Crime science

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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; Royal Institution Lecture 9 May 2002; Barlow Lecture, UCL, 6 April 2005)

Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science[edit]

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. It has established itself as a world-leader in crime mapping and for training crime analysts (civilian crime profilers who work for the police).

The JDI grew rapidly and spawned a new Department of Security and Crime Science, a Centre for the Forensic Sciences and the world's first secure data lab for security and crime pattern analysis. The JDI also has a growing Security Science Doctoral Research Training Centre (UCL SECReT), which is the national UK training centre for security and crime related research degrees. UCL SECReT was first established in 2009 following a £7m cash grant award by the EPSRC (the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council of the UK) and £10m of cash and in-kind support from industrial, academic and public sector partners to establish Europe’s largest centre for doctoral training in security and crime science. The centre is a world-class interdisciplinary centre applying the latest techniques in a variety of disciplines to problems in the crime and security domain and offers ten annual scholarships for students interested in pursuing such PhD research. The website for the new centre is

Design Against Crime Research Centre[edit]

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[edit]

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.

Growth of the Crime Science Field[edit]

The concept of crime science appears to be taking root more broadly with:

  • A Springer Open Access Interdisciplinary journal devoted to Crime Science [1].
  • A Crime Science course at Northumbria University in the UK.
  • A Crime Science course 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.
  • The annual Crime Science Network gathering in London draws police and academics from across the world.
  • 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).
  • 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") [2].

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]


  • [Jun12] M. Junger, G. Laycock, P. H. Hartel, and J. Ratcliffe. Crime science: editorial statement. Crime Science, 1:1.1-1.3, Jun 2012. [3].
  • [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. [4].
  • [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. [5].
  • [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. [6].
  • [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. [7].
  • [Cox08] K. Cox. The application of Crime Science to the prevention of medication errors. British Journal of Nursing, 17(14):924-927, Jul 2008. [8].
  • [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. [9].

External links[edit]