At the Society for Evidence-Based Policing 2021 Virtual Conference, Thomas Abt explained how violence reduction efforts can be enhanced if the focus is taken off the guns, knives or drugs themselves, and instead placed on the illegal behaviors; that is, gun-carrying, knife-carrying and drug dealing. This can open new avenues for intervention with a focus on the illegal behavior settings.
Crime hot spots are chronic illegal behavior settings
Crime hot spots are chronic illegal behavior settings. We can diagnose their attractors and generators of illegal behavior with Risk Terrain Modeling (RTM), then aim to change the ways these places influence or enable interactions of people that result in repeated crime outcomes.
But in contrast to Abt's recommendation to focus on people in hot spots, the focus of crime prevention with RTM turns to the places themselves and not directly on people at all.
There’s a synergy of place-based approaches to crime prevention informed by RTM and considerations of criminal behaviors because some settings are likely attracting or promoting these behaviors more than others.
This 'illegal behavior-setting' framework incorporates the role of personal preferences for crime. That is, how individual persons select and use the environments that they occupy and the impact this has on crime outcomes. It views behavioral outcomes as a function of a dynamic interaction among people that occurs at places.
We can analyze why human interactions at particular places result in repeated crime outcomes. We can better understand the situational contexts for crime that routinely occur at high-crime settings.
It's well known that crimes cluster and hot spots form. Hot spots are symptoms of chronically problematic places. Crimes are the outcomes of illegal behaviors. Particular features of the landscape concentrate or interact to create unique behavior settings for crime.
With RTM we can diagnose environmental features that connect with crime and that create vulnerable places or persistent hot spots. Then multiple stakeholders can intervene to address the collective influences of environmental features that attract illegal behaviors as part of an approach to crime prevention.
There’s compelling evidence to focus on certain types of environmental features at chronically crime-prone places. Abt's argument to consider behaviors, makes the emphasis on place even more pertinent.