s and since then has accelerated rapidly. Much of that research includes direct measurement of social disorganization, informal control, and collective efficacy. Clearly, many scholars perceive that social disorganization plays a central role in the distribution of neighborhood crime.

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.

Article

Prison Gangs  

R.V. Gundur

Prison gangs are often formally referred to as “security threat groups” or “disruptive groups.” Compared to street gangs, they are understudied criminal organizations. As is the case with many organized criminal groups, official definitions of prison gangs tend to be broad, typically defining one as any group of three or more people who engage in disruptive behavior in a carceral setting. Many prison gangs, however, have other, distinct characteristics, such as having formed or matured in adult prisons, being composed primarily of adults, having a clear organizational structure that allows the gang to persist, and having a presence both in and out of prison. Research on prison gangs has been sporadic and focuses primarily, though not exclusively, on the United States. The first studies of inmate life occurred in the 1940s and 1950s, and in prisons that did not have modern incarnations of prison gangs. Until the 1980s, only a few academics described the existence of prison gangs or, their precursor, cliques. The 1980s and early 1990s saw the first studies of prison gangs, notably Camp and Camp’s historical study of prison gangs within the United States from the 1950s to the 1980s and Fong and Buentello’s work that documented the foundation and evolution of prison gangs in the Texas prison system in the 1980s. These studies marked some of the first, and last, significant, systematic studies of prison gangs until the new century. The 21st century brought renewed attention to security threat groups, as scholars from a variety of disciplines, including sociology, criminology, and economics, engaged in the study of prison society and how inmate groups influence it. Some of these scholars introduced new methodologies to the study of prison gangs, thereby significantly increasing the available knowledge on these groups. Research on prison gangs has expanded to consider four broad categories: defining prison gangs and describing their formation and evolution; evaluating prison gangs’ organizational structure and governance in carceral and free settings; assessing the role of prison gangs on reoffending; and gauging how to control prison gangs both in and out of prison.

Article

Using Naturalistic Observation to Develop Crime-Control Policies in Nighttime Entertainment Districts  

Monica Perez-Trujillo

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.