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Crime events in context | Where, when and how crime is committed

The research group Crime events in context aims to discover proximal causes of variations in crime. The research focuses on situational and (short-term) environmental causes of crime, including mechanisms that prevent, displace, or transform it.

The program conforms to a positivist scientific approach aimed at discovery of general laws that explain empirically observed phenomena. It complies with the principle of methodological individualism, according to which social phenomena are collective outcomes of individual decisions. This principle is applied to where, when and how: a) crimes are committed by offenders, b) targets or people are victimized, and c) crimes are prevented by guardians.

Consistent with the focus on proximal causes of offending, victimization and guardianship, the program draws on theories and perspectives that specify direct and immediate causes of behavior, such as situational opportunities and constraints. All crime is a form of rule-breaking, and the research program aims to develop generic explanations that are valid for many different types of rule-breaking. It assesses whether contemporary developments like the ongoing digitization of society and the rise of new forms of crime pose challenges to existing theory.

The program embraces all types of data that can inform the research questions. This includes secondary data gathered for other than research purposes (e.g., police records, surveillance videos, victimization data, census data, web content), but also data specifically collected for research purposes through interviews, surveys, or experiments. The focus on proximal causes of crime and crime prevention requires data that are disaggregated and fine-grained in terms of location, time, actors, and behavior.

Program leader: Stijn Ruiter

Uncovering the dark figure of wildlife crimes in Olifants West Nature Reserve

Law enforcement rangers need to know where and when crime occurs to effectively design strategies for reducing poaching. Although crime is generally hard to measure, obtaining a representative sample is particularly challenging for wildlife crimes. The vast majority of wildlife crimes are probably never known to anyone other than the offenders involved in the crime. […]

Face-touching behaviour as a possible correlate of mask-wearing

The study Face-touching behaviour as a possible correlate of mask-wearing: A video observational study of public place incidents during the COVID-19 pandemic published in Transboundary and Emerging Diseases offers an analysis of the association between mask-wearing and face-touching in a Western European context, which was tested in two studies. Study 1: sample of both masked […]

Human behavior and the similarities with nonhuman primates

Virginia Pallante started her study in biology driven by the interest in how social cohesion is maintained in gregarious animals, trying to understand if similar strategies are shared across different species and how different societies shape the expression of such strategies. She further investigated these issues by focusing on nonhuman primates’ conflict management, a topic […]

Novel insights into offenders’ activity spaces

It is well established that offenders commit most crimes near their routine activity space: the locations where they engage in their daily activities. However, research examining the geography of offenders’ routine activity spaces has largely been limited to a few core locations such as homes, prior homes, the homes of relatives and prior offense locations. […]

Research is human work: article retraction

Research is human work and thus subject to error. The article Do offenders avoid offending near home? A systematic review of the buffer zone hypothesis, by NSCR researcher Wim Bernasco and former NSCR intern Remco van Dijke was retracted from Crime Science at the request of the authors after they had been made aware of […]

Video analysis of peer relationships: rich data, a lot of work

Video makes it possible to perform very precise conversational and behavioural analyses. As technology keeps getting better and easier to use, more and more research is done this way. The WORP meets every three months to exchange experiences. Hoeben: ‘We are a multidisciplinary working group with educationalists, psychologists, criminologists and sociologists from – currently – […]

How do people decide who to intervene towards in street conflicts?

Imagine that you are walking down a street and two individuals start to fight. Many of us want to believe that we would intervene and help in this kind of situation. But helping can be challenging – fights are often fast paced and can appear chaotic. There is oftentimes not a clear division between who […]

Curfew during lockdown: number of people on the street not much different

Also read our factsheet One Year of Social Distancing Behavior on the Streets of Amsterdam. Drawing on video footage from municipal public space cameras in Amsterdam, we investigated behavioral compliance with a curfew installed as a Covid-19 mitigating measurement in a period of lockdown. Based on the existing studies of the effect of curfews on […]

Problem-oriented policing adapted to wildlife protection

Officers for a national wildlife authority, may experience déjà vu while on the job. They arrest poacher after poacher but the poaching threat is not decreasing. They get called out to deal with crop raiding animals, but despite culling and translocation, each year there are more callouts. Probably they are not alone in thinking ‘if […]