Friday, June 8, 2012

60 Steps Revisited: Step 10 - Put Yourself In The Offender's Shoes

Back in 2009, I did a series of posts covering the excellent book Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers. The book is published by the US DOJ's Problem Oriented Policing Center (POP Center). Because of the value I think this book has for crime analysts, and policing in general, I am going to re-post this series on here on the blog.

We're continuing our journey through Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers. In this post we're going to look at Step 10 - Put Yourself In The Offender's Shoes. Sometimes criminologists get a bad name when they publish a lofty theory about why people commit crimes usually referring to something like genetics, a lack of a nurturing environment, fetal alcohol syndrome, etc. as the reason. When the authors of Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers say this, they aren't referring to one of these theories of but instead something much more practical.
A radical critique of criminology pointed out 30 years ago that is not their genes that propel bank robbers through the doors of the bank: they rob banks because they want to get rich. Source: Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers
This is really where the rubber meets the road for us. We got into this a little bit last time I posted about Step 9. Academic theories about the root cause of crime don't always have a practical value for the working crime analyst or cop. What does have a practical value is the offender's motivation for committing the crime and the offenders method for committing the crime. Both of these can shed insight into the most effective strategy to combat the particular crime problem you are studying.
In many cases of theft and robbery the benefits are obvious, but they may not be clear for gang violence or so-called "senseless" vandalism and graffiti. In fact, graffiti can mark the territory of a juvenile gang, can indicate where to purchase drugs, or can simply be a way to show off. Knowing which of these reasons is dominant helps to define the focus of a problem-solving project and unravel the contributory
factors. It can also help the project team identify solutions. Thus, the New York City subway authorities succeeded in eradicating graffiti only when they understood the motivation of the "taggers," which was to see their handiwork on display as the trains traveled around the system. Source: Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers
The second insight, how offenders commit their crimes, is similarly useful. This information can be obtained by debriefing criminals or if this isn't practical, by trying to imagine yourself as the criminal. Given your experience, how would you go about pulling it off? With that knowledge, how do you go about defeating that modus operandi?

Next time, we'll examine Step 11 - Expect Offenders To React.

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