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Crime science is the study of crime in order to find ways to prevent it. It is distinguished from criminology in that it is focused on how crime is committed and how to reduce it, rather than on who committed it. It is multidisciplinary, notably recruiting scientific methodology rather than relying on social theory.[1]


Crime science involves the application of scientific methodologies to prevent or reduce social disorder and find better ways to prevent, detect, and solve crimes.[2][3] Crime science studies crime related events and how those events arise, or can be prevented, by attempting to understand the temptations and opportunities which provoke or allow offending, and which affect someone's choice to offend on a particular occasion, rather than assuming the problem is simply about bad people versus good people.[3] It is a empirical approach often involving observational studies or quasi-experiments, as well as using randomised controlled trials, that seek to identify patterns of offending behaviour and factors that influence criminal offending behaviour and crime.[3][4] The multi-disciplinary approach that involves practitioners from many fields including Policing, Geography, Urban Development, Mathematics, Statistics, Industrial Design, Construction Engineering, Physical Sciences, Medical Sciences, Economics, Computer Science, Psychology, Sociology, Criminology, Forensics, Law, and Public Management.[3][5][6]


Crime science was conceived by the British broadcaster Nick Ross in the late 1990s (with encouragement from the then Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir John Stevens and Professor Ken Pease) out of concern that traditional criminology and orthodox political discourse were doing little to influence the ebb and flow of crime (e.g. Ross: Police Foundation Lecture, London, 11 July 2000 (jointly with Sir John Stevens); Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, 22 March 2001; Barlow Lecture, UCL, 6 April 2005).[1][7][8] Ross described crime science as, "examining the chain of events that leads to crime in order to cut the weakest link" (Royal Institution Lecture 9 May 2002).[7][9]

Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science

The first incarnation of crime science was the founding, also by Ross, of the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science (JDI) at University College London in 2001.[10] In order to reflect its broad disciplinary base, and its departure from the sociological (and often politicised) brand of criminology, the Institute is established in the Engineering Sciences Faculty, with growing ties to the physical sciences such as physics and chemistry but also drawing on the fields of statistics, environmental design, psychology, forensics, policing, economics and geography.[10]

The JDI grew rapidly and spawned a new Department of Security and Crime Science, which itself developed into one of the largest departments of its type in the world. It has established itself as a world-leader in crime mapping and for training crime analysts (civilian crime profilers who work for the police) and its Centre for the Forensic Sciences has been influential in debunking bad science in criminal detection.[citation needed] It established the world's first secure data lab for security and crime pattern analysis and appointed the world's first Professor of Future Crime whose role is to horizon-scan to foresee and forestall tomorrow's crime challenges. The JDI also developed a Security Science Doctoral Research Training Centre (UCL SECReT), which was Europe’s largest centre for doctoral training in security and crime science.[citation needed]

Design Against Crime Research Centre

Another branch of crime science has grown from its combination with design science.[citation needed] At the Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design a research centre was founded with the focus of studying how design could be used as a tool against crime - the Design against Crime Research Centre.[incomplete short citation] A number of practical theft-aware design practices have emerged there.[citation needed] Examples are chairs with a hanger that allows people to keep their bags within their reach for the whole time, or foldable bicycles that can serve as their own safety lock by wrapping around static poles in the environment.

International Crime Science Network

An international Crime Science Network was formed in 2003, with support from the EPSRC.[citation needed] Since then the term crime science has been variously interpreted, sometimes with a different emphasis from Ross's original description published in 1999, and often favouring situational crime prevention (redesigning products, services and policies to remove opportunities, temptations and provocations and make detection more certain) rather than other forms of intervention.[citation needed] However a common feature is a focus on delivering immediate reductions in crime.[citation needed]

New crime science departments have been established at Waikato, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and elsewhere.[citation needed]

Growth of the Crime Science Field

The concept of crime science appears to be taking root more broadly with:

See also


  1. ^ a b Willison, Robert; Siponen, Mikko (1 September 2009). "Overcoming the insider: reducing employee computer crime through Situational Crime Prevention". Communications of the ACM. 52 (9): 133–137. doi:10.1145/1562164.1562198. ISSN 0001-0782. S2CID 2987733. Retrieved 21 January 2021. ... we discuss how recent criminological developments that focus on the criminal act, represent a departure from traditional criminology, which examines the causes of criminality. ... a number of criminologists have criticised their discipline for assuming that the task of explaining the causes of criminality is the same as explaining the criminal act. ... how people develop a criminal disposition is only half the equation. What is also required is an explanation of how crimes are perpetrated. Criminological approaches, which focus on the criminal act, would appear to offer more to ... practitioners than their dispositional counterparts. ...
  2. ^ Junger, Marianne; Laycock, Gloria; Hartel, Pieter; Ratcliffe, Jerry (11 June 2012). "Crime science: editorial statement". Crime Science. 1 (1): 1. doi:10.1186/2193-7680-1-1. ISSN 2193-7680.
  3. ^ a b c d Hartel, Pieter H.; Junger, Marianne; Wieringa, Roelf J. (October 2010). "Cyber-crime Science = Crime Science + Information Security". CTIT Technical Report Series (10–34). Enschede.: Centre for Telematics and Information Technology (CTIT). ISSN 1381-3625. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  4. ^ Clarke, Ronald V. (1997). "Part One: Introduction". In Clarke, Ronald V. (ed.). Situational Crime Prevention Successful Case Studies (PDF) (2 ed.). Guilderland, New York: Harrow and Heston. ISBN 0-911577-38-6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 June 2010. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  5. ^ Guerette, Rob T.; Bowers, Kate J. (November 2009). "Assessing the Extent of Crime Displacement and Diffusion of Benefits: A Review of Situational Crime Prevention Evaluations*". Criminology. 47 (4): 1331–1368. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9125.2009.00177.x. ISSN 1745-9125. Retrieved 21 January 2021. Abstract: Few criticisms of situational crime‐prevention (SCP) efforts are as frequent or prevalent as claims of displacement. Despite emerging evidence to the contrary, the prevailing sentiment seems to be that crime displacement is inevitable. This study examined 102 evaluations of situationally focused crime‐prevention projects in an effort to determine the extent to which crime displacement was observed. The results indicate that of the 102 studies that examined (or allowed for examination of) displacement and diffusion effects, there were 574 observations. Displacement was observed in 26 percent of those observations. The opposite of displacement, diffusion of benefit, was observed in 27 percent of the observations. Moreover, the analysis of 13 studies, which allowed for assessment of overall outcomes of the prevention project while taking into account spatial displacement and diffusion effects, revealed that when spatial displacement did occur, it tended to be less than the treatment effect, suggesting that the intervention was still beneficial. Implications for theory and future research are discussed.
  6. ^ Cox, Karen (1 July 2008). "The application of crime science to the prevention of medication errors". British Journal of Nursing. 17 (14): 924–927. doi:10.12968/bjon.2008.17.14.30662. ISSN 0966-0461. PMID 18935846. Retrieved 21 January 2021. ... now accepted that human error in healthcare is inevitable ... a punitive response does not facilitate patient safety ... system approach acknowledges that adverse events ... rarely have a single explanation and advocates the review of systemic factors ... Rational choice theory has much in common with the system approach but the emphasis is on understanding the decision making process of those who make errors ... in conjunction with the system approach to ... learn from ... adverse events. ... explore the relationship between rational choice theory and the system approach to error management ...
  7. ^ a b Tilley, Nick; Laycock, Gloria (2007). "From Crime Prevention to Crime Science". In Farrell, Graham; Bowers, Kate J.; Johnson, Shane D.; Townsley, Mike (eds.). Imagination for crime prevention : essays in honour of Ken Pease (Hardcover, Paperback). Monsey, New York: Criminal Justice Press. ISBN 978-1-881798-71-2. Retrieved 22 January 2021. This paper offers a first history of crime science, a term originally coined by Nick Ross to reflect his concerns at what he saw as the failure of the criminal justice system to respond effectively to crime and the potential of a more scientific approach to its control. We begin by describing more fully what is distinctive about the methods and aspirations of crime science. We then move on to discuss streams of existing research that have provided the main foundations of and rationale for the new discipline. Having looked to its past, we then turn to the developing agenda for crime science. Here we lay out the promising areas that are likely, we think, to prove fruitful in coming years.
  8. ^ Pease, Ken (22 February 2010). "Crime science". In Shoham, Shlomo Giora; Knepper, Paul; Kett, Martin (eds.). International Handbook of Criminology (1 ed.). Boca Raton: Routledge. pp. 3–23. doi:10.1201/9781420085525. ISBN 978-0-429-25000-2. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  9. ^ Laycock, Gloria (2005). "Chapter 1: Defining Crime Science.". In Smith, Melissa J.; Tilley, Nick (eds.). Crime science: new approaches to preventing and detecting crime. Crime Science Series (1 ed.). Uffculme, UK: Willan Publishing. pp. 3–24. ISBN 1-843-92090-5. Gloria Laycock is the founding director of the Jill Dando Institute ... has been instrumental in defining the new field of crime science. ... she sets out the case for crime science and covers the essential features of the approach. Her main point is that many cherished social theories about crime – for example, that it is a direct consequence of poverty – do not hold up to empirical scrutiny, while current crime policies are based on assumptions and political considerations rather than evidence. What is needed, according to Laycock, is a scientific, evidence-based approach to crime reduction policy and practice.
  10. ^ a b Clarke, Ronald V. (31 March 2011). "Crime Science". In McLaughlin, Eugene; Newburn, Tim (eds.). The SAGE Handbook of Criminological Theory (Print, Online). SAGE Publications Ltd. pp. 271–283. doi:10.4135/9781446200926.n15. ISBN 978-1-4129-2038-4. Retrieved 22 January 2021. Crime science is a very recent addition to the criminological lexicon. It lacks a standard definition, few criminologists use the term routinely and even fewer might think of themselves as crime scientists. ... the term was created by Nick Ross, the presenter of BBC TV's monthly 'Crimewatch' program, who incorporated it in the name of the institute The Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science that he founded in 2001 at University College London (UCL) in memory of his murdered colleague. He chose the term crime science, not criminology, because he ...
  11. ^ "Institute of Crime Science". College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services, University of Cincinnati. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  12. ^ "Graduate Certificate: Crime Science". Philadelphia: Temple University. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  13. ^ "Crime Science" (electronic - open access). Crime Science. Springer Nature. ISSN 2193-7680. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
  14. ^ Felson, Marcus (2010). "What every mathematician should know about modelling crime". European Journal of Applied Mathematics. 21 (4–5): 275–281. doi:10.1017/S0956792510000070. ISSN 1469-4425. S2CID 121777814. Retrieved 21 January 2021.