Crime Science has constructed a range of theories and theoretical perspectives. They can all be applied in horizon-scanning, bringing a (variable) element of conceptual rigour and empirical backing.
But doing so faces major challenges.
All the major theories and perspectives of Crime Science can be viewed with a ‘futures mindset’. But using individual Crime Science theories/ perspectives to make local, here-and-now predictions (e.g. where can we expect burglary hotspots in this district over the next year?) faces major challenges.
Even more demanding is how to bring together the system elements represented in these theories/perspectives to develop more comprehensive and widely-applicable scenarios for future crime. This is because the elements are variously psychological (Rational Choice, Precipitation), ecological (Routine Activities) and geographical (crime pattern theory/ geometry of crime); apply to different geographical and temporal scales; and undergo potentially complex interactions with one another, and with wider contextual changes. Addressing this diversity is part of the rationale behind the development of integrated frameworks such as the Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity. The CCO does not in itself solve these issues, but at least, as a starting point, clarifies how the various perspectives come together
The table below (adapted from Ekblom 2022, where full references are shown) lists Crime Science frameworks (including some of the Crime Frameworks), in each case giving them an anticipatory orientation by asking some simple questions relating to broad, generic categories of change. These categories are characterised by the acronym PESHTELOMI: Political, Economic, Social, Health-related, Technological, Environmental, Legal, Organisational, Media-related, Infrastructural. Other, less detailed variants of the acronym in the futures literature are PESTLE and STEEPLE.
|Theory/ perspective/ framework||Futures questions, to ask of any technological or social change across the PESHTELOMI field|
|Routine activity perspective considers how everyday activities bring together a likely offender with a suitable target/victim, in the absence of capable guardians. Changes to the activity/properties of any of these elements can influence the likelihood of crime.||How might this future innovation or background change affect likely offenders, suitable targets and capable guardians? How might it bring them together or keep them apart?|
|Rational choice perspective considers offenders’ decisions whether to commit a particular crime in terms of perceived risk, effort and reward, i.e. opportunity; and their career-level criminal involvement choices, based on ‘opportunity structure’ (what sort of living they can make from crime).||How might a change influence actual and/or perceived risk, effort and reward for a given opportunity, or for wider criminal involvement? What new crime opportunities might this new technology or business model create?|
|Crime pattern theory is a geographical approach to understanding offender activity spaces and movement patterns and how this shapes their perception and awareness of local environments and the crime opportunities they offer.||How might change affect offenders’ ability to move within, spot opportunities and familiarise with risks in their activity space? How might that activity space itself change with (say) the introduction of new transit systems, use of mobile navigation applications that direct people through areas they would otherwise not visit, or as a consequence of receiving data on the activity of places? How might offenders develop activity spaces in virtual or other environments made accessible by new technology? An example is where unmanned aerial vehicles make the vertical dimension easily accessible to people.|
|Crime precipitators are factors in or near the immediate crime situation which influence the motivation/emotion of offenders, making their search for, or exploitation of, criminal opportunities more likely. Environmental cues, events or influences can prompt, pressure, permit or provoke criminal behaviour. ||How might innovation/change influence the nature, strength and patterns in situational precipitators, or the susceptibility of offenders to them?|
|25 techniques of situational prevention comprise a catalogue of practical techniques organised around many of the above perspectives (risk, effort, reward to offender; excuses and provocations).||How might innovation/change enable or constrain the successful operation or implementation of each of these categories or exemplars of preventive technique?|
|5Is Framework is a process model for doing crime prevention, with main task streams comprising Intelligence, Intervention, Implementation, Involvement, Impact||Essentially we can ask of every task/sub-task listed under 5Is, how might its performance might be affected by future changes?|
|Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity is a one-stop-shop framework which facilitates holism. It combines the preceding situational prevention approaches with various offender-oriented approaches in an integrated suite of 11 immediate causes of criminal events, and counterpart intervention principles. These causes and interventions could change in future and thus offer broad leads to systematically envisaging crime/security possibilities, whether generated by individual causes or – more likely – interactions. A brief illustration of CCO applied to futures is entitled ‘Future imperfect‘.||How might innovation/change affect each of these immediate causes of criminal events, and how they interact? How might it affect the scope for intervention in those causes?|
|Misdeeds and Security Framework is a ‘think thief’ approach to distinguishing several broad ways whereby products, places, procedures and systems can feature in criminal affordance and action (Misappropriated, Mistreated, Mishandled, Misbegotten, Misused, Misbehaved with, Mistaken); also in security counterparts.||From the offender’s perspective, how might I Mistreat, Misuse (etc.) that innovation? From a more detached viewpoint, how might innovation/ change enable or constrain Mistreatment, Misuse etc. by offenders?|
|Risk and protective factor suites e.g. Hot Products/ CRAVED have been developed to inform understanding of what makes a product ‘hot’||How might innovation/change affect these risk factors, or the capabilities and intent of offenders who might exploit them?|
The approach in the above box is illustrated in a 2019 presentation.
The same general approach to generating futures-oriented questions can be adopted for other frameworks, e.g. scripts and script clashes, supercontrollers, and the Ds Framework.