Place, Time & Crime

The good news is that crime – one of the biggest threats against the quality of urban life – is far from happening at random in space and time. Crime follows regular patterns, it happens at particular places and times. If the conditions in which crime occurs can be better understood and tackled, the overall safety conditions of a place can be improved. This requires knowledge that is context-based, in other words, we need to know where in space these events happen, when they happen and also understand who are most affected by these incidents. It is no surprise that crime is much more concentrated in urban areas than in rural, but as we know, crime happens more often in certain areas of the urban fabric (e.g., city centers, certain neighborhoods), at specific types of places (e.g. crime attractors, such as transportation hubs) and often, at very particular micro-places (e.g. street segments). We believe that these crime targeted places can be made safer if we know enough about them, their nature in terms of what happens there over time.

Equally important is to be aware that crime follows regular patterns over time. As any other human activity, crime depends on patterns individuals’ routine activity. For example, better use of resources can be made if we know that pickpocketing happens more often at rush hours at bus stops than the rest of the day. Similarly reasoning can be made for weekly and seasonal patterns of crime.  We know that conflicts often reach a peak when people meet each other in their spare time, evenings, weekends and holidays. This time pattern reflects people’s routine activity in the city and, not least, the occurrence of crime. Yet, there are times when all these necessary conditions to crime are in place but still crime does not happen, why? Firstly, because the environment does not affect us equally. Secondly, we are mobile and spend time in many environments with differing and variable criminogenic characteristics over time. Some places are more protective than others. Therefore, the more we know about individuals’ activity patterns and their regularities, the better we can understand the dynamics of crime. ICT and other technological developments create new opportunities to monitor individual activity patterns over time and predict where crimes happen. Of great importance to Safeplaces network is to develop methods that can better work with large flows of information across time and space and make places safer.