Vehicle crime was a major issue for many years, leading to a range of successful security initiatives, some of which may be diminishing in effectiveness as criminals adapt. Moreover, manufacturers are introducing a range of innovations which may open the door to new criminal exploits. This warrants close attention to vehicle crime futures.
This page introduces an experimental new approach to helping planners within the vehicle industry, police and other stakeholder bodies to think systematically about future crime problems.
Crime against vehicles for a long time constituted a large proportion of all offences. In the mid 1990s, however, electronic immobilisers, pressure from the insurance industry and government initiatives such as the UK Car Theft Index, building on earlier research (e.g. Southall and Ekblom 1985) drastically reduced its frequency. However, in recent years the arms race has resumed (Brown 2017) with various technologies and ‘social engineering’ used to defeat security systems.
Major changes are afoot – for example, autonomous vehicles, the switch to battery power or hydrogen fuel, the move from outright ownership to transport as a service, and misuse as terrorist weapons. There is a significant lead time to introduce new vehicle technologies, models and infrastructure (e.g. for charging). Horizon-scanning, to identify plausible crime futures and develop solutions in anticipation, is therefore vital.
Vehicle crime futures palette
The vehicle crime futures palette, still under development, is an experimental way of helping stakeholders and experts to think systematically about vehicle crime.
The rationale is to encourage simultaneous awareness of four dimensions relating to vehicle crime, which will shape the future, and what can be done about anticipated changes. The dimensions are: future changes in the wider world; changes in vehicles and their use environment; the threat from offenders; and opportunities, affordances, motivational factors and potential harms residing in the crime situations.
This breadth and depth of coverage may risk cognitive overload for users. But the advantage of simultaneous consideration is because the four dimensions all interact. Focusing on just one at a time seriously impoverishes the kinds of future which can be envisioned, and responded to.
The palette has four edges representing the above four dimensions, and a large blank area in the middle, representing the space of possibilities which need to be considered, as this diagram shows:
Future dimensions of change set out generic categories of background change in the wider world, under the headings Political, Economic, Social, Health-related, Technological, Environmental, Legal/regulatory, Organisational, Media-related, Infrastructural. These changes may affect vehicles and their use environment on the one hand, and crime on the other, in terms of the crime situation and offenders and the threat they constitute. Changes in any one of these domains can affect vehicle crime directly, or indirectly via influencing the other domains.
The palette (using an XMind file) progressively expands (below) so that each of the four edges can be taken into as much detail as users desire (or can tolerate).The situational and offender domains are split into further detail by drawing on the Crime Frameworks, including the Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity, and Misdeeds and Security.
A presentation going through the entire vehicle crime futures palette is here:
This ongoing work was undertaken for a horizon-scanning group on vehicle crime involving UK police, industry, insurers and researchers.