Crime Analysis in police work
What is its significance in relation to Crime Analysis in police work, as well as criminal investigations.
Importance of Theory in Crime Analysis
Historically not used often in crime analysis
Sociological and psychological theories that explain the root causes of criminal activity and why people become criminals are not relevant
Crime analysis requires theories that assume a motivated offender, theories considered “criminal justice theories”
Does not attempt to explain root causes of crime or why people are criminals
Focuses on the various aspects of “settings” in which crime occurs
Asserts crimes occur only when the opportunity exists for that crime
Some settings contain more opportunities for crime than others
Theories of environmental criminology help understand how opportunities are created
Goal is not to explain why a specific offender commits a specific crime but to understand the various aspects of a criminal event in order to identify patterns of behavior and environmental factors that create opportunities for crime and other unwanted activity
Problem Analysis Triangle: Foundation of environmental criminology
Represents a particular type of problematic activity
Three sides and on top of the smaller triangle are the four necessary components for a crime to occur
A crime event occurs when an offender and a victim or target come together at a particular place at a particular time
Types of people or mechanisms that can exhibit control over victims/targets, places, and offenders
They have the ability to both discourage or reduce opportunities and encourage or increase the opportunities for crime
Guardians: people who have the ability to protect victims/targets by watching over them or removing them from particular settings
Managers: people who are responsible for places, such as hotel or store clerks and apartment building managers. They set rules and manage the places in crime settings.
Handlers: people who know the potential offenders and are in positions that allow them to monitor and/or control potential offenders’ actions.
Rational Choice Theory
Offenders make choices about committing crimes based on anticipated risks and rewards
If given a chance, or the right “opportunity,” any person will commit a crime
Useful for crime analysis and policing because of the importance of determining why groups of offenders choose to commit particular crimes systematically
Also suggests that individuals will decide not to commit crimes when the risks are too high or the rewards are not adequate
Crime Pattern Theory
Seeks to understand how people come together in space and time within crime settings
Criminal events are most likely to occur in areas where the activity space of potential offenders overlaps with the activity space of potential victims/targets
An individual’s activity space is that area that becomes familiar to him or her through everyday activities
Suggests that offenders commit crimes in places they know or frequent (e.g., movie Home Alone)
Routine Activities Theory
How opportunities for crime change based on changes in behavior on a societal level
For example, Americans’ routine activities were responsible for increases in crime rates in the United States from 1947 to 1974
Suggests that societal changes in behavior can decrease opportunities as well
Situational Crime Prevention
A practice initiated in England in the 1980s by Ron Clarke
Based on the concepts of environmental criminology
Why crime occurs in specific settings and seeks solutions that reflect the nature of those settings
Provides specific actions police can take to address crime problems in local settings based on the crime analysis of those problems
Increasing the offender’s perceived effort
Make it more difficult for the offender to commit the crime
Target hardening (e.g., deadbolts, special locks on sliding glass doors)
Controlling access to facilities (e.g., reducing numbers of entrances/exits, installing gated barriers)
Screening exits (e.g., using electronic merchandise tags, requiring a ticket for exit)
Deflecting offenders (e.g., closing streets, implementing a police beat office)
Controlling tools/weapons (e.g., restricting sales of spray paint to adults)
Increase the offender’s perceived risk in committing a crime
Make the offender “think twice” because he or she perceives a possibility of getting caught
Extending guardianship (e.g., joining a neighborhood watch group, carrying a phone, not walking alone)
Assisting natural surveillance (e.g., improving street lighting, maintaining landscaping)
Reducing anonymity (e.g., requiring school uniforms, requiring taxi drivers to display identification)
Utilizing place managers (e.g., having two clerks on every shift at convenience stores)
Using formal surveillance (e.g., installing video cameras and burglar alarms)
Reduce the offender’s anticipated rewards from committing the crime
Reduce the value to the offender of the crime itself
Concealing targets (e.g., parking vehicles in a garage instead of on the street, putting any valuables carried in a car in the trunk)
Removing targets (e.g., keeping a maximum of $50 in cash in a convenience store register)
Identifying property (e.g., licensing bicycles, etching a car’s vehicle identification number on the car’s parts)
Disrupting markets (e.g., monitoring pawn shops and street vendors for stolen merchandise)
Denying benefits (e.g., installing removable faces on car stereos, attaching ink tags to clothing)
Reduce the offender’s provocation for committing the crime
Change social and environmental conditions in ways that will diminish stress, conflict, and temptation to offend
Reducing frustrations and stress (e.g., managing lines efficiently, providing comfortable seating and/or music or other entertainment for people waiting for service)
Avoiding disputes (e.g., reducing crowding in bars, establishing fixed cab fares)
Reducing emotional arousal (e.g., eliminating a bikini contest at a bar)
Neutralizing peer pressure (e.g., dispersing groups at schools, reassuring juveniles that “it’s okay to say no”)
Discouraging imitation (e.g., repairing vandalized property rapidly, censoring details of crimes when providing information to the media)
Removing excuses for the crime
Change social practices as a way of encouraging compliance with the law
Setting rules (e.g., requiring written rental agreements, requiring registration for admittance to a hotel)
Posting instructions (e.g., installing signs specifying “No Parking” or “Private Property”)
Alerting conscience (e.g., installing a roadside speed display, posting signs that say, “Shoplifting is stealing”)
Assisting compliance (e.g., providing trash bins and containers for recyclables in public areas)
Controlling drugs and alcohol (e.g., installing Breathalyzers in bars, refusing to serve alcohol to drunk individuals).
The recurrence of crime in the same places and/or against the same people
People and places that have been victimized in the past have a higher likelihood of being victimized again than do people and places that have never been victimized
Best predictor for victimization is if the person or place has been victimized in the past
Facilities the identification of patterns of opportunity
Provides a focus for prevention, since those who have been victimized in the past should be at the top of the list for the targeting of prevention measures
Four types of repeat victimization
True repeat victims: These are the exact same individuals and/or places that were victimized again. For example, the same residents living in the same house that was burglarized twice.
Near victims: These are victims or targets that are physically close to the original victim and share characteristics with the original victim. Burglary of several condos in the same community is an example because they are physically close but may also have the same door locks and physical design.
Virtual repeats: These are victims or targets that are virtually identical to the original victim and share characteristics. For example, an electronics retail stores of the same name that are victimized across cities or states are virtual repeats because they have similar, if not identical, store layouts, policies, and types of property. Also, new occupants (e.g., owners of a store or residents of a home) of a place that was victimized in the past are virtual repeats.
Chronic victims: Also called multiple victimization, these are individuals who are repeatedly victimized over time by various offenders for various types of crimes (e.g., assault, robbery, theft).
Repeat victimization is also related to other ways in which crime cluster:
Repeat offenders: Individuals who commit multiple crimes. These can be individuals who specialize in one type of crime (e.g., robbery) or commit a variety of crimes (e.g., theft, robbery, assault).
Hot spots: These are areas that suffer proportionately large amounts of crime. Areas can be hotspots based on one type of crime or a variety of crime. The size of the hotspot area depends on both the amount of crime and relative size of the jurisdiction.
Hot targets: Types of places that are frequently victimized that are not necessarily in the same area. Examples include beauty salons, convenience stores, day-care centers, bars, and fast-food restaurants.
Risky facilities: Individual locations that attract or generate a disproportionate amount of crime. Examples include a very large retail plaza or mall, a low budget motel, and a high school.
Hot products: Types of property that are repeatedly victimized (CRAVED). Examples include cell phones, laptop computers, and weapons.
80/20 rule (also called the Pareto Principle)
80% of some kinds of outcomes are the result of only 20% of the related causes
Numbers 80 and 20 are used here only to represent “large” and “small” amounts
Actual proportions change in each analysis depending on the type of activity and nature of the community in which it occurs
This is true in many phenomena in nature (earthquakes, hurricanes).
By identifying the small proportion of areas, victims, and offenders where a large amount of activity is concentrated, police can get the most out of their crime prevention efforts
A crime phenomenon can change by being moved to another time and/or place or can take on another form
In a comprehensive review of crime reduction studies, Hesseling (1994) found that not one study had reported complete displacement of any activity.
Types of displacement
Spatial displacement: shifting of an activity from targets in one area to those in another area
Temporal displacement: shifting of an activity from one time to another.
Target displacement: shifting of the choice of one victim/target to a more vulnerable victim/target
Tactical displacement: shifting of tactics by offenders
Diffusion of Benefits
Diffusion of benefits: A crime phenomenon can also change by being eliminated (partially or fully)
Research has shown that crime problems can be eliminated through the application of the principles of situational crime prevention, which aims to reduce/remove the opportunities for crime (Clarke, 1992).
Research indicates that when targeted problems are successfully eliminated, other problems are also often eliminated
Key Points about Opportunity
Opportunities play a role in causing all crime.
Crime opportunities are highly specific.
Crime opportunities are concentrated in time and space.
Crime opportunities depend on everyday movements of activity.
One crime produces opportunities for another.
Some products offer more tempting crime opportunities than do others.
Social and technological changes produce new crime opportunities.
Crime can be prevented through the reduction of opportunities.
Reducing opportunities does not usually result in the displacement of crime.
Focused opportunity reduction can produce wider declines in crime.
Criminological theories that deal with immediate situational causes of crime are more relevant to crime analysis than theories that seek to explain the underlying sociological and psychological causes of crime or why people become criminals.
Environmental criminology focuses on patterns of motivation for offenders, opportunities that exist for crime, and levels of protection of victims within the criminal event as well as the environment in which it occurs. The goal of environmental criminology is not to explain why a specific offender commits a specific crime but to understand the various aspects of a criminal event in order to identify patterns of behavior and environmental factors that create opportunities for crime.
The problem analysis triangle illustrates the relationships among the elements that create crime opportunities: the offender’s motivation, the vulnerability of the target/victim, the time and place of the crime event, and the lack of oversight/protection.
Guardians are people who have the ability to protect victims/targets by watching over them or removing them from particular settings.
Managers are people who are responsible for places. They set rules and manage the places.
Handlers are people who know the potential offenders and are in positions that allow them to monitor and/or control potential offenders’ actions.
Three theoretical perspectives help crime analysts understand and anticipate patterns of behavior that create opportunities for crime: rational choice theory (offender choices), crime pattern theory (activity space interaction), and routine activities theory (patterns of behavior).
Rational choice theory states that offenders make choices about committing crimes based on opportunities and anticipated rewards. It suggests that if given a chance or the right “opportunity,” any person will commit a crime. It also suggests that a person will decide not to commit crimes when the risks are too high or the rewards are not adequate—an idea that differs from traditional criminological theory that implies that criminal behavior is inevitable.
Crime pattern theory helps to explain the nature of the immediate situation in which a crime occurs. According to this theory, criminal events are most likely to occur in areas where the activity spaces of offenders overlap with the activity spaces of potential victims/targets. Offenders tend to commit crimes in areas with which they are familiar.
Routine activities theory focuses on how opportunities for crime change based on changes in behavior on a societal level. The increasing use of the Internet is an example of a change in society that has created opportunities for crime.
Situational crime prevention is a practice based on the components of the crime triangle. A classification system developed by Ronald V. Clarke specifies five types of crime prevention techniques— increasing the offender’s perceived effort, increasing the offender’s perceived risk, reducing the offender’s anticipated rewards, reducing provocations for committing crime, and removing excuses for committing crime—each of which can be divided into five general kinds of techniques.
Repeat victimization is the recurrence of crime in the same places or against the same people. A major finding from the research on repeat victimization is that people and places that have been victimized in the past have a higher likelihood of being victimized again than do people and places that have not been victimized.
Repeat victimization is broken down into four types: true repeat victims, near victims, virtual repeats, and chronic victims.
Repeat victimization is also related to other ways in which crime clusters: repeat offenders, hot spots, risky facilities, and hot products.
An important concept related to repeat victimization is that of the 80/20 rule. This concept comes from the observation that 80% of some kinds of outcomes are the result of only 20% of the related causes. This suggests that by focusing their efforts on areas and people who are repeat victims or that account for a large amount of crime activity, police can maximize the impacts of a crime prevention strategy.
Displacement occurs when crime or other types of activity shift to other forms, times, and or locales instead of being eliminated. Crime analysis techniques can identify and describe any displacement of activity to help police agencies understand how crime activity changes and whether any changes seen are the results of crime prevention efforts.
Research has shown that crime problems can be eliminated through the application of the principles of situational crime prevention, which aims to reduce or remove the opportunities for crime. In addition, the successful elimination of targeted problems may also reduce other problems; this process is called the diffusion of benefits.