In a meta-analysis they performed on 11 intervention programs, Braga and Weisburd  report that decreases in crime related not only to the offender-centric strategies but also to steps taken to modify the environments in which they operate. This finding, and others presented by several authors of spatial research, complement psychological studies that reveal how treatments focused on people to change behaviors only works on behaviors that people do not do frequently. If people do the behavior enough in the same setting, the physical environment (itself) shapes the human behavior (even unconsciously). Psychologists refer to this as "outsourcing” control of behavior to the physical environment. When the environment consciously or unconsciously influences behavior, the only way to change human behavior for the long-term is to alter the environment and/or the action sequences. Research suggests this will have the best probability of changing outcomes [2, 3].
You might ask: What, specifically, about environments should be altered at high crime areas? This question brings to mind police and other stakeholders' efforts at 'crime prevention through environmental design' (CPTED). Altering the physical design of communities in which humans reside and congregate is a main goal of CPTED. However, CPTED without RTM is like playing darts blindfolded (and not even knowing if you are in the right room before you throw). Don't engage in CPTED blind when RTM can provide some actionable intel for guidance.
Risk terrain modeling diagnoses the environmental features that need to be mitigated in order to reduce crime over the short and long terms. All over the world, police use RTM to identify risks that come from features of a landscape and model how they co-locate to create unique behavior settings for crime. RTM produces intel (and an evidence-base) that informs decisions about WHAT to do WHERE and WHY to do it. RTM also informs strategies and policing operations that can go well beyond CPTED. It helps to identify and eliminate spatial influences of risky features of a landscape without having to demolish or reconstruct physical infrastructures. Legal scholars endorse RTM as one of the few methods of intelligence-led policing that respects Constitutional protections (see: www.riskterrainmodeling.com/action-policing.html).
Risk reduction strategies informed by RTM can accommodate the ideas of CPTED in targeting certain locations for intervention, but they extend beyond situational crime prevention and opportunities for crime or a "crime triangle", and, instead, target all aspects of the context that raises the risk that crime will occur. RTM provides an approach to understanding crime occurrence by identifying the relative influences of environmental factors that contribute to it; risk terrain maps inform decisions about which places or areas can be targeted to reduce these risks. RTM provides a way in which the combined factors that contribute to criminal behavior can be targeted, connections to crime can be monitored, spatial vulnerabilities can be assessed, and actions can be taken to reduce worst effects in cost-effective ways.
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1. Braga, A. A., & Weisburd, D. (2010). Policing problem places: Crime hot spots and effective prevention. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2. Louiselli, J. K., & Cameron, M. J. (Eds.). (1998). Antecedent control: Innovative approaches to behavioral support. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.
3. Kennedy, L. W., & Forde, D. R. (1998). When push comes to shove: A routine conflict approach to violence. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
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