Crime scripts and script clashes

  • How scripts can be combined with the Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity Framework, including applying the concept to other crime roles than the offender
  • An attempt to revisit and strengthen the conceptualisation of scripts
  • The use of scripts as fundamental structural elements of toolkits on hostile reconnaissance and terrorism crime at complex stations
  • The notion of script clashes between offenders and preventers, as a guide to designing products, places and services that favour the good guys

Crime scripts

Scripts and the Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity

Revisiting the script concept

The use of Cornish’s crime-scripts approach in situational crime prevention grows apace. However, we believe the conceptual foundation of cognitive scripts imported from Abelson and colleagues was rather unclear and is too narrow to support current script research. We therefore review the notion of scripts to both promote clarity and better connect it to mainstream situational prevention and criminology more generally. We also seek to broaden the approach by exploring additional cross-disciplinary links. We believe all this will support the progressively more demanding uses to which the procedural analysis of crime may be put in research and practice and—more broadly—challenge how human behaviour in crime is analysed.’

Dehghanniri and Borrion (2021) offer a systematic review of scripts.

Scripts in toolkits

Hostile reconnaissance toolkit

The image below is of a page from the toolkit, that takes the user through selecting one such perpetrator position for the zone of interest:

Terrorism/crime at complex stations toolkit

Working through the toolkit (see slide below) leads users to the ‘think perpetrator’ stage (in pink). They select an offence type to focus on (e.g. terrorism, robbery, pickpocketing), then an attack method (e.g. terrorism-hostile vehicle ramming). Then, for a prespecified zone within the station, they consider from a menu which actions the perpetrator might take in support of that attack method (i.e. their attack procedure/ script). Then (switching from ‘think perpetrator’ to ‘think environment’ – in yellow) the users consider a menu of risk attributes of the target and the zone which might motivate, facilitate or be exploited by the perpetrator in support of their attack method.

The image below is a screenshot of the toolkit, guiding users to analyse and record the attack procedure/ script of the perpetrator in a particular zone of their station, for the attack method of terrorism-hostile vehicle ramming. The script steps shown in the dropdown boxes have been predetermined by the toolkit designers – ‘approaching the zone’ is shown here – but there is room for incorporating local information in the free text fields:

Script clashes – a challenge for designers, technologists and engineers

Two people fencing
Image of beam balanced on fulcrum

The more clearly the contradictions are stated, the more helpful it is for the designer.

The slide below lists typical script clashes: