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.