Early Neuropsychological Impairments Increase Risk of Antisocial and Criminal Behavior
Masters Demonstration Project
School of Criminal Justice
University of Cincinnati
Originally Written: 15 October 2014
Research conducted over the past couple of decades has repeatedly illustrated the link between the brain and behavioral disorders, between genetic variation and antisocial behavioral patterns, and the interplay between biological characteristics and environmental influences in understanding and explaining human behavior (Beaver, 2009). Interestingly, criminological literature incorporating or examining such discoveries from other scientific fields, such as psychology, psychiatry, genetics, and biology, has been largely nonexistent until recent years, with biosocial examinations of antisocial and criminal behavior only beginning to emerge (Beaver, 2009).
The primary reason further research analyzing the biological and genetic basis of behavior and differences among individuals has been stagnant lies in the ethical concerns surrounding the possible abuse of such information, much like the utilization of selective phrenology and other supposedly scientific methods that were used to establish moral hierarchies between races and sexes in the past (Hatemi & McDermott, 2011). Biosocial criminologists are quick to point out that such concerns are an overreaction. The advocating of unethical eugenic measures is not the focus of biosocial criminology, and instead experts in the field focus on the improvement of the environment in an effort to increase the likelihood of healthy biological development throughout the early stages of the life course (Rocque, Welsh, & Raine, 2012). In effect, biosocial criminology provides for the study and use of crime prevention strategies instead of reactionary criminal justice strategies (Rocque et al., 2012).
Beginning with an examination of what the field of biosocial criminology encompasses, the primary focus for this paper will be the healthy development of the brain from conception through childhood. The final section will explore policies and practices that have already been shown to reduce antisocial and criminal behaviors as a result of influences from the biological sciences before delving into recommendations on future biosocial policies and programs derived from this emerging field.
Wright and Cullen (2012) describe biosocial criminology as a paradigm instead of as a theoretical perspective; the conceptualization of such a thought requires an understanding of the notion that biosocial criminology includes theoretical perspectives that are informed by biological research. In essence, biosocial criminology can be thought of as a field of study that includes that of traditional criminological thinking, but also includes open-mindedness about, and acceptance of, the ways in which genetic factors affect individual behaviors and the subsequent expression of those factors within social settings. For example, an individual’s genetic makeup affects their body’s ability to produce or break down neurotransmitters within the brain (i.e. serotonin, dopamine, etc.), and studies of aggressive behavior have linked manifestations of aggression to abnormal levels of dopamine and serotonin (Beaver, 2009). From such an example, biosocial criminologists acknowledge that the environment alone does not create the expression of aggression within individuals, but instead the development of aggressive behavior is partially driven by biological factors in conjunction with environmental influences.
Theoretically, three generalizable elements can be identified as the foci of biosocial criminology: biological variation, ontogeny, and interaction (Wright & Cullen, 2012). Biological variation refers, simply, to the processes of evolution and the subsequent differences in genetic traits and characteristics that result between the sexes, individuals, and groups of individuals; biosocial criminologists naturally are most interested in biological variations that are found to be related to antisocial and criminal behaviors (Wright & Cullen, 2012). Ontogeny, as defined by Wright and Cullen (2012), refers to the “origins and life-course development” of individual organisms (p. 246). Finally, interaction recognizes that humans do not exist apart from the social world, and therefore operations on and interactions with the environment must also be studied.
It is important to be very specific with the definition of biological and genetic factors as opposed to environmental influences when discussing biosocial criminology: biological factors are used to delineate genetic and physiological processes that occur within the individual, whereas environmental influences are those factors that affect individuals from outside the body (Beaver, 2009). This distinction becomes blurred when external influences are also biological in nature, such as the effects of alcohol or tobacco use by a pregnant mother on her developing child (Beaver, 2009).
Also of extreme importance is the role of gene-environment interplay, which is the concept of how variance in phenotypes, or the observable characteristics of an individual that result from the interaction of one’s genotype (i.e. genetic composition) and one’s environment, is created; there are three primary ways in which gene-environment interactions may be classified, which are gene X environment interactions (GxE), gene X environment correlations (rGE), and epigenetics (Beaver, 2009). At its simplest, gene X environment interactions refer to the presence and/or absence of a genetic risk and an environmental risk, with exposure to both greatly increasing the risk of a specified behavioral outcome (Beaver, 2009). Gene X environment correlations, on the other hand, refer to the processes in which the genotype affects the environment, albeit indirectly; this phenomenon is most easily understood with an example, such as a child being born with conduct disorder (CD) who evokes harsh forms of discipline from his/her parents and rejection by their peers (Beaver, 2009). Such an interaction of genetic differences evoking social reactions would be an example of one type of gene X environment correlation. Finally, epigenetics refers to the ways in which the epigenome, or chemical markers situated along strands of DNA, affect biological processes through the expression or non-expression of genes and how such expression is affected by environmental influences; put another way, epigenetic alterations occur when genes are turned “on” or “off” by environmental factors (Beaver, 2009).
Although the information covered above is brief, it sets the stage for understanding that many factors affect behavior through biological processes and environmental influences. Such recognition is the basis for biosocial criminology, and provides an illustrative foundation from which to delve further into how variation in a single component of the human body, the brain, greatly influences and affects behavioral outcomes.
Much of the biosocial criminology literature is derived from studies incorporating methods used by behavioral geneticists, such as twin-based research studies, adoption studies, and family studies (Beaver, 2009). In addition, technological advancements have made it possible to study the brain in ways never before thought possible. For example, Raine (2013) was the first criminologist to utilize brain-imaging technology to study the structural and functional differences in the brain, analyzing a sample of forty-one murderers in California in 1994 in his groundbreaking study. Using positron-emission tomography (PET) scans, Raine was able to measure metabolic activity in various regions of the brain simultaneously, with higher rates of metabolic processes occurring in those regions of the brain that were most active during the cognitive tasks assigned (Raine, 2013). Using a matched sample of controls, Raine (2013) discovered that murderers showed similar levels of metabolic activity to the controls in the occipital cortex (i.e., their vision was working perfectly) and significantly lower levels of metabolic activity in the prefrontal cortex after performing the cognitive tasks; in other words, the murderers’ prefrontal cortices were functioning poorly.
Other neuroimaging techniques have also been utilized to study the brain functions and structural composition of psychopaths and non-psychopaths, yielding interesting results. For instance, examining the limbic system in psychopaths and comparing to non-psychopathic controls, functional magnetic-resonance imaging scans (fMRIs) detected both structural and functional differences between the experimental and control groups; specifically, activity within the amygdala and hippocampus was reduced in the psychopath group, as was the volume of the amygdala reduced by seventeen to nineteen percent (Beaver, 2009).
Generally speaking, neuroimaging techniques provide most of the basis for recognizing the relationship between structural and functional differences in the brains of individuals who exhibit antisocial or criminal behaviors and the manifestation of such behaviors. Twin-based research and adoption and family studies have provided a wealth of information surrounding the identification of a heritable component to behaviors, as well as identifying the interplay between genetic predispositions and environmental influences (Beaver, 2009). In fact, behavioral genetics research, which is generally comprised of statistically comparing the relative effects of both genetic and environmental influences in twin-based research designs, is one of the primary areas of research from which much of the known information surrounding biological and environmental interactions and their correlates with human behavior has emerged (Tibbetts, 2014). It is important to note that no single research methodology exists when considering an examination of antisocial behavior through the lens of biosocial criminology, with research from multiple disciplines being incorporated into the field.
Brain Structure and Functioning: Theoretical Background
In order to understand how variations in brain structure and functioning affect behavior, it is first important to examine the structures and known functions of regions of the brain, the neurotransmitters involved in normal brain functioning, and the effect of certain neurotransmitters on behavior. Before proceeding, however, a word of caution is in order: some of the conclusions currently accepted are still preliminary, and subsequently are not well established (Wright, Tibbetts, & Daigle, 2008).
The limbic system of the brain, which is comprised of the amygdala, an almond-shaped emotion and partial memory center, and hippocampus, the primary memory center, is the section of the brain believed to be the most relevant in the formation of emotional responses and feelings related to survival (i.e. the fight or flight response) and social responses (such as jealousy and anger) (Wright, Tibbetts, & Daigle, 2008). Also of note, the hippocampus plays a key role in an individual’s ability to comprehend cause and effect relationships, and criminals have been found to lack proper functioning in the hippocampus, especially in violent offenders (Wright et al., 2008).
The pituitary is primarily responsible for releasing growth hormone during sleep states as well as important sex hormones during puberty; in conjunction with the hypothalamus, the pituitary regulates hormones that control emotional responses such as aggression (Wright, Tibbetts, & Daigle, 2008). The cingulate gyrus is the region of the brain that affects an individual’s ability to adapt and shift attention, with improper functioning resulting in an inability to handle negative emotions like anxiety or stress; the ventral tegmental region is the primary region for dopamine production, a neurotransmitter where abnormal levels of the chemical have been linked to antisocial and criminal behaviors (Wright et al., 2008).
The cerebral cortex is the largest and most evolved structure in the human brain, with the frontal lobe and prefrontal cortex being the region of the brain that has been most implicated in the development of antisocial and criminal behaviors (Wright, Tibbetts, & Daigle, 2008). A healthy frontal cortex is constantly communicating with other regions of the brain, is always receiving signals about such things as emotional impulses, and is responsible for the control of emotional impulses through rational decision-making processes (Wright et al., 2008). Notably, the frontal region of the cerebral cortex stays underdeveloped throughout the teenage years, and likely explains the tendency of adolescents to engage in impulsive behavior; also important to note, individuals who experience damage to the frontal lobe display a loss of ability to properly interact with others through social norms, loss of flexibility and adaptability in thinking, much greater likelihood of the expression of violent behaviors, lowered control of emotional impulses, feelings of indifference to the consequences of their behaviors, and severe mood changes (Wright et al., 2008).
Although multiple brain structures and their associated functions affect behavior in a complex fashion, it should be clear already that abnormal functioning in any one region could significantly impact multiple aspects of behavior. Similarly, differences in brain structure between individuals can also have a significant impact. Through the use of brain-imaging techniques, samples of psychopaths in studies conducted by Raine and colleagues showed reductions in the amount of grey matter volume in the prefrontal cortex, increases in the volume of white matter in the corpus callosum, increases in length and decreases in width of the corpus callosum, and reduced volume of the amygdala (Beaver, 2009). As another example of how structural differences can be indicative of antisocial behaviors, it is interesting to note that pathological liars have increased volumes of white matter in the prefrontal cortex (Beaver, 2009).
Clearly there is a strong link between brain functioning and structural development and the subsequent association with antisocial and criminal behaviors; empirically supported findings have shown that criminals have increased activity in the limbic system of the brain, resulting in strong emotional impulses, and reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex, resulting in lowered rationalization and cognitive capabilities that serve to control emotional impulses (Beaver, 2009). In short, the ability for those who exhibit antisocial and criminal behaviors to control their impulses appears to be significantly reduced compared to those who do not exhibit such tendencies.
Brain Structure and Functioning: Deficits and Abnormalities
The human brain begins to form almost immediately after conception, continuing to grow, develop, and mature throughout the pregnancy, early childhood, on into adolescence, and into early adulthood; prenatal exposure to testosterone, exposure to toxins, malnutrition, and exposure to stress have all been found to alter early brain development in utero, and have subsequently been linked to antisocial behavioral outcomes (Beaver, 2009). Rocque, Welsh, and Raine (2012) emphasize that neuropsychological or cognitive deficits in childhood are the strongest correlates of antisocial and criminal behavior, with such deficits most often manifested as difficulty with planning and long-term goal attainment, lack of organizational skills, selective attention, difficulties inhibiting emotional responses, trouble conforming to social expectations and responsibilities, an inability to delay gratification, and difficulties adjusting to societal demands. Many of the aforementioned characteristics are similar to those identified by Raine (2013) in his research on the region of the brain most widely implicated in the development of antisocial phenotypes, and especially in studies of aggression and violence: the prefrontal cortex. In fact, Raine’s (2013) examination of how impairments to the prefrontal cortex affect behavior indicates a number of characteristics that, arguably, sound exactly like the behaviors Rocque et al. (2012) illustrate as correlates of later criminal behaviors, such as loss of control over emotional responses, engagement in risk-taking and rule-breaking behaviors, impulsivity and an inability to modify and inhibit behaviors properly, immaturity, poor social judgment, lacking problem-solving skills, and the loss of intellectual flexibility.
The link between neuropsychological and cognitive impairments and the development of antisocial or criminal behaviors cannot be ignored. Impairments to physical brain structures are not the only neuropsychological deficits to be strongly implicated in antisocial or criminal behaviors, however. Neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, have also been repeatedly linked to a variety of antisocial behaviors. In fact, serotonin has been the most consistently implicated neurotransmitter to affect a wide range of antisocial behavioral outcomes (Wright, Tibbetts, & Daigle, 2008). Similarly, monoamine oxidase, an enzyme that assists in the regulation of levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, has also been strongly implicated in the development of antisocial phenotypes (Wright et al., 2008).
Although all causes of variances in brain structure and functioning are not known to researchers as of yet, a number of risk factors have been identified through the use of the previously mentioned research methods. Prenatal exposure to a range of toxins, an overabundance of testosterone in the womb, malnutrition, complications at birth such as anoxia (oxygen starvation), abuse and neglect during early childhood, exposure to environmental toxins during early childhood, and delays in the acquisition of language are just some of the issues identified in studies that may lead to developmental impairments or damage to brain structure and functioning (Beaver, 2009). Before addressing existing polices and practices that have been shown to positively affect behavioral outcomes, it is important to emphasize the ways in which such risk factors affect brain development.
Perhaps no other setting lends itself to identifying and studying the biological underpinnings of behavioral development than the womb. The womb and amniotic sac may be thought of as a filtration system within the female body that surrounds and protects a developing child from the hazards of the mother’s environment as well as some hazards a mother may introduce, knowingly or unknowingly, into her body (Wright, 2014). Wright (2014) emphasizes that this concept of a highly effective, highly efficient filtration system must be kept in mind when considering the potential effects of the introduction of toxins into the developing embryo’s environment (i.e. the womb); research has shown that the placenta and blood-brain barrier are remarkably effective, which aids in explaining why the behavioral outcomes associated with prenatal exposure to a number of risk factors are highly variable.
Prenatal exposure to nicotine, typically through a mother’s use of tobacco products while pregnant, has been shown to affect the growth, structure, and functioning of the brain in animal studies; these studies have found deficits in the cerebral cortex and dysfunction in the production and regulation of dopamine and serotonin to be correlated with in utero exposure to nicotine (Wright, 2014). Further, magnetic resource imaging (MRI) studies of children whose mothers smoked while pregnant discovered reductions in the volume of cortical gray matter, which is highly associated with intelligence and overall brain health (Wright, 2014). Much like prenatal exposure to nicotine, prenatal exposure to alcohol has also been linked to developmental problems in offspring. Research has consistently linked such developmental issues as hyperactivity, learning deficits, conduct disorders, delinquency, and later criminal behavior to in utero exposure to alcohol (Wright, 2014).
Other toxins may become introduced into the womb unbeknownst to the mother. Perhaps the most intensively studied example to date is the introduction of lead into the bloodstream through a pregnant mother’s contact with lead-based paints, consuming water contaminated by lead pipes, or simply living in an environment where high concentrations of lead have developed as a result of commercial and/or residential applications (e.g. prior to changes in Federal Law, lead was an additive in gasoline and became widely distributed as a pollutant). Lead mimics an ion of calcium, resulting in the inability for the body to distinguish between particles of lead and calcium and, therefore, leading to the storage of lead in bones (Wright, 2014); the storage of lead in a pregnant woman’s bones becomes especially problematic as a result of the calcium needs of a fetus during the first trimester to form the skeletal system and for other neurological functioning, as some of the calcium is supplied from the soft areas of the mother’s bones and, if present, lead will also be passed to the fetus (Wright, 2014). Studies have shown that prenatal and postnatal exposure to lead is associated with a range of developmental problems, including lowered IQ, hearing and vision problems, difficulties with self-regulation, and deficits in fine and gross motor skills (Wright, 2014).
It is clearly apparent that prenatal and perinatal exposure to an array of biological risk factors is associated with a host of maladaptive behavioral outcomes, but it should also be emphasized that birth complications, the introduction of toxins during early childhood development, malnutrition, and especially childhood exposure to abuse and neglect are also highly correlated with the development of later antisocial behaviors and, in many instances, criminal outcomes (Beaver, 2009). Due to the relative infancy of contemporary biosocial criminology, however, much research must still be conducted to determine to what extent exposure to the aforementioned risk factors, as well as the multitude of potential additional risk factors yet unidentified that may be introduced through legal and illicit drugs, commercial chemicals, industrial pollutants, and other developments of modern society, impact brain development and functioning either directly (i.e. absorption into the bloodstream) or indirectly (i.e. affecting the expression of genes).
Applying Methods of Crime Prevention From the Biosocial Perspective
Rocque, Welsh, and Raine (2012) identify developmental prevention, which refers to the use of protective factors and the targeting of risk factors shown to affect human development through strategic intervention, as the newest and most relevant form of crime prevention when utilizing a biosocial approach. Family-centered, preschool and school-based, and nutritional programs have all been shown to help reduce antisocial and criminal behaviors in studies, though it is important to note that the earlier in the life course the intervention occurs the greater the likelihood of a positive outcome (Rocque et al.,2012).
As an example, the Nursing Family Partnership Program combines education with prenatal and perinatal care for impoverished, unmarried mothers, and has repeatedly shown positive results with regard to lower instances of abuse or neglect of the children born to the participants, as well as lowered incidents of risk-seeking or impulsive behaviors among said children (Wright & Boisvert, 2009). Expanding the scope of such a program to provide consistent, quality prenatal, perinatal, and postnatal care for mothers, healthcare for children until they enter the school system, and continuing to educate parents about those risk factors within the realm of their control while simultaneously educating the public about the dangers of environmental pollutants, toxins, and other substances that affect humans at the biological level, and especially during the early stages of embryonic development and early childhood, can substantially affect the prevalence of antisocial and criminal behaviors in future generations. In essence, the focus of a healthy society must start with a focus on ensuring the members of said society are also healthy.
Beaver (2009) summarized the concept succinctly: behavioral problems tend to emerge during childhood, prevention programs targeting youth reduce the likelihood of antisocial and criminal behaviors developing in youth, and prevention programs show greater effectiveness in reducing incidents of antisocial and criminal behaviors in chronic offenders compared to intervention or rehabilitation programs. Barnes (2014) also emphasizes the need for biosocial perspectives in crime prevention, noting that biosocial criminology provides a more thorough, in-depth look at how the mind, body, and environment interact to produce behavioral outcomes, and that it is far easier to manipulate and change environmental factors to influence outcomes than to attempt to manipulate genetic variables. Three primary foci are subsequently described as implications for policies and practices informed by biosocial perspectives: the elimination of toxins from the environment, improving pre-, peri-, and postnatal care, and the use of targeted interventions for high-risk individuals (Barnes, 2014).
A Note on Existing Policies and Practices
The usefulness of crime prevention strategies are underscored by the premise that crime response strategies, or the identification of and response to at-risk individuals after criminal behaviors have developed, represent missed opportunities that should be viewed through the lens of public health instead of criminal justice (Rocque, Welsh, & Raine, 2012). The classification of crime prevention strategies, therefore, fall into four general categories: developmental prevention, or targeting risk and protective factors discovered to affect human development; community prevention, or targeting social conditions and institutions that influence the development of offending behaviors; situational prevention, or targeting factors that influence opportunities to engage in criminal behaviors; and criminal justice prevention, which includes traditional incapacitative and rehabilitative strategies operated by criminal justice agencies (Rocque et al., 2012).
Among existing programs, the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) provides an example of the most well-known and studied health and nutrition program targeting pregnant women currently in operation. The program specifically targets those women who are in disadvantaged socioeconomic positions who are pregnant, and primarily relies on educating expectant mothers on topics ranging from proper prenatal and postnatal childcare, proper nutrition, and advice on avoiding toxins such as alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy (Rocque, Welsh, & Raine, 2012). Results of early trials showed significant improvements in decreasing instances of physical abuse and neglect of children by mothers participating in the program (29% of those participating were identified as perpetrators of such abuse or neglect, compared to 54% of the control group); also, in follow-ups at the age of fifteen with the children of those mothers who participated, incidents of violent or other major criminal acts were significantly lower than the children of those mothers in the control group (mean of 3.02 compared to 3.57) (Rocque et al., 2012). In another follow-up at age 19, girls born to participating mothers also had significantly fewer children of their own and less use of public welfare services, though limited effects of the program were observed in the boys born to participating mothers (Rocque et al., 2012).
Preschool and school-based programs, such as the Perry Preschool project in Michigan, targeted children in impoverished households and aimed to provide intellectual stimulation, increase analytical abilities, and increase later scholastic achievement (Rocque, Welsh, & Raine, 2012). In follow-up studies the program was shown to produce positive long-term benefits by the age of 19, with the experimental group participants being more likely to be employed, to have graduated from high school, to have attended collegiate or vocational training, and to be less likely to have been arrested (Rocque et al., 2012). Also of note, the latest follow-up of the participants, at age 40, showed that the experimental group had significantly fewer lifetime arrests for all crime types, significantly higher levels of educational achievement, better records of employment, and higher annual incomes than those in the control group (Rocque et al., 2012).
Nutritional effects on cognitive development have been studied for decades, and an ever-increasing body of research has demonstrated links between nutrition and cognitive deficits, brain functioning, and crime (Rocque, Welsh, & Raine, 2012). In fact, a study by Schoenthaler in 1983 (in Rocque et al., 2012) found that removing unhealthy foods from the diets of incarcerated youth significantly decreased incidents of antisocial behavior. Recently, the link between nutritional deficits and antisocial behaviors has been reexamined, with researchers discovering that Omega-3 fish oil, and more specifically Docosahexaenoc Acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), can improve neurite outgrowth in the brain which, subsequently, results in larger dendritic branching and neuron development; in sum, these effects have demonstrated improved behavior and decreased aggression in experimental studies of the general population, with diets including seafood in pregnant mothers also being associated with higher cognitive functioning and reductions in antisocial behaviors in their offspring (Rocque et al., 2012).
Taken together, the above examples provide a basic framework for recommending new policies and practices aimed at addressing crime prevention from the perspective of public health instead of solely through the reactionary lens of the criminal justice system. It is important to note, however, that crime prevention alone is not a viable strategy, and the recommendations should be viewed as an augment to existing policies and practices in an effort to curb antisocial and delinquent behaviors from manifesting, with existing criminal justice policies and practices taking over in instances where prevention strategies fall short.
Recommendations for Policies and Practices
Societal health begins with the healthiness, or unhealthiness, of the individual members of that society. When examining crime and antisocial or delinquent behaviors, traditional criminological perspectives focus primarily on social programs and institutions due, primarily, to the social perception and definition of such behaviors. In reality, however, biosocial perspectives help illuminate the link between biological influences and social and environmental influences, which in turn drives the realization that viewing crime as a response to a multitude of risk factors, much like a doctor examining the conditions and risk factors promoting the spread of disease in a region, is more appropriate than viewing crime itself as the variable to be controlled or manipulated. A multi-faceted approach, therefore, is recommended when examining the potential for new policies and practices designed to address crime, especially when taking into account the summarized findings presented herein.
The SHIELD Program
For the purposes of discussion, the following recommendations for policies and practices to be implemented can be thought of as the four key components of a single program designed to strategically target crime and the development of delinquent or antisocial behaviors through an informed, biosocial and neuropsychological developmental prevention strategy. For simplicity, these recommendations will be referred to as the foundations of a new Societal Health and Involved Educational and Locational Development (SHIELD) Program.
Building on the research summarized previously, and the success of educational initiatives like the Nurse-Family Partnership, the first component of the SHIELD Program focuses on educating individuals on the genetic and environmental influences, along with risk and protective factors, that have been shown to impact behavior and human development. Although broad in scope, the educational component should be implemented through a combination of existing institutions and services, with material targeted at the individuals seeking said services. Expectant mothers, which would include couples attempting to conceive as well as individuals and/or couples in the early stages of pregnancy, should be educated about the effects of tobacco and alcohol use, environmental exposure to pesticides and other commonly used commercial chemicals, potential exposure to lead based on their environmental conditions, and other such toxins that have been shown to affect the developing fetus. Similarly, public marketing campaigns that encourage all individuals to seek out additional information about the impact of such toxins on neuropsychological development by speaking with healthcare professionals should be implemented, highlighting the need for understanding how such toxins may affect children from birth through adolescence. In addition to attempting to educate the entire population through mass marketing materials and programs, the institution of additional educational material in high school level biology classes that expose youth to the concepts of behavioral genetics will raise awareness of and receptivity to the educational component of the SHIELD Program as they age and mature.
At the elementary and middle school levels, however, the implementation of more intellectually stimulating assignments and projects throughout the peak developmental years can help provide long-term benefits to those youth who may have already been exposed to biological risk factors, as evidenced by the success of the Perry Preschool Project. In essence, removing the emphasis on standardized testing and supplementing core educational material with creative, analytical, and challenging projects and assignments increases the likelihood of encouraging greater growth and repair of potential neuropsychological deficits that may exist as a result of developmental impairments.
Coupled with educational guidance for society as a whole, targeted guidance for expectant mothers and couples attempting to conceive, general educational understanding and awareness for youth becoming adults, and targeted intellectual stimulation for children and adolescents, nutritional education and assistance becomes the second core component of the SHIELD Program. Although the educational component would be included in the aforementioned general educational component of the program, the inclusion of an expanded nutritional assistance program is semi-new territory. Modeled after the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Food and Nutrition Service, the nutritional assistance component of the SHIELD Program should target the distribution of nutritional supplements, such as Omega-3 fish oils, and vitamins to specific subsets of the population. Expectant mothers and couples attempting to conceive should receive prenatal vitamins and any recommended dietary supplements, at no cost, through healthcare professionals. Infants and children should receive multivitamins and recommended supplements until they begin to go through puberty, at which point the healthcare system should provide individualized nutritional counseling and recommendations for each adolescent to understand and follow, or not follow, at their own discretion.
Similar to the nutritional component outlined above, providing no-cost pre-, peri-, and postnatal care to all mothers, regardless of socioeconomic status or demographic variables, becomes the third core component of the SHIELD Program. Modeled after the success of the Nurse-Family Partnership, the expansion of the core ideas to all mothers allows this component to be the primary method of educational and nutritional component delivery of the SHIELD Program while simultaneously providing needed healthcare services during, and immediately following, pregnancy. Of all of the outlined recommendations, the enhanced pre-, peri-, and postnatal care component provides the most significant, and potentially the most effective, step in lowering the risks of neuropsychological deficits or abnormalities from forming in the developing child.
The final, and perhaps most difficult component of the SHIELD Program is the identification and neutralization of environmental toxins, and the restoration of contaminated environments. Recognizing that numerous substances, such as lead and commercially used chemicals, affect human development, the need for detecting and neutralizing the effects of such substances is paramount in creating a well-rounded crime prevention strategy based on reducing the risks associated with developmental impairments in humans. Restoration efforts should begin condemning locations identified as contaminated, barring new individuals from establishing a presence in such zones and offering relocation assistance to existing residents. Subsequently, once a location becomes vacant, the Environmental Protection Agency should oversee efforts to restore the location, while working with local contractors to reestablish housing and other communal buildings and properties in the newly decontaminated areas.
In essence, the SHIELD Program is designed to educate the entire population on the dangers posed to humans from environmental and genetic influences from conception through early childhood, target pregnant mothers and conceiving couples to provide educational and nutritional assistance, target pregnant mothers and children from birth through adolescence in the provision of needed nutritional assistance and healthcare, target children from preschool through primary and secondary school in providing intellectually stimulating and enriching content to attempt to combat neuropsychological deficits and genetic risk factors affecting brain functioning or structure, expose high school students to biosocial risk and protective factors through education, and work to ameliorate the effects of environmental contamination.
Costs, Benefits, and Assessment
Due to the heavy emphasis on education and awareness, most of the costs incurred by the SHIELD Program would arise from the nutritional assistance, provision of needed healthcare, and environmental remediation components of the program. Estimates of the cost of criminal offenses in the United States in 2007 were placed at $15 billion in economic losses to victims and $179 billion in government expenditures (McCollister, French, & Fang, 2010). Although the number for government expenditures includes the costs of operating the criminal justice system, reductions in crime would result in the redirection of funds from programs and institutions that would be no longer necessary into the SHIELD Program.
The benefits of lowering crime and increasing the healthiness of society cannot be overstated. Reducing incidents of aggressive behavior and reliance on federally run social welfare programs, and subsequently redirecting available funds to the SHIELD Program as needed, should significantly reduce the overall expense to society while simultaneously creating a healthier, safer environment for future generations. Economically, the bulk of the cost would arise from environmental restoration efforts, though the benefits of providing healthy, safe environments for continued generations of families to reside should not be taken lightly. It is recommended that a full cost-benefit analysis be undertaken prior to implementing the SHIELD Program, with open discourse on the provisions herein providing guidance in the development of an implementation strategy for each individual component over the span of five years.
In order to gauge the success or failure of the SHIELD Program, multiple measures must be utilized. Prior to implementing any component, required participation and categorization of detected criminal offenses with Unified Crime Reports must be unanimous across all law enforcement agencies. In addition, all healthcare systems must implement basic behavioral and risk assessments for all patients, with follow-up assessments performed every five years. Ethical concerns should dictate that all identifying information of these assessments be destroyed once coded into a unified reporting system, with compiled data providing snapshots of the presence or absence of risk factors in the population over time.
Unfortunately, no direct measures of success or failure are easily provided, though the use of self-reported crime and victimization surveys should continue to provide reasonable estimates of whether the SHIELD Program is effective over a five to ten year span.
Utilizing a multifaceted approach to target protective factors in neuropsychological and developmental health, in addition to increasing public awareness of biosocial influences on behavior, are the core components of the policy recommendations outlined herein as the basis for the proposed SHIELD Program. Building such a strategic, focused program draws heavily on concepts shown to be successful through existing programs, like the Nurse-Family Partnership and Perry Preschool project, while simultaneously taking into account findings from studies in behavioral genetics, psychology, education, and criminology. In addition, the recommendations outlined in the proposed SHIELD Program align with the three primary ways in which biosocial risk factors are able to be targeted by preventive strategies according to Beaver (2009): the education of parents, and especially pregnant mothers, about the importance of a healthy pregnancy, the provision of adequate prenatal healthcare for parents, and the provision of postnatal education and support of new parents in understanding the risk and protective factors identified as influential during early childhood development. Similarly, the components of the SHIELD Program align with the policy implications suggested by Barnes (2014): the elimination of environmental toxins, such as lead, the improvement of pre-, peri-, and postnatal care for children, and targeted interventions for high-risk individuals through school-based educational programs.
The first step in preventing crime is to address the underlying biological and environmental influences that cause deficits or abnormalities in brain structure and function. Given that the earlier in the life course the intervention occurs the more likely the success of the intervention, the SHIELD Program is designed to begin with the very first stages of human development. Although the initial costs of the program may be high, the long-term health of society as a whole relies on the successful implementation of efforts to reduce the development of antisocial and delinquent behaviors that lead to criminality. In short, societal health must begin with ensuring the healthy development of the members of society.
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Tibbets, S. G. (2014). Prenatal and perinatal predictors of antisocial behavior: Review of research and interventions. In M. DeLisi & K. M. Beaver (Eds.), Criminological theory: A life-course approach (2nd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Wright, J. P. (2014). Prenatal insults and the development of persistent criminal behavior. In M. DeLisi & K. M. Beaver (Eds.), Criminological theory: A life-course approach (2nd ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Wright, J. P., & Boisvert, D. (2009). What biosocial criminology offers criminology. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 36(11), 1228-1240. doi:10.1177/0093854809343140
Wright, J. P., & Cullen, F. T. (2012). The future of biosocial criminology: Beyond scholars’ professional ideology. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 28(3), 237-253. doi: 10.1177/1043986212450216
Wright, J.P., Tibbetts, S.G., & Daigle, L.E. (2008). Criminals in the making: Criminality across the life course. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Hacking: Does Self-Control Theory Explain Participation in the Hacking Subculture?
The proliferation of automated tools and access to information and guides through online resources provide youth with ample opportunities to become acquainted with the tools and techniques of hacking. Low self-control is a risk factor for engaging in delinquent behaviors, including an inability to consider the long-term ramifications of participating in an array of hacking techniques. Further, the interaction of low self-control and opportunities to learn about and engage in hacking activities can account for the disproportionate number of young males engaging in such behaviors, as well as the lower prevalence of older hackers.
The General Theory of Crime, or Self-Control Theory, cannot completely explain such behaviors without modifying Gottfredson and Hirschi’s concept of crime itself. Computer hacking requires more planning and knowledge than Gottfredson and Hirschi’s original conceptualization of crimes requiring little or no skill or planning, providing immediate and easy satisfaction of simple desires, and resulting in pain for the victim (Buker, 2011).
The core definition of crime aside, Gottfredson and Hirschi’s General Theory of Crime shows some support in explaining general cybercrime and significant support for explaining crime and delinquency. In light of easy access to guides and information exposing youth to computer hacking, the General Theory of Crime can subsequently account for involvement in the hacking subculture when minimal modifications to Gottfredson and Hirschi’s suggested characteristics of crime are made.
The definition of hacking has undergone a number of changes over the past few decades, from a positive label attributed to an individual whose innovative use of technology or software modifications yielded benefits to others to the negative connotation currently defining the activity of hacking as the unauthorized access and use of computer systems (Yar, 2013). This second definition, which is further defined as the act of unauthorized access, redesign, or reconfiguration of a computer system to alter its intended function or gain access to information (Bachmann, 2010), conceptually illustrates the framework of computer hacking with which the criminal justice system is concerned.
According to Marcum, Higgens, Ricketts, and Wolfe (2014), computer hacking includes such activities or behaviors as breaking into a computer system or network, the development or use of viruses or other malware, the destruction or alteration of files, the theft of services through technological methods, credit card fraud, and the infiltration of software systems. It should also be noted that there are some activities that are often attributed to hackers, but do not require unauthorized access to computer systems (Yar, 2013). For instance, the use of software to target a server or set of servers and flood those systems with requests in an effort to deny access by legitimate users of the system, also known as a denial-of-service attack, does not require an individual to first break into the target system.
Although Hollywood and the media often portray hackers as individuals who are able to sit at a computer and break into any system on a whim (Yar, 2013), the reality of how hackers achieve their goals is quite different. Some techniques certainly involve the use of computers and an individual’s knowledge of a computer system to exploit vulnerabilities and gain access, but the most common methods utilized are generally simpler or more indirect. Marcum et al. (2014) discuss the use of “brute-force attacks,” wherein someone simply attempts to break into a system by guessing passwords, “shoulder surfing,” wherein someone watches their victim enter a password or personal identification number, and social engineering, wherein someone poses as someone else in order to have a victim provide information that assists the hacker in gaining access to a system, as examples of some of the varied methods utilized by hackers.
Richet (2013) reaffirms the difference between media portrayals of hackers and reality in his examination of how many youth become involved in such activities, citing the low barrier to entry as a result of the formation of hacking communities on the Internet and the dissemination of information throughout such communities as one of the key changes of the past decade or so. As a result of easier access to information about hacking and the development of automated tools that allow individuals to engage in such behavior without advanced technical knowledge, casual hacking has become a normal idea and component of life for most youth (Richet, 2013). In fact, the most common reasons cited for engaging in hacking activities are fun and curiosity (Richet, 2013).
Yar (2013) also emphasizes the lower barrier to entry associated with hacking, noting the prevalence of automated tools that are available to scan networks and locate vulnerable systems and to establish remote control of said systems, tools for creating viruses and worms, tools for capturing and decrypting passwords, and tools for automating denial of service and brute-force attacks against systems.
As a result of the secretive nature of the hacker subculture, it is difficult to ascertain generalizable information about the average offender (Marcum et al., 2014). It is also difficult to measure the extent to which hacking is, or is becoming, a significant criminological issue. However, anecdotal evidence indicates that computer hacking is a serious issue, and that the problem is increasing at an alarming rate (Bossler & Burruss, 2011).
A General Theory of Crime / Self-Control Theory
Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi developed a general theory of crime, also referred to as self-control theory, which attempts to explain all criminal and deviant behaviors. According to Gottfredson and Hirschi, two key components predict the probability of an individual’s choice to engage in a criminal act: an individual’s measure of self-control and the presence of an opportunity (Moon, McCluskey, & McCluskey, 2010). In essence, individuals commit criminal or deviant acts as a result of their inability to resist temptation in the presence of opportunity, and therefore engage in acts that carry long-term consequences that are greater than the short-term benefits (Bossler & Burruss, 2011).
It should be noted that crimes, as defined by Gottfredson and Hirschi, are stimulating, dangerous, or thrilling, require little planning or skill, result in a victim’s pain or discomfort, provide immediate, easy, and simplistic satisfaction of an offender’s desires, and supply few or insufficient long-term benefits (Buker, 2011). In addition to criminal activities, individuals possessing low self-control also tend to partake in other deviant or antisocial behaviors, such as smoking and drinking (Buker, 2011).
According to Gottfredson and Hirschi’s theory, individuals possessing low self-control exhibit such behaviors as seeking instant gratification, insensitivity to others, and limited cognitive skills (Moon et al., 2010). Further, Gottfredson and Hirschi suggest that low levels of self-control also predispose individuals to analogous activities such as smoking, drinking, drug use, gambling, promiscuity, and having children out of wedlock (Donner, Marcum, Jennings, Higgens, & Banfield, 2014).
The general theory of crime has received significant empirical support, with research linking low self-control to academic dishonesty, bullying, illicit sexual activity, drunk dialing, risky driving, digital piracy, and other forms of both traditional and online deviant behaviors (Donner et al., 2014). In fact, Buker (2011) states that the validity of the relationship between self-control and the commission of criminal acts is largely settled, with the primary focus of further inquiry lying in understanding the formation of self-control. Further, Pratt and Cullen’s (2000) meta-analysis of self-control theory shows, on an absolute level, self-control is an important predictor of criminal and analogous behaviors.
Gottfredson and Hirschi posit that the parental socialization process is the primary factor contributing to an individual’s development of self-control, and that levels of self-control remain relatively stable over time; studies from multiple disciplines, including criminology and psychology, indicate that parenting practices are a factor in the development of self-control, but the effect is moderate and not the sole determinant as originally posited (Buker, 2011). Turner and Piquero (2002) note that Gottfredson and Hirschi’s statement regarding the stability of self-control is often misunderstood by criminologists as the development of an absolute, fixed level that remains constant once developed; to the contrary, Gottfredson and Hirschi clearly note that individuals can, and often do, experience absolute changes in levels of self-control over time (Turner & Piquero, 2002).
In sum, support for self-control theory has been demonstrated across a wide range of disciplines, though Gottfredson and Hirschi’s focus on parental socialization as the de facto component driving the development of self-control in individuals is not supported. Buker (2011) states that the formation of self-control, and therefore the underlying component of Gottfredson and Hirschi’s theory, is more complex than originally thought. The nature and development of self-control is tied to parental socialization processes, effective parenting, and several biological and social structural factors affect the development of self-control (Buker, 2011).
Application of Self-Control Theory to Computer Hacking
Moffitt’s (1993) work in exploring the development of antisocial and deviant behaviors in juveniles, leading to the understanding that the majority of youth engage in antisocial behaviors and subsequently desist from further such behaviors as they age, has become a core tenant in criminological literature. Although the root causes of engaging in such behaviors is still debated, Gottfredson and Hirschi’s General Theory of Crime, or Self-Control Theory, provides a solid framework from which to examine the development of delinquent behaviors in youth. In fact, self-control theory has already received empirical support for the theory’s primary argument that individuals with low self-control are more likely to engage in deviant and/or criminal behaviors (Moon et al., 2010).
Focusing on computer hacking and its associated subculture, Gottfredson and Hirschi’s other argument that low self-control coupled with ample opportunity creates the environment in which deviant behavior occurs, becomes readily apparent. The decision to commit a crime, in this case the hacking of a computer system, relies on an assessment by the potential offender of several factors; such factors include, but are not limited to, cursory assessments of the risks and costs of the opportunity presented, self-awareness of the offender’s ability to perform the hack and attain their desired goal, and the availability of a suitable target for the desired goal to be attained (Richet, 2013). Youth, especially teenagers, tend to have lower potential for earning wealth as well as fewer opportunities for the obtainment of income, which leads to a greater propensity to discount risks and future ramifications of their actions when examining the potential opportunities and benefits to be gained from computer hacking (Richet, 2013).
Understanding that low self-control and the availability of an opportunity are the primary two components of Gottfredson and Hirschi’s theoretical framework is the first step in understanding the explanatory power of the general theory of crime as applied to computer hacking. However, there must also be a greater understanding of both components individually in the face of seeming contradictions between the idea of technologically savvy individuals with the patience and skills to break into computer systems and the idea of individuals with low self-control who engage in more traditional street crimes.
The barriers to hacking now, as opposed to even a few years ago, are much lower and less complex (Richet, 2013). Hacking communities have formed and disseminated their knowledge through the help of the Internet, in addition to creating automated tools available freely to anyone (Richet, 2013; Yar, 2013). As Yar (2013) expresses, such tools allow even the inexperienced novice to create and execute a cyber-attack. Further, Bossler and Burruss (2011) detail the ease with which a sub-sect of hackers, referred to as ‘script kiddies,’ are able to utilize such tools to obtain the immediate gratification they seek without understanding the underlying technology. More than half of all data breaches investigated by authorities have been shown to require little or no skill, and to be capable of being carried out by the use of such tools (Bossler & Burruss, 2011). In short, ample opportunity exists for youth to become involved in the hacking subculture with minimal effort, presenting greater opportunities for offending.
Holt, Bossler, and May (2010) found that low self-control positively correlates with the commission of cyber deviance in general, with three factors relating to the measurement of opportunity also showing significant correlations to engaging in cyber deviance: spending time on the Internet for non-school purposes, possessing greater technological skills, and having personal access to a computer. Similarly, Bachmann (2010) found that two of the six components that comprise measures of low self-control, rational thinking styles and propensity to engage in risky behaviors, showed significant importance in predicting success in hacking endeavors (it should be noted that the other four characteristics were not measured as a part of the study). Impulsiveness and shortsightedness also play a role in the engagement of individuals in hacking behaviors, with such characteristics blinding the offender to the ramifications of such a breach of trust as well as insensitivity to the amount of effort required on the part of the targeted victim(s) to attempt to prevent such behaviors (Marcum et al., 2014). Finally, an empirical test of the general theory of crime to explain a wide range of computer related criminal behaviors found that low self-control showed a significant positive relationship to the commission of such acts (Moon et al., 2010). Summarily, the combination of low self-control and relatively easy access to hacking tools and guides provides youth a perceived low-risk opportunity to engage in risk-seeking behaviors that provide near-instant gratification of desires (Richet, 2013).
As illustrated, hackers tend to possess personality characteristics linked to measures of low self-control. In addition, hacking behaviors are illustrative of Gottfredson and Hirschi’s conceptualization of risk-seeking, impulsive, shortsighted behaviors. Finally, such behaviors often manifest themselves in youth, and especially in adolescent males (Moffitt, 1993). Logically, technological advancement has made the knowledge and tools necessary for a generation of inherently technologically savvy youth to engage in behaviors that have become as accepted and ingrained in their daily lives as downloading music onto an iPod (Richet, 2013). It should subsequently become apparent that the decision to engage in computer hacking presents an appealing outlet for youth by providing cognitive challenges coupled with the thrill of overcoming barriers and gaining access to computer systems, which in turn creates greater risks that perpetuates the cycle of increased thrill and excitement with each successful hack (Bachmann, 2010). In essence, the instant gratification of an easy thrill initiates the offender into a subculture where greater risks and challenges may present themselves, but the initial gateway into computer hacking begins with an impulsive act based on easily accessible information and tools that launch the offender along a journey wherein the long-term risks are easily ignored or perceived to be low.
Critical Analysis of Self-Control Theory as an Explanation for Computer Hacking
Although low measures of self-control can explain the initial engagement in computer hacking among youth, there are exceptions that must be taken into account. For example, Gottfredson and Hirschi have argued that offenders do not specialize and that offenders committing different types of criminal activity, such as white-collar crime, are the same individuals who engage in traditional street crimes (Bossler & Burruss, 2011). Similarly, individuals who can generally be distinguished from street criminals based on such characteristics as technical knowledge, cognitive ability, greater organization or focus, and other such characteristics commit cyber-crimes. Bossler and Burruss (2011) go on to report findings from Benson and Moore that identify self-control as unrelated to corporate offending when studying offenders in higher levels of an organization, that such crimes are not necessarily simple, and that many such offenses require detailed planning and the ability to examine future consequences and activities. Much like white-collar offenders, computer hackers are not necessarily the same types of individuals as those who engage in street crimes, hackers involving higher levels of technical skills and knowledge typically possess higher levels of self-control, and the classification of “hacker” most likely contains a mixture of individuals with both high and low levels of self-control; further, the available literature on hackers and the hacking subculture includes instances of hacking crimes that required high levels of preparation, technological mastery and learning, and a focus on long-term benefits (Bossler & Burruss, 2011).
Interestingly, and much as explained previously, Bossler and Burruss (2011) found that individuals with lower levels of self-control were more likely to engage in the hacking subculture and, subsequently, learn techniques and methods from other hackers. In effect, low self-control predisposes individuals to become involved with the hacking subculture in the presence of an opportunity to learn and apply hacking techniques. It should also be noted, however, that individuals who were not exposed to easily accessed information and guidance from other hackers required high levels of self-control to learn such techniques and methods on their own, which stands in stark contrast to the core tenets of self-control theory (Bossler & Burruss, 2011). In fact, the association with other hackers lends credence to an interaction between both self-control theory and social learning theory, with low self-control appearing to explain the mingling of like-minded individuals possessing low-self control within virtual environments as well as the effect of deviant peer associations enhancing the effects of low self-control, thereby causing individuals to pursue cyber deviance and cybercrime (Holt et al., 2010).
Donner et al. (2014) report strong links between low self-control and the decision to engage in an array of cybercriminal activities, including hacking into unauthorized systems. Given lower measures of self-control coupled with access to hacking knowledge and associations with other hackers, one could simply declare partial support for self-control theory in explaining computer hacking. However, Gottfredson and Hirschi declare crime to be simple, that anyone could commit any crime if they so choose, and that nothing in a criminal offense requires the sharing or support of individuals through knowledge transmission or social support (Bossler & Burruss, 2011). It should be obvious that these statements cannot apply to computer hacking and the surrounding subculture, even though low self-control certainly factors into explaining the initial involvement in said subculture. Therefore, the general theory of crime must be modified and expanded in order to adequately explain certain specialized crimes such as computer hacking, and the interactions between low self-control and social learning must be explored under the auspices of one overarching theoretical framework.
Similar to white-collar crime, computer hacking is a specialized type of crime that may require some knowledge, planning, or skill that separates the offender from the traditional street crime offender. Although low self-control adequately explains initial involvement in the hacking subculture, especially in the context of relatively simple access to an abundance of guides and automated tools and social networks providing support and additional information, the general theory of crime falls short of explaining the development and commission of criminal acts by hackers with advanced skill and knowledge (Bossler & Burruss, 2011). It is more likely that two classifications of hacker exist: youth who become involved with the hacking subculture without enhanced skills and technical knowledge whose involvement in such activities is explained by Gottfredson and Hirschi’s general theory of crime, and those hackers who possess technological skills, knowledge, and cognitive prowess whose involvement in the hacking subculture cannot be explained by low levels of self-control. Further research should investigate the interplay of low self-control with social learning theory in light of the fact that deviant peer associations predict involvement in computer hacking activities more reliably than low self-control alone (Holt et al., 2010).
Bachmann, M. (2010). The risk propensity and rationality of computer hackers. International Journal of Cyber Criminology, 4(1), 643-656. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/870326323?accountid=2909
Bossler, A.M., & Burruss, G.W. (2012). Cyber Crime: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools and Applications (pp. 1-1977). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. doi:10.4018/978-1-61350-323-2
Buker, H. (2011). Formation of self-control: Gottfredson and Hirschi’s general theory of crime and beyond. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 16(2011), 265-276. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2011.03.005
Donner, C.M., Marcum, C.D., Jennings, W.G., Higgens, G.E., & Banfield, J. (2014). Low self-control and cybercrime: Exploring the utility of the general theory of crime beyond digital piracy. Computers in Human Behavior, 34(2014), 165-172. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2011.03.005
Holt, T.J., Bossler, A.M., & May, D.C. (2012). Low self-control, deviant peer associations, and juvenile cyberdeviance. American Journal of Criminal Justice : AJCJ, 37(3), 378-395. doi:10.1007/s12103-011-9117-3
Marcum, C.D., Higgens, G.E., Ricketts, M.L., & Wolfe, S.E. (2014). Hacking in high school: Cybercrime perpetration by juveniles. Deviant Behavior, 35(7), 581-591. doi:10.180/01639625.2013.867721
Moffitt, T. (1993). Adolescence-limited and life-course-persistent antisocial behavior: A developmental taxonomy. Psychological Review, 100(4), 674-701.
Moon, B., McCluskey, J.D., & McCluskey, C.P. (2010). A general theory of crime and computer crime: An empirical test. Journal of Criminal Justice, 38(2010), 767-772. doi:10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2010.05.003
Pratt, T.C., & Cullen, F.T. (2000). The empirical status of gottfredson and hirschi’s general theory of crime: A meta-analysis. Criminology, 38(3), 931-964. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/220711584?accountid=2909
Richer, J.L. (2013). From young hackers to crackers. International Journal of Technology and Human Interaction, 9(3), 53-62. doi:10.4018/jthi.2013070104
Saunders, I. (2007-05-27). 7 Virtual cultures. The year’s work in critical and cultural theory, 15(1), 128-145. doi:10.1093/ywcct/mbm007
Turner, M.G., & Piquero, A.R. (2002). The stability of self-control. Journal of Criminal Justice, 30(2010), 457-471. doi:10.1016/S0047-2352(02)00169-1
Yar, M. (2013). Cybercrime and society (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, California. SAGE Publications.
Over the past two decades a significant amount of research has been undertaken that attempts to identify the connection between variations in brain structure and brain functioning with emotions, personality traits, and behaviors; this body of research has generated empirical evidence implicating variations in both brain structure and function in the development of practically every conceivable antisocial phenotype, especially aggression and violence (Beaver, 2013). Although Wright, Tibbets, and Daigle (2008) caution that some of the conclusions drawn from research into variations in brain structure and functioning are still preliminary and not well-established, the fact that there is a link between said variations and criminal violence is clear.
Two primary sections of the brain have been linked to the development of aggressive behaviors, primarily through the development of strong emotional responses combined with limited rational ability to regulate said responses: the limbic system and the frontal lobe. It is worth noting that multiple brain structures have been implicated in affecting behavior in addition to these two regions, especially the midbrain area including the pituitary, hypothalamus, cingulate gyrus, caudate nucleus, and ventral tegmental area (Wright et al., 2008).
Within the limbic system, the amygdala, which is responsible for emotions and partially responsible for memory, has been found to directly influence changes in violent or hostile activity (Wright et al., 2008). Also in the limbic system, the hippocampus, which is the primary memory center in the brain, is responsible for individuals’ ability to anticipate or comprehend cause-effect relationships; an ability that has been found lacking in criminals, especially in violent offenders (Wright et al., 2008). Wright et al. (2008) state that these two brain structures, working together, are believed to be the most important sections of the brain that control emotions, survival responses (e.g. fight or flight response), and social responses (e.g. jealousy, anger). In addition, neuroimaging studies show structural and functional differences in the limbic systems of psychopaths as opposed to non-psychopaths, and spouse abusers have more active limbic systems combined with lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is examined below, than non-spouse abusers (Beaver, 2013).
The frontal lobe, which is the anterior portion of the cerebral cortex and located right behind the forehead, is the brain structure most implicated in the development of criminality (Wright et al., 2008). A healthy frontal lobe controls emotional impulses and drives rational thought, with injury to the area affecting an individual’s ability to control emotional impulses; in fact, damage to the frontal lobe results in severe mood changes, inflexibility in cognition, and a high inclination toward violent behavior (Wright et al., 2008). According to Wright et al. (2008), studies have linked frontal lobe damage to feelings of indifference toward the consequences of affected individuals’ behavior as well as impulsiveness. It is also important to note that the frontal lobe does not become fully developed until the mid- to late twenties as opposed to the limbic system, which becomes fully developed around the onset of puberty (Beaver, 2013).
While this last fact could help explain the onset of delinquent and antisocial behaviors in adolescence and the “aging-out” of criminal involvement by most youth, it is also important when considering the ability of individuals to control emotional impulses.
Beaver (2013) describes the current state of research into brain structure and function with regard to criminality best, stating that empirical evidence supports the theory that both brain structure and function are directly associated with violence, psychopathy, and psychopathic personality traits. Further, the research has shown that criminals and individuals exhibiting antisocial phenotypes possess variations in brain structure and function that increase activity in the limbic system while also possessing an underactive frontal lobe (Beaver, 2013). In effect, the brain is unable to regulate impulses and emotions properly in criminally violent individuals.
Beaver, K. (2013). Biosocial criminology: a primer. (2nd ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt
Wright, J.P., Tibbetts, S.G., & Daigle, L.E. (2008). Criminals in the making: criminality across the life course. Los Angeles: Sage.
Wilson and Kelling (in Cole & Gertz, 2013) discuss the concept of the “broken windows” theory which, in summary, posits that disorderly or unruly behaviors left unchecked lead to greater disorder and, possibly, criminal behavior. In an effort to maintain order in a neighborhood, and thus attempt to mitigate or reduce potential criminal behaviors, police officers often utilize their authority to remove potential threats to order through charges with little legal meaning such as “suspicious person,” “vagrancy,” or “public drunkenness” (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013). The decriminalization of such behaviors, or the cessation of treating such behaviors as illegal, removes an invaluable tool from law enforcement officials in maintaining order within neighborhoods and, by extension, invites a rise in disorder that could lead to increased criminal activity. In short, Wilson and Kelling’s (in Cole & Gertz, 2013) declaration that the decriminalization of disreputable behavior is a mistake is accurate.
In order to better understand why Wilson and Kelling are correct in their assertion, a more in-depth look at the “broken windows” theory is first necessary. In 1969, Philip Zimbardo conducted experiments to test the broken-window theory. He arranged to have an automobile without license plates with its hood up placed in the Bronx, and a comparable vehicle placed in Palo Alto, California (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013). Vandals attacked the vehicle in the Bronx within ten minutes, and everything of value was stripped within twenty-four hours; random destruction of the vehicle began shortly afterward (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013). The vehicle in Palo Alto remained untouched for more than a week, until Zimbardo smashed part of the vehicle in with a sledgehammer; within a few hours, the vehicle had been turned upside down and destroyed (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013).
Zimbardo’s experiment highlights the core idea behind the broken-window theory: one broken window, if left untended, indicates a lack of concern about a location and invites more broken windows. Similarly, one undeterred panhandler in a neighborhood becomes the first “broken window,” and if law enforcement or concerned citizens cannot keep a single panhandler from annoying passersby then opportunistic criminals may believe their chances of being caught or identified in such a neighborhood are greatly diminished (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013).
There are, of course, concerns that the utilization of the aforementioned charges to maintain order within a neighborhood may infringe on an individual’s rights or be applied inequitably by police officers. According to Wilson and Kelling (in Cole & Gertz, 2013), there may be agreement on certain behaviors that male a person undesirable, but there must also be assurance that age, skin color, national origin, harmless mannerisms, or other such factors do not become the basis for distinguishing between undesirable and desirable persons within a neighborhood. There is not a wholly satisfactory answer to such a concern, aside from the hope that the selection, training, and supervision of police officers results in a clear sense of the limit of their discretionary authority (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013).
The broken-window theory suggests that minor disturbances and undesirable behaviors in a neighborhood, if left unchecked, lead to greater disorder and potentially criminal behavior. Such behaviors also create a sense of fear in residents of those neighborhoods, which leads to people avoiding one another and weakening controls in the neighborhood (Wilson & Kelling, in Cole & Gertz, 2013) and thus inviting further disorder. By utilizing charges of “suspicious person,” “vagrancy,” and “public drunkenness” police officers are able to help maintain order and, subsequently, reduce fear and the potential for crime legally. To decriminalize such behaviors would reduce the ability of police officers to assist neighborhoods in maintaining order, and would certainly be a mistake.
Cole, G. & M. Gertz (eds.) (2012). The criminal justice system: Politics and policies, 10th ed. Belmont, CA: West/Wadsworth.
Worrall, J. (2008). Crime control in America: What works? 2nd ed. Boston: Pearson.
After taking some time to ponder the announcements made at the recent Apple event, and after spending some time reading the various analyses from others, a few things really jump out at me that I think warrant examining closer.
First and foremost, the move to a 64-bit architecture and operating system may seem like nothing more than an attempt to be able to say “hey, we’ve got something no one else has” and capitalize on such a statement from a purely marketing standpoint. If we were discussing another company, I might even be inclined to agree. Here’s the problem with such a statement, though: Apple has never used such a tactic before, and always looks at what adopting any technology will bring to the customer experience.
Note, if you can’t accept that simple understanding behind the way Apple operates, you might want to stop reading now.
So, what possibilities could a 64-bit architecture bring to a mobile device? Efficiency and performance are obvious possibilities, as are pure power and capabilities, but in this case I think the move hints at some really interesting possibilities. (It’s worth interjecting here that there is an excellent analysis of some of those possibilities with regards to other product lines here, which I noticed courtesy of Gruber at Daring Fireball.) One possibility is the implementation of enhanced/increased multitasking capabilities as a result of increased throughput throughout the system. Another is the potential for refinements in power usage and efficiency (think along the lines of using multiple threads to achieve a process in a shorter time, which lowers the power drain of a system by returning to idle quicker). Honestly, this isn’t an area I’m well-versed in, but I can certainly see the potential.
Another thought that sticks out to me regarding the performance improvements of the A7 and the move to a 64-bit OS lies in conjunction with the fingerprint sensor. Utilizing any strong encryption scheme requires some overhead, especially when considering that the need for seamless and snappy response are of paramount importance to an end user. This could easily be the groundwork necessary for re-imagining security on a mobile device. Imagine using the Touch ID sensor to access iCloud keychain (when released) data, and instead of having to remember or enter a security code the fingerprint takes care of verification? Or if access to Touch ID by third parties is allowed, and you no longer have to sign in to your banking/financial applications? Running on a system designed to leverage the performance gains of a 64-bit system certainly seems like a precursor to a smooth transition to seamless interaction in such a manner.
And then there’s the interesting idea that increased security might finally allow the virtualization of debit and credit cards in Passbook. Imagine if the entire Operating System could be run in an encrypted environment, which would only be possible (when considering the necessity of smooth and snappy operation from the customer experience point of view) with the power and performance possibilities a 64-bit system could bring to the table. This could prove to be the way to finally change the way people access financial resources, much like the oft-touted NFC chip promised but couldn’t deliver.
Naturally this is all speculation, but the key takeaway is this: if you don’t understand that Apple only adopts technology when there’s a reason behind the decision that’s aimed at what it means for customers, then you haven’t been paying attention to history. Sure, there are plenty of devices with different feature sets, and you should always choose the device whose features match what you want out of it, but to look at Apple’s iPhone business as faltering or running out of steam is to look only at the current picture and not think about the foundation it suddenly created.
The efficient and effective use of detectives and detective resources to investigate criminal offenses is strongly influenced by the policies and practices surrounding case assignment to investigators. By first understanding the nature and effectiveness of investigative operations, a clearer picture of how the assignment of cases affects police outputs and outcomes emerges. In addition, the subsequent understanding that it is not only inefficient, but also ineffective, to assign all unsolved cases to detectives provides practical insight for police administrators to utilize in developing strategies for case assignment polices.
Although variations in activities performed by investigators will be evident across differing departments, Chaiken et al. (1977) found that an approximation of ninety-three percent of investigators’ time is spent on activities that are not directly related to solving previously reported crimes, based on the Kansas City Police Department’s case assignments. Through an examination of the aforementioned cases, reviews with investigators from other cities, and comparisons to their own study’s observational notes, Chaiken et al. (1977) conclude that the aforementioned approximation of time applies to other departments as well. It is therefore imperative to understand what activities comprise the bulk of investigators’ time. Roughly forty-five percent of investigators’ time is spent on activities such as administrative assignments, traveling, general surveillance, and making speeches, which are not case-specific activities; another twenty-two percent of investigators’ time, again roughly estimated, is spent on crimes that are never solved (Chaiken et al., 1977). This leaves an estimated thirty-three percent of investigators’ time spent on cases that are solved, but of that total about twenty-six percent is spent on work related to cleared cases after they have been solved, which includes preparing cases for court (Chaiken et al., 1977).
While much of the aforementioned data on the percentages of time investigators spend on certain activities provides insights into potential organizational restructuring and reallocation of duties to increase the effectiveness of detectives, that is beyond the scope of this article; recognizing and understanding that approximately seven percent of investigators’ time is spent actually performing investigative work, and that twenty-two percent of their time is spent on cases that go unsolved, clearly illustrates that the structure and determination of case assignments significantly impacts investigators’ outputs. Further, a significant amount of the time spent on unsolved crimes could theoretically be reallocated to increasing investigator effectiveness through strategic case assignment practices. Before examining case assignment practices, however, it is necessary to first understand the strongest indicator of whether or not a case will be solved: information.
The availability and reliability of information received by police about incidents and offenders directly impacts the ability of police officers to solve crimes and identify and apprehend those who commit crimes (Skogan and Antunes, 1979). In fact, as cited by Skogan and Antunes (1979), the RAND Corporation concluded an analysis of the criminal investigation process in 1975 with the finding that the information a victim supplies to the responding patrol officer is the single most important determinant of whether a case will be solved; if information that uniquely identifies the offender is not supplied, the likelihood of the perpetrator being identified is reduced exponentially. Brandl and Frank (1994) provide further support for the conclusion that the amount and quality of information available to the police is of paramount importance in their study of burglary and robbery cases assigned to investigators in a Midwestern municipal police department from July 1, 1989 through June 30, 1990, though it should be noted that their study was aimed at identifying the impact of time spent on cases compared to the amount of information available.
Identifying the significant findings of Brandl and Frank’s (1994) analysis plays a key role in understanding how case assignment practices impact the efficiency and effectiveness of investigators, especially when examined in conjunction with Eck’s (1992) triage hypothesis. Eck (1992) posited that cases may be divided into three groups, though the groups most likely represent a range along a continuum: 1) cases that cannot be solved with a reasonable investigative effort, 2) cases solved by circumstance, which only require proper follow-up activities by police, and 3) cases that may be solved with a reasonable investigative effort but that will not be solved otherwise. Combined with Brandl and Frank’s (1994) finding that cases wherein moderate information about a suspect is available the probability of an arrest increased significantly with more investigative time, as well as the finding that investigators spent more time on cases with moderate suspect information available than on cases where information was strong or weak, Eck’s (1992) triage hypothesis provides a solid framework from which case assignment strategies may be devised.
Using Eck’s (1992) triage hypothesis as a guideline, case assignments may be distributed to investigators or specialized teams based on a number of factors: the type of criminal offense, the amount of information available about the perpetrator(s), and whether the specialized knowledge and training of a detective is necessary or if routine follow-up is all that is required to close the case. This not only serves the purpose of increasing efficiency through the reallocation of police resources, such as utilizing clerical support staff in documenting and filing away an unsolvable case, but also significantly increases the effectiveness of investigative personnel by only being assigned cases that possess some measure of potential solvability, except as noted below. Understanding the impact of such a system is best understood through an analysis of Chaiken et al.’s (1977) findings on which actions investigators are typically assigned may be shifted to other personnel.
Patrol officers who are trained as generalist-investigators, according to Chaiken et al. (1977), may be utilized to supplement investigative activities and shift some responsibilities that do not require specialized investigative skills away from detectives, thereby freeing up the time of detectives for devotion to cases wherein some suspect information is known but the case is not solvable without an investment of effort. Such responsibilities would include the apprehension of suspects in cases where the identity of the perpetrator or perpetrators is known at the time of the crime as well as routine investigative actions such as listing stolen automobiles in the “hot car” file, asking victims to look through previously assembled mug shot collections, awaiting calls with further information from the public, and tracing ownership of weapons utilized in crimes; further, for cases where little or no information is available about an offender, generalist-investigators may serve the public relations duty of demonstrating that the police care about the victim and the crime without tying up the time of detectives (Chaiken et al., 1977).
The aforementioned generalist-investigator function would directly relate to Eck’s (1992) triage hypothesis by assigning cases solved by circumstance to support personnel within the police department, allowing the other two groups of cases to be assigned to specialized divisions. One such division, the Major Offenses Unit as defined by Chaiken et al. (1977), would receive all unsolved serious crime cases, both belonging to Eck’s (1992) unsolvable cases group and the solvable with investigative effort group. The assignment of unsolvable cases to a specialized unit may seem counterintuitive, however this would serve the function of ensuring that all major crimes receive attention in an effort to both demonstrate that the police care about those crimes that most severely impact the public, and the assurance that any later leads on unsolved cases that may be discovered through the investigation of other crimes will not be overlooked as a result of separate case assignments among individual investigators.
Finally, using a similar approach as the aforementioned Major Offenses Unit and drawing upon the research of Skogan and Antunes (1979) regarding increasing police productivity, traditional detectives would be assigned to policing teams, additionally comprised of patrol officers and generalist-investigators, who would be responsible for all police activities within a specified geographic area, with the exception of those cases that would be transferred to the Major Offense Unit. These teams would be assigned all non-serious crimes that fall into Eck’s (1992) solvable with investigative effort category, while those crimes that are deemed unsolvable are shifted to clerical support staff for documentation and filing. Naturally some overlap could occur, since the generalist-investigators and patrol officers in these teams would also be working on those cases solvable by circumstance, but this would serve the important responsibility of providing detectives more time to focus on those crimes within their assigned regions that may be solvable with investigative effort.
Although imperfect, the proposed modifications in utilizing detective resources and time, as well as that of support personnel, present a step forward in increasing efficiency and effectiveness, thereby contributing directly to investigators’ outputs. Police administrators seeking to strategically restructure case assignment policies will be well served to utilize Eck’s (1992) triage hypothesis and Brandl and Frank’s (1994) supporting work as a framework from which justification for the reassignment of cases to either support personnel, generalist-investigators, detectives working in policing teams, or a Major Offenses Unit is clearly illustrated.
Brandl, S. and Frank, J. (1994) The Relationship Between Evidence, Detective Effort, and the Disposition of Burglary and Robbery Investigations, American Journal of Police, 13: 149‑168.
Chaiken, J.M., Greenwood, P.W., & Petersilia, J. (1977). The Criminal Investigation Process: A Summary Report, Policy Analysis, 3:187-218.
Eck, J. (1992). “Criminal Investigation” in Donna Hale and Gary Cordner (eds.) What Works in Policing (Cincinnati: Anderson Publishing) pp. 19-34.
Skogan, W. G., and Antunes, G. E. “Information, Apprehension and Deterrence: Exploring the Limits of Police Productivity,” in David Bayley (ed.) What Works in Policing. (Cincinnati: Anderson Publishing) Chapter 4, pp. 108-137
Random preventive patrol strategies are based on the idea that visible police presence in an area provides a general deterrent effect on crime and that, subsequently, the general public’s fear of crime is reduced by that same police presence. It would be expected, as a result, that crimes that would normally take place in fairly public areas, such as general property offenses or street crimes, would be more significantly impacted by preventive patrolling practices, whereas offenses typically committed in relative seclusion would be less susceptible to the deterrence effects of preventive patrolling. The utilization of police resources for random preventive patrol activities is, however, ineffective at deterring crime and apprehending offenders. Research suggests that targeted preventive activities in strategic zones where the majority of crimes occur, or when treatments driven by specific policies or practices aimed at meeting strategically defined goals are utilized, is far more effective in reducing crime (Sherman and Weisburd, 1995).
The first study that aimed to discern the effectiveness of preventive patrolling practices took place in Kansas City, Missouri in 1972-1973. The Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment took place within fifteen beats, and each beat was assigned to a proactive group where preventive patrols were increased, a control group where no changes were made to preventive patrolling practices, or a reactive group where preventive patrolling was suspended (Kelling et Al., 1974). Generalized, the findings of the Kansas City Experiment showed no significant impact on crime deterrence, citizen fear of crime, community attitudes toward the police, or police response time (Kelling et Al., 1974).
The Kansas City Experiment suffered from a number of errors in methodology, as outlined by Larson (1975), but also provided a number of interesting facts surrounding patrol deployment and perceived police presence as an unintended by-product. It is important to first note the most applicable shortcomings identified in the Kansas City Experiment in order to understand why the general finding that preventive patrol activities appeared to have no significant impact cannot be taken at face value. Perhaps most importantly, the areas designated as reactive beats still received a significant visible police presence through responses to service calls, the routine operations of specialized units, and patrol-initiated activities such as building or car checks and stopping motorists for traffic violations (Larson, 1975). Further, as a result of using multiple patrol units dispatched in response to calls for service in the reactive groups, and coupled with an increased use of emergency lights and sirens, there was no diminished public awareness of a police presence in these areas (Larson, 1975). In essence, according to Larson (1975), the nature and design of the Kansas City Experiment served to empirically test whether patrol units could be spatially redistributed within a confined region or zone without an actual or perceived degradation in service, instead of actually testing whether preventive patrol practices were effective. Understanding the shortcomings of the Kansas City Experiment results in a clearer understanding of why the conclusion that routine preventive patrol activities has little or no value is not justifiable. In fact, Larson’s (1975) analysis of the experiment provides the framework for understanding Sherman and Weisburd’s (1995) hypothesis that patrol dosage in the Kansas City Experiment actually varied by a statistically insignificant amount from normal patrol levels, which is why the Kansas City Experiment seemingly provided support for the concept that preventive patrol has no effect even though other studies provided contradictory evidence and conclusions. It is through targeted patrol dosage in specific zones, or hot spots, and through the use of strategically defined objectives during patrol activities, that the effectiveness of certain types of preventive patrol efforts becomes identifiable.
Sherman and Weisburd (1995), McGarrell et Al. (2001), and Braga (2001) all provide insights into the effects of “hot spot” policing, which is a form of place-oriented preventive patrol. McGarrell et Al. (2001) also examined the effects of providing a clear strategic goal for officers during preventive patrol activities, namely the locating and seizure of illegally possessed firearms, and its subsequent effect on crime. These studies provide the basis for the conclusion that certain preventive patrol practices are effective under certain circumstances and random preventive patrol activities are ineffective, even though the conclusions of the aforementioned Kansas City Experiment dominated police thinking about patrol strategies for more than two decades (Sherman and Weisburd, 1995).
Sherman and Weisburd (1995) tested the effects of intensified, but intermittent, patrol on identified “hot spots” of criminal activity in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In the study, one hundred and ten locales were identified and split into two even groups, with the experimental group receiving substantially increased levels of patrol dosage as opposed to the control group. It is worth noting that the experiment was designed only to measure the effect of heightened police presence at these locations, and that the activities of officers during the time they were within each zone was not restricted; in fact, the observed activities of officers during the time spent within the boundaries of the hot spot included activities unrelated to patrol, such as reading, sunning, and general conversation (Sherman and Weisburd, 1995). The study found clear, albeit modest, general deterrence effects as a result of increased police presence in the targeted areas, though with two caveats: first, there was no test of whether criminal activity was merely displaced to other areas so general deterrence effects throughout the community can not be claimed, and second, the experiment had not been replicated and therefore may be limited in external validity thus far (Sherman and Weisburd, 1995).
Along a similar line of inquiry, McGarrell et Al. (2001) evaluated the effect of directed patrol efforts, wherein police units were freed from the responsibility of responding to calls for service and were instructed to proactively patrol their assigned neighborhood with an emphasis on locating and seizing illegally owned firearms. Two different methodologies were utilized in order to examine the effects of a general deterrence approach versus a specific deterrence approach: in target area one, police were instructed to increase traffic stops to maximum levels in order to create a sense of significantly increased police presence, testing a general deterrence strategy that was also anticipated to lead to seizures of illegal weapons and drugs; in target area two, police were instructed to focus on investigating suspicious persons, a specific deterrence strategy, and conducting more thorough investigations for illegal weapons and drugs with each suspicious person (McGarrell et Al., 2001). Interestingly, the results of the study show a significant reduction in firearms related crimes in the specific deterrence beat, but actually show an increase in the general deterrence beat (McGarrell et Al., 2001). One possible explanation provided by McGarrell et Al. (2001) for the success of the targeted offender/specific deterrence approach lies in the possible interpretation of police actions within that zone, as a result of proactive, directed preventive patrol efforts, as heightened surveillance as well as removing firearms from those potential offenders most likely to use them. In effect, a directed strategy for preventive patrol activities in higher crime locations yields a significant impact in the reduction of violent crimes.
Perhaps the most compelling evidence for the effectiveness of place-oriented preventive patrol as opposed to random preventive patrol comes from Braga’s (2001) analysis and systematic review of “hot spot” policing studies. Out of nine studies, seven showed noteworthy crime reductions as a result of place-oriented patrol activities, and it should be noted that intervention types ranged among three broad categories: enforcement problem-oriented-policing (POP) interventions, directed and aggressive patrol programs, and the use of crackdowns and raids (Braga, 2001). It is also important to note that methodological problems in the research and evaluation designs of two studies most likely accounts for the lack of observed reduced criminal activity in said studies, and the remaining study showing no discernable impact on reducing crime suffered from issues in implementation that could account for a lack of significance in results (Braga, 2001). Overall, Braga’s (2001) review contributes to a growing body of research evidence supporting the conclusion that targeting “hot spots” of crime with focused, strategic intervention efforts is effective at reducing crime, both at the targeted zone and in surrounding areas, and is far more effective than random preventive patrol activities. These findings also provide positive indications that displacement of crime from a targeted zone to a less actively patrolled zone may be unfounded, though only five of the studies in Braga’s (2001) review measured the potential displacement of criminal activity.
Given the briefly summarized results of the aforementioned experiments and systematic reviews, it is difficult to justify random preventive patrol efforts in light of far more effective results from directed patrol activities in the reduction of crime. Theoretically, random preventive patrol activities should provide general deterrence effects for publicly visible crimes, such as vandalism, disorderly conduct, robberies and burglaries, and potentially aggravated assault. However, targeted patrol activities appear to have the same effect with regards to increased public visibility in providing a level of general deterrence while simultaneously providing far more effective specific deterrence effects, as noted in the studies and reviews above. Therefore, the effectiveness of random preventive patrol activities is conclusively inefficient when compared with other methods of targeting and reducing criminal activity within any given zone.
Anthony Braga (2001). “The Effects Of Hot Spots Policing On Crime,” The Annals of The American Society of Science, pp. 104-125.
Richard C. Larson (1975). “What Happened to Patrol Operations in Kansas City? A Review of the Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment” Journal of Criminal Justice, 3:267-297.
Edmund McGarrell, Steven Chermak, Alexander Weiss, and Jeremy Wilson (2001) “Reducing Firearms Violence Through Directed Police Patrol,” Criminology and Public Policy, 1(1):119-148.
Lawrence W. Sherman and David Weisburd, (1995) “General Deterrent Effects of Police Patrol in Crime “Hot Spots”: A Randomized, Controlled Trial,” Justice Quarterly, 12: 625‑648.