What You Should Know About Crime Displacement | Radius Crime Displacement Series

by Suzanna Su June 21st, 2021 in Security Resources
Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes, 34 seconds
What You Should Know About Crime Displacement | Radius Crime Displacement Series

Do you believe that crime can be dissolved or only re-directed? Once your business is a target, do you stay a target until the perpetrator has been removed?

Crime displacement consists of redirecting criminal offences away from a specific target like a business or community. The objective is to discourage offenders from committing repeat crimes and reduce future losses. Displacement refers to the strategic changes an offender would make to commit a crime despite deterrents. "Consciously or otherwise, offenders make a number of decisions both when preparing for and when committing crime."

From the perspective of an offender, they’re constantly analyzing the ratio of risks to rewards based on what they know of their target and their experience in similar settings. Sometimes, the individual's motivation for a crime can be so desperate that they decide to dismiss the threats and consequences of their actions. So even in the scenario that they get caught in the act, the chances are that they will attempt to do it again, except on other easier targets.

The Myth of Crime Displacement

The most common misconception of crime displacement argues that it relocates the crime to other sites. "The idea behind displacement is that when motivated criminal offenders are deterred, they will commit crimes elsewhere." This concept leads to questions about resolving crimes in communities as it essentially claims to defer the problem to other victims.

"Studies on criminology show that criminals often offend in the places where they are most comfortable." In fact, offenders are usually only after easy and effortless targets, referring back to the risk to rewards ratio. If they realize crime prevention efforts have been implemented and reinforced on a business’ perimeter, they will most likely be dissuaded from committing more crimes at that location.

Moreover, researchers identify more than five types of crime displacement found under various circumstances. "Alternative opportunities might be found in other geographical locations (spatial displacement), at other times (temporal displacement), or for other targets (target displacement). They may be made possible through the use of methods or tools not previously employed (tactical displacement), or an offender may focus on a different outcome, such as committing theft against the person rather than a burglary (crime type displacement)."

5 Types of Crime Displacement

Spatial Displacement (change of location) 

The most discussed type of crime displacement refers to the change of location from the initial business or community to another. This is because, in certain situations, offenders can easily commit the same crime at nearby and similar sites if the initial attempt fails, especially where business facilities of a main and auxiliary industry are condensed in an area, such as auto malls or construction developments.

Temporal Displacement (coming back at a better time)

Another type of crime of displacement is changing the time in committing the criminal activities. Offenders may try to come back at another day and time at the targeted site when patrol and police officers will not be present. "For example, where interventions are operational during certain times of the day, days of the week, or weeks of the year, crime might be suppressed during their period of operation, but, where offender motivations are unchanged, crimes may be committed at other times with increased frequency."

Target Displacement (looking for easier targets)

Crimes could also be displaced from one type of target to another, such as from commercial to residential properties. This type of crime displacement is observed when there is a decrease in incidents at specific targets after implementing intervention initiatives, followed by increased crime at other targeted businesses that did not take preventive measures.

Tactical Displacement (trying something different)

When offenders get caught committing a crime in a particular way, they may still perceive an opportunity to attempt it again using a different approach. Thus, the change in tactics can be subtle or very obvious depending on the context of the crime settings. The challenge in identifying this type of displacement is determining if the change is a direct result of intervention efforts or other factors.  

Type of Crime Displacement (changing the type of crime)

Lastly, offenders may decide to change the type of crime if their initial criminal activities are unsuccessful. Again, it comes down to the change of patterns in the distribution of different kinds of crime between targets. "Crime switch displacement is said to occur where reductions in one type of crime are accompanied by increases in another." The outcomes of this displacement can either alleviate damages to some victims or, unfortunately, initiate more severe and harmful types of crime to others.

The Importance of Understanding Crime Displacement

Understanding the patterns of crime displacement in your community is crucial to determine appropriate and effective intervention strategies to resolve the problem. For example, it is particularly relevant to know about it when selecting the proper security solutions for your business needs. Research findings of the topic are valuable insights and resources for business owners, communities, security experts and law enforcement officers. "Ignoring what we know and don't know about crime (dis)placement undermines the ability to formulate prevention initiatives that are likely to work." Being aware of the causes and consequences of crime displacement will help businesses better protect themselves and their communities before offenders commit more crimes.

At Radius Security, we understand that crime is a complex issue typically perpetrated by desperate individuals. Our mission goes beyond stopping crime for more information, please visit radiussecurity.com/causes-of-crime.

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