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Crime science is the study of crime in order to find ways to prevent it. Three features distinguish crime science from criminology: it is single-minded about cutting crime, rather than studying it for its own sake; accordingly it focuses on crime rather than criminals; and it is multidisciplinary, notably recruiting scientific methodology rather than relying on social theory.
Crime science in the United Kingdom was conceived by the British broadcaster Nick Ross in the late 1990s (with encouragement from the then Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir John Stevens and Professor Ken Pease) out of concern that traditional criminology and orthodox political discourse were doing little to influence the ebb and flow of crime (e.g. Ross: Police Foundation Lecture, London, 11 July 2000 (jointly with Sir John Stevens); Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, 22 March 2001; Barlow Lecture, UCL, 6 April 2005). Ross described crime science as, "examining the chain of events that leads to crime in order to cut the weakest link" (Royal Institution Lecture 9 May 2002).
Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science
The first incarnation of crime science was the founding, also by Ross, of the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science (JDI) at University College London in 2001. In order to reflect its broad disciplinary base, and its departure from the sociological (and often politicised) brand of criminology, the Institute is established in the Engineering Sciences Faculty, with growing ties to the physical sciences such as physics and chemistry but also drawing on the fields of statistics, environmental design, psychology, forensics, policing, economics and geography.
The JDI grew rapidly and spawned a new Department of Security and Crime Science, which itself developed into one of the largest departments of its type in the world. It has established itself as a world-leader in crime mapping and for training crime analysts (civilian crime profilers who work for the police) and its Centre for the Forensic Sciences has been influential in debunking bad science in criminal detection. It established the world's first secure data lab for security and crime pattern analysis and appointed the world's first Professor of Future Crime whose role is to horizon-scan to foresee and forestall tomorrow's crime challenges. The JDI also developed a Security Science Doctoral Research Training Centre (UCL SECReT), which was Europe’s largest centre for doctoral training in security and crime science.
Design Against Crime Research Centre
Another branch of crime science has grown from its combination with design science. At the Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design a research centre was founded with the focus of studying how design could be used as a tool against crime - the Design against Crime Research Centre. A number of practical theft-aware design practices have emerged there. Examples are chairs with a hanger that allows people to keep their bags within their reach for the whole time, or foldable bicycles that can serve as their own safety lock by wrapping around static poles in the environment.
International Crime Science Network
An international Crime Science Network was formed in 2003, with support from the EPSRC. Since then the term crime science has been variously interpreted, sometimes with a different emphasis from Ross's original description published in 1999, and often favouring situational crime prevention (redesigning products, services and policies to remove opportunities, temptations and provocations and make detection more certain) rather than other forms of intervention. However a common feature is a focus on delivering immediate reductions in crime.
New crime science departments have been established at Waikato, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and elsewhere.
Growth of the Crime Science Field
The concept of crime science appears to be taking root more broadly with:
- The establishment of crime science departments at the University of Waikato in New Zealand, Cincinnati and Philadelphia in the US, and elsewhere.
- Crime Science courses at several institutions including Northumbria University in the UK and at the University of Twente in the Netherlands.
- A Crime Science Unit at DSTL, the research division of the UK Ministry of Defence.
- The term crime science increasingly being adopted by situational and experimental criminologists in the US and Australia.
- An annual Crime Science Network gathering in London which draws police and academics from across the world.
- A Springer Open Access Interdisciplinary journal devoted to Crime Science .Crime science increasingly being cited in criminology text books and journals papers (sometimes claimed as a new branch of criminology, and sometimes reviled as anti-criminology).
- A move in traditional criminology towards the aims originally set out by Ross in his concern for a more evidence-based, scientific approach to crime reduction.
- Crime science featuring in several learned journals in other disciplines (such as a special issue of the European Journal of Applied Mathematics devoted to "crime modelling") .
- Crime scene investigation
- Crime prevention through environmental design
- Crime statistics
- Jill Dando
- Jill Dando Institute
- Forensic science
- Cyber-crime Science
Notes and references
- [Jun12] M. Junger, G. Laycock, P. H. Hartel, and J. Ratcliffe. Crime science: editorial statement. Crime Science, 1:1.1-1.3, Jun 2012. .
- [Har10] P. H. Hartel, M. Junger, and R. J. Wieringa. Cyber-crime Science = Crime Science + Information Security. Technical Report TR-CTIT-10-34, CTIT, University of Twente, Oct 2010. .
- [Pea10] K. Pease. Crime Science. In S. G. Shoham, P. Knepper, and M. Kett, editors, International Handbook of Criminology, pages 3–23. CRC Press, Feb 2010. .
- [Cla09] R. V. Clarke. Crime science. In E. McLaughlin and T. Newburn, editors, Handbook of Criminal Theory, page in press. Sage, London, 2009.
- [Gue09] R. T. Guerette and K. J. Bowers. Assessing the extent of crime displacement and diffusion of benefits: a review of situational crime prevention evaluations. Criminology, 47(4):1331-1368, Nov 2009. .
- [Wil09] R. Willison and M. Siponen. Overcoming the insider: reducing employee computer crime through Situational Crime Prevention. Commun. ACM, 52(9):133-137, Sep 2009. .
- [Cox08] K. Cox. The application of Crime Science to the prevention of medication errors. British Journal of Nursing, 17(14):924-927, Jul 2008. .
- [Til07] N. Tilley and G. Laycock. From Crime Prevention to Crime Science. In G. Farrell, K. J. Bowers, S. D. Johnson, and M. Townsley, editors, Imagination for Crime Prevention: Essays in Honour of Ken Pease, volume 21, pages 19–39. Criminal Justice Press, Monsey, New York, 2007.
- [Lay05] G. Laycock. Defining Crime Science. In M. J. Smith and N. Tilley, editors, Crime science: new approaches to preventing and detecting crime, pages 3–24. Willan Publishing, Uffculme, UK, 2005.
- [Cla97a] R. V. Clarke (ed.) Situational Crime Prevention: Successful Case Studies, Harrow and Heston, 1997. .