Using Naturalistic Observation to Develop Crime-Control Policies in Nighttime Entertainment Districts
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.
Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is an approach to crime reduction that seeks to reduce perceived opportunities for crime through the design and management of the built or, less often, the natural environment. It is based on a set of principles, which can be applied as a guide to the design and construction of buildings, as well as the organization of spaces around them. Because CPTED provides a guide rather than a rigid specification, with a range of possible realizations, design compliance with its principles is often recognized through an award scheme, such as Secured by Design (SBD) in the United Kingdom and the Police Label Secured Housing in the Netherlands. Research has consistently demonstrated that CPTED is an effective crime reduction approach—reducing crime, alleviating the fear of crime, and enhancing feelings of safety. Its increasing recognition within planning policy reflects a growing acknowledgment of efficacy.
Anthony Petrosino, Claire Morgan, and Trevor Fronius
Systematic reviews and meta-analyses have become a focal point of evidence-based policy in criminology. Systematic reviews use explicit and transparent processes to identify, retrieve, code, analyze, and report on existing research studies bearing on a question of policy or practice. Meta-analysis can combine the results from the most rigorous evaluations identified in a systematic review to provide policymakers with the best evidence on what works for a variety of interventions relevant to reducing crime and making the justice system fairer and more effective. The steps of a systematic review using meta-analysis include specifying the topic area, developing management procedures, specifying the search strategy, developing eligibility criteria, extracting data from the studies, computing effect sizes, developing an analysis strategy, and interpreting and reporting the results.
In a systematic review using meta-analysis, after identifying and coding eligible studies, the researchers create a measure of effect size for each experimental versus control contrast of interest in the study. Most commonly, reviewers do this by standardizing the difference between scores of the experimental and control groups, placing outcomes that are conceptually similar but measured differently (e.g., such as re-arrest or reconviction) on the same common scale or metric. Though these are different indices, they do measure a program’s effect on some construct (e.g., criminality). These effect sizes are usually averaged across all similar studies to provide a summary of program impact. The effect sizes also represent the dependent variable in the meta-analysis, and more advanced syntheses explore the role of potential moderating variables, such as sample size or other characteristics related to effect size.
When done well and with full integrity, a systematic review using meta-analysis can provide the most comprehensive assessment of the available evaluative literature addressing the research question, as well as the most reliable statement about what works. Drawing from a larger body of research increases statistical power by reducing standard error; individual studies often use small sample sizes, which can result in large margins of error. In addition, conducting meta-analysis can be faster and less resource-intensive than replicating experimental studies. Using meta-analysis instead of relying on an individual program evaluation can help ensure that policy is guided by the totality of evidence, drawing upon a solid basis for generalizing outcomes.
Danielle M. Reynald
This article provides a critical overview of the concepts of guardianship and informal social control. The discussion compares these fundamental criminological concepts and highlights areas where there is overlap, as well as key points of departure. The relationship between these concepts is scrutinized to illustrate their distinct origins as well as the distinctive ways each of these concepts have developed within the criminological literature. This article focuses on informal social control as a multi-level community process, and on guardianship as a multi-dimensional situational concept comprising, in its most fundamental form, the presence or availability of guardians, inadvertent and/or purposive supervision and direct or indirect intervention. In doing so it showcases the dimensions of guardianship which bear close resemblance to aspects of informal social control, while simultaneously emphasizing that there are important distinctions to consider when comparing some of these dimensions and the levels at which they operate. One core distinction is that informal social control is dependent on neighborhood social ties and collectively shared expectations. On the other hand, while guardianship can be strengthened by social ties at the street-block or neighborhood level, it does not necessarily require such ties to function effectively at the microlevel. Although these concepts do coincide the discussion stresses that theoretical and empirical clarification about what makes them distinct is important. In conclusion, this article shows how each concept makes a unique contribution to criminological understanding about the role of informal citizens in crime control at places.
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.
Allison Ann Payne and Denise C. Gottfredson
School violence, drug use, bullying, theft, and vandalism are costly and interfere with academic achievement. Beyond the cost of personal injury and property damage and loss, school crime is costly because it interferes with academic achievement and reduces the ability of schools to carry out their educational mission. Fear of victimization influences students’ attendance, such that students are more likely to avoid school activities or places, or even school itself, due to fear of attack or harm. Teachers in disorderly schools also spend a large proportion of their time coping with behavior problems rather than instructing students, resulting in lower levels of student academic engagement, academic performance, and eventually graduation rates. Student misbehavior is also one of the primary sources of teacher turnover in schools.
Responses to school crime have become increasingly formal since the 1990s, with greater recourse to arrest and a turn toward juvenile courts rather than school-based discipline, furthered by zero-tolerance policies and increased hiring of uniformed officers to police the schools. The shift has been from administrative discretion to mandatory penalties and from in-school discipline to increasing use of suspension or arrest. At the same time, there has been a considerable investment in the use of surveillance cameras and metal detectors. There is no evidence to suggest that this tightening of school discipline has reduced school crime.
By contrast, considerable evidence supports the effectiveness of alternative strategies designed to prevent youth crime and delinquency. Several school-based programs targeting student factors such as self-control, social competency, and attachment to school have been demonstrated in rigorous research to be effective for reducing crime and delinquency. In addition, several aspects of the way schools are organized and managed influence crime and disorder.
The term “school climate” encompasses several school characteristics that influence crime and disorder. Evidence supports the importance of the discipline management of a school, including both the fairness and consistency of rules and rule enforcement as well as the clarification and communication of behavioral norms in reducing crime and disorder in schools. The social climate within the school, specifically the existence of a positive and communal climate among all members of the school community, is also important. Research demonstrates that is possible to manipulate these aspects of school climate. Rigorous research shows that efforts to increase clarity and consistency of rule enforcement and to clarify norms for behavior are effective for reducing crime and disorder. More research is needed to test a fully comprehensive intervention aimed at creating a more communal social climate, but preliminary studies suggest positive effects.
Several challenges to creating more positive school climates are discussed, and possible solutions are suggested.
Ronald V. Clarke
Situational crime prevention is radically different from other forms of crime prevention as it seeks only to reduce opportunities for crime, not bring about lasting change in criminal or delinquent dispositions. Proceeding from an analysis of the circumstances giving rise to very specific kinds of crime and disorder, it introduces discrete managerial and environmental modifications to change the opportunity structure for those crimes to occur—not just the immediate physical and social settings in which the crimes occur, but also the wider societal arrangements that make the crimes possible. It is therefore focused on the settings for crime, not on delinquents or criminals. Rather than punishing them or seeking to eliminate criminal dispositions through improvement of society or its institutions, it tries to make criminal action less attractive. It does this in five main ways: (1) by increasing the difficulties of crime, (2) by increasing the immediate risks of getting caught, (3) by reducing the rewards of offending, (4) by removing excuses for offending, and (5) by reducing temptations and provocations. It accomplishes these ends by employing an action research methodology to identify design and management changes that can be introduced with minimum social and economic costs. Central to this enterprise is not the criminal justice system but a host of public and private organizations and agencies—schools, hospitals, transit systems, shops and malls, manufacturing businesses and phone companies, local parks and entertainment facilities, pubs and parking lots—whose products, services, and operations spawn opportunities for a vast range of different crimes. Some criminologists believe that the efforts that these organizations and agencies have made in the past 20 or 30 years to protect themselves from crime are responsible for the recorded crime drops in many countries.
Situational crime prevention rests on a sound foundation of criminological theories—routine activity theory, crime pattern theory, and the rational choice perspective—all of which hold that opportunity plays a part in every form of crime or disorder. There is therefore no form of crime that cannot be addressed by situational crime prevention. To date, more than 250 evaluated successes of situational crime prevention have been reported, covering an increasingly wide array of crimes including terrorism and organized crimes. Many of the studies have found little evidence that situational interventions have resulted in the “displacement” of crime to other places, times, targets, methods, or forms of crime. Indeed, it is commonly found that the benefits of situational crime prevention diffuse beyond the immediately targeted crimes. Despite these successes, situational crime prevention continues to attract much criticism for its supposed social and ethical costs.
Iain Coyne and Marilyn Campbell
The knowledge base on bullying within school and working contexts has matured to the extent that researchers and practitioners are developing a deeper understanding of this complex social relationship problem. Although controversies still exist, evidence to date provides estimates of the prevalence of bullying, risk factors for bullying, antecedents of bullying, and theoretical models explaining bullying behavior and experience. There is little doubt that bullying in all its forms can have severe negative impacts on those involved in the bullying situation. As a result, it is important to establish coherent and evidence-based approaches to preventing bullying behavior in schools and workplaces.
In contrast, the development and evaluation of bullying interventions has not received the same level of support. Both in school and working contexts, there are examples of preventative approaches, but either these are espoused and not directly evaluated, or, where evaluations exist, data is limited in providing definitive answers to the success of an approach. An increasingly dominant voice advocates the creation of policies and laws for preventing workplace bullying. However, the usefulness of policies and laws on their own in reducing bullying is questionable—especially if they are developed with a quick-fix mentality. Trying to prevent such a complex social phenomenon requires an integrated program of actions necessitating significant investment over a prolonged period of time. Stakeholder engagement is paramount to any intervention. Ultimately, schools and workplaces need to try to develop a culture of dignity, fairness, respect, and conflict management which pervades the institution. Challenges remain on how to create such interventions, whether they are effective, and what impact societal values will have on the success of bullying prevention strategies.
In the context of crime, victimization, and immigration in the United States, research shows that people are afraid of immigrants because they think immigrants are a threat to their safety and engage in many violent and property crimes. However, quantitative research has consistently shown that being foreign born is negatively associated with crime overall and is not significantly associated with committing either violent or property crime. If an undocumented immigrant is arrested for a criminal offense, it tends to be for a misdemeanor. Researchers suggest that undocumented immigrants may be less likely to engage in serious criminal offending behavior because they seek to earn money and not to draw attention to themselves. Additionally, immigrants who have access to social services are less likely to engage in crime than those who live in communities where such access is not available. In regard to victimization, immigrants are more likely to be victims of crime. Foreign-born victims of crime may not report their victimization because of fears that they will experience negative consequences if they contact the police. Recently, concern about immigration and victimization has turned to refugees who are at risk of harm from traffickers, who warehouse them, threaten them, and physically abuse them with impunity. More research is needed on the relationship among immigration, offending, and victimization. The United States and other nations that focus on border security may be misplacing their efforts during global crises that result in forced migrations. Poverty and war, among other social conditions that would “encourage” a person to leave their homeland in search of a better life, should be addressed by governments when enforcing immigration laws and policy.
Robert I. Mawby
While the term “defensible space” is widely referenced in literature on situational crime pre vention and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, it is commonly mentioned in passing, almost as an historical landmark, with its relationship to more recent work assumed rather than rigorously examined. Yet, Oscar Newman’s work bridged the gap between criminological theories and preventive approaches in the pre-1970s era and the more grounded and policy driven approaches that are common today. Consequently, this article looks at the context within which Newman developed his ideas and revisits his core work. It then considers the initial response from the criminology and planning communities, which focused on the methodological and theoretical weaknesses that undermined what were, essentially, a series of imaginative, exploratory propositions about the influence of design on crime patterns. In this sense, it is clear that Newman both provoked and inspired further research into the relationship between urban design and crime, and indeed, between crime, crime targets, and space, looking at the specific influence of design, technology, social engineering, and so on. Terms such as ownership, visibility, occupancy, accessibility, image, and juxtaposition, which Newman used, are now incorporated into more sophistical theories of situational crime prevention. This article thus offers a reanalysis of defensible space in the context of later refinements and the application of Newman’s ideas to current policies.