Monday, December 8, 2014

Criminology's Nobel Prize 2015

The 2015 Stockholm Prize in Criminology - criminology equivalent of the Nobel Prize 
Imagine this:

...a large, white passenger van driven by an off-duty cop filled with some top criminologists recently arrived at the Toronto International airport. Destination? A conference retreat centre bathed in amber tinged autumn leaves on a lake in northern Ontario. Purpose? Gather world-renown criminologists, skilled practitioners and engaged community members in a unique search conference to explore new paths for crime prevention and environmental criminology.

It was 1988 and I was the driver. The conference was the final project in my master’s degree. My passengers included Ronald V. Clarke, dean of criminology at Rutgers University and Patricia Mayhew from the UK Home Office. Was I intimidated?


This month Mayhew and Clarke won the 2015 Stockholm Prize in Criminology for their work creating situational crime prevention. Roughly equivalent to the Nobel Prize, the Stockholm Prize is the most prestigious criminology award in the world.

Grounds of retreat center north of Toronto - 1988 Conference in Research Futures in Environmental Criminology

The drive north in 1988 was the first time I had met Clarke and Mayhew (and most of the other scholars) and I was anxious to make a good impression. Even then they were giants in the field.

At one point I dropped them off briefly at what I thought was a regular restaurant to pick up more arrivals. On return I discovered, to my horror, my precious cargo was being lambasted by a hard rock band of the heavy metal variety bashing away on cymbals and electric guitars.

“You know,” said Clarke, barely audible with the roaring din behind us, “they are really quite good.” He added with a genuine smile, “This is some excellent rock!” Academic prestige, I learned from Clarke, does not require malignant egos.

Mayhew and Clarke's open hearted and non-pretentious manner helped make the conference a success (later published as Crime Problems, Community Solutions). They were truly exceptional people.

Ronald V. Clarke, co-winner of 2015 Stockholm Prize with Patricia Mayhew (photo not available)


While Mayhew went on to co-develop the U.N. International Crime Victimization Survey I came to know Ronald Clarke professionally. Years later I presented him with the International CPTED Association's lifetime achievement award. We served as judges together on the Problem Oriented Policing Award Program (where, as Chief Judge, he was my boss). From Ronald Clarke I learned how a classy scholar does robust scholarship.

By pioneering situational crime prevention Mayhew and Clarke helped legitimize CPTED arguments at a time when, as Clarke writes, C. Ray Jeffery’s CPTED and Oscar Newman’s Defensible Space “were both given short shrift by criminological reviewers.”

Their Stockholm Prize is well deserved. Congratulations to them both.