Predictive Policing Blog

Preventing Crime vs. Preventing Criminality

How do you show that prevented crime isn't just being pushed into other neighborhoods? That is what’s called “displacement,” and it’s been a hot topic in criminality for decades. All of the experiments that have been done on displacement have pointed to a conclusion that is incomplete. For some offenders, if you take away their preferred location, they will desist for a time. In the time that they are desisting, you will get fewer crimes.

There is a key distinction here: the difference between preventing crime and preventing criminality. If you take someone that has a serious drug dependency and they are committing property crimes for the purpose of supporting their drug habit, preventing them from committing a crime today is a benefit to the community because you have one less crime today. However, in doing so you haven’t solved the problem of that person’s drug dependency. That is a completely separate issue. 

What we’ve been working on is about preventing crime, rather than criminality. Preventing criminality is potentially a much harder problem. Criminality is multi-causal—there are lots of reasons why someone is willing to commit crimes in the first place. One of the big challenges is that criminality is something that occurs over a lifetime. So with a lot of policy ideas, if they get put into place, you’re not going to know how they work for 8, 10, or 15 years. That’s a huge challenge.

We’re not about preventing criminality; we’re about disrupting opportunities for crime in the here and now.


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