Saturday, March 28, 2015

The neighbors next door

Criminology of Place shows how both neighbors and neighborhoods matter a great deal in preventing crime
GUEST BLOG: Tim Hegarty is a Division Commander with the Riley County Police in Kansas, adjunct instructor at Kansas State University and expert in police innovation. He is also a Certified Level II Instructor in problem-based learning. Here he reviews the Criminology of Place.

“Neighbors next door are more important than family far away.”

How important? This Chinese proverb opens The Criminology of Place by Weisburd, Groff, and Yang in which the authors present compelling evidence regarding the connection between crime and place based upon 16 years of crime data in Seattle.

Some numbers may be familiar from Weisburd’s earlier work, particularly the finding that roughly 5 percent of the street segments accounted for 50 percent of the crime. Other numbers not so much.

Overall they show both how strongly crime is connected to place and how stable crime remains at most places over long periods of time. So strong and stable that during the study’s 16-year period the concentration of crime stayed almost the same throughout the entire city.

Surprisingly, Seattle’s 24 percent drop in reported crime during that time was the result of significant decreases at only 12 percent of its street segments!

Riley County officers patrol a chronic crime hot spot
Their research reinforces the importance of place in addressing crime and I highly recommend it to everyone with an interest preventing crime. One conclusion should strike a chord with the regular readers of this blog:

“[Crime] prevention through deterrence is not enough… Police officers must be given the support and training to allow a problem-solving orientation to develop. Our results indicate the importance of the social and the physical environment in understanding why some street segments and not their neighbors suffer from high crime rates. These findings provide evidence that police should take a more holistic approach to addressing crime problems... ”

Bicycle officers working the neighborhood in Riley County
To police agencies that haven’t yet spent huge amounts of taxpayer funds on predictive policing software...this advice: Save the money!

Absent some fundamental change in the physical or social environment, the best predictor of the location of future crime problems is the location of past crime problems. Working with the neighbors next door, as we see reported in Greg’s blog, is one of the best ways to do this.

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