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Crime science is the study of crime in order to find ways to prevent it. Three features distinguish crime science from criminology: it is single-minded about cutting crime, rather than studying it for its own sake; accordingly it focuses on crime rather than criminals; and it is multidisciplinary, notably recruiting scientific methodology rather than relying on social theory.
Crime science in the United Kingdom 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; Royal Institution Lecture 9 May 2002; Barlow Lecture, UCL, 6 April 2005).
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. 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. It has established itself as a world-leader in crime mapping and for training crime analysts (civilian crime profilers who work for the police).
The JDI grew rapidly and spawned a new Department of Security and Crime Science, a Centre for the Forensic Sciences and the world's first secure data lab for security and crime pattern analysis. The JDI also has a growing Security Science Doctoral Research Training Centre (UCL SECReT), which is the national UK training centre for security and crime related research degrees. UCL SECReT was first established in 2009 following a £7m cash grant award by the EPSRC (the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council of the UK) and £10m of cash and in-kind support from industrial, academic and public sector partners to establish Europe’s largest centre for doctoral training in security and crime science. The centre is a world-class interdisciplinary centre applying the latest techniques in a variety of disciplines to problems in the crime and security domain and offers ten annual scholarships for students interested in pursuing such PhD research. The website for the new centre is http://www.ucl.ac.uk/secret.
An international Crime Science Network was formed in 2003, with support from the EPSRC. 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. However a common feature is a focus on delivering immediate reductions in crime.
The concept of crime science appears to be taking root more broadly with: