In this section of the book Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers, we'll cover Step 11 - Expect Offenders To React. In previous sections we've looked at ways to develop a strategy to combat specific crime problems. Hopefully our strategy is well thought out and will bring about the intended result, that we'll reduce the problematic crime activity that we set out to solve. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. Sometimes what we hoped was a well thought out strategy has the effect of changing a criminal's behavior in a negative way. Two ways criminals react negatively are displacement and adaptation. The authors of Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers define them this way:
Displacement occurs when offenders change their behavior to thwart preventive actions. Displacement is the opposite of diffusion of benefits. Displacement is a possible threat, but it is far from inevitable. Reviews show that many situational prevention programs show little or no evidence of displacement, and when displacement is found, it seldom fully offsets the prevention benefits (Step 12).
Adaptation refers to a longer term process whereby the offender population as a whole discovers new crime vulnerabilities after preventive measures have been in place for a while. Paul Ekblom, Ken Pease, and other researchers often use the analogy of an arms race between preventers and offenders when discussing this process. So, in time, we can expect many crimes that have been reduced by preventive measures to reappear as criminals discover new ways to commit them. Adaptation may occur as the original offenders slowly discover new methods, or it may occur as new offenders take advantage of changing opportunities.
The general consensus among criminologists, is that displacement isn't as common as it's thought to be. However, adaptation does occur fairly often.
One example seen in the area where I work involved ATM burglaries. The first ATM's proved to be vulnerable to being cracked open inside the businesses where they were installed. As the manufacturers began to harden their ATM's even more, thieves began using stolen pickups and a chain to rip the machines out of the stores where they were installed and drag them off to a secluded area where they could spend more time opening them. Some businesses in the Dallas area installed cages around the machines to combat this problem so enterprising thieves in that area took to stealing large construction equipment such as wheel loaders and backhoes to tear the machines out of the cages.
In either case, when you work out your strategy you should be ready to modify the strategy as the problem evolves.
Next time we'll cover Step 12 - Don't Be Discouraged By The Displacement Doomsters.