Monday, June 4, 2012

60 Steps Revisited: Step 8 - Use The Problem Analysis Triangle

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.


Step 8 in our journey through Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers is Use The Problem Analysis Triangle. Many times we hear criminologist opine about their latest theory about why crime happens. Something along the lines that if Little Johnny had better parents or got a free breakfast at school that there would be no crime. While this is nice to think about, it really has no correlation to the real world occupied by the police, criminals and their victims.

What police really need is not some abstract theory but a way to determine the best approach to problematic crime problems. One of the best things I have seen along this line is the Problem Analysis Triangle.

The problem analysis triangle (also known as the crime triangle) comes from one of the main theories of environmental criminology - routine activity theory. This theory, originally formulated by Lawrence Cohen and Marcus Felson, states that predatory crime occurs when a likely offender and suitable target come together in time andplace, without a capable guardian present. Source: Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers
It's a lot like the Fire Triangle that you learned about in science class. Without any one of the three elements, this crime won't occur. Problem Oriented Policing expands on this by adding an outer ring that points to the entity most likely to affect that element of the crime triangle. Just like they taught you in science class, remove any one element by affecting the controler and the fire, or in this case, the crime won't occur. This is complemented by another theory that classifies repeat crime problems as being "Wolf", "Duck" or "Den" problems.

Repeat crime problems are classified as Wolf, Duck or Den problems by the dynamics of how these crime are occurring. By identifying these problems in this manner, you can identify a focus in order to formulate an effective strategy to combat these problems. This step in Crime Analysis For Problem Solvers is probably the most useful in the whole book. If you read nothing else, read this one.

Next time, we'll look at Step 9 - Know That Opportunity Makes the Thief

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