What Does Crime Displacement Mean to your Community?

by Suzanna Su December 10th, 2021 in Security Resources
Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes, 43 seconds
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Whether you see it or not, wherever there are people, there is crime. Every community is susceptible to crime, with some more than others, disturbing residents and contributors’ quality of life. Crime patterns are important public health issues that can be addressed and prevented in most circumstances. However, low-income areas do have more condensed criminal activities than high-income neighborhoods due to a lack of resources provided by the community. Research reveals that crime intervention doesn’t eliminate the problem. More often, crime is displaced to another form when the offender doesn’t get the appropriate support from their community. Understanding the dynamic between neighbourhoods and crime displacement is crucial in finding more sustainable solutions to a safer society.

How does crime displacement happen?

Crime displaces when the suspect is caught and punished for their actions, discouraging them from committing the offence again. However, changes are easier said and assumed than done. Determined and desperate offenders would usually find creative and alternative approaches to repeat the crime and achieve their goals despite obvious risks. Although crime displacement may seem like an endless loop of the problem, it can still benefit the bigger picture of a community. The recurrence can be less harmful to the victims, such as a decrease in the volume of crime in the targeted area post-intervention. It has also been observed that displaced crime could be less severe than initially, like shifting from robbery to petty theft. Other examples are the redistribution of a concentrated crime from a small group to a larger pool of victims or the transference of criminal activities away from more vulnerable groups of the population (e.g. children and the elderly). Nonetheless, crime displacement can also aggravate the risks and danger of the victims, making the phenomenon sometimes unpredictable.

Crime displacement is not meant to be feared or doubted but should instead be considered in the planning and implementation of crime prevention and intervention initiatives. It is important to understand that crime will never disappear in our society because human beings are extremely adaptable and continuously evolving. In fact, the University of Southern California transitioned its institution from a commuter school to a residential college, entirely changing the demographic surrounding the school. With students living and taking over the South of Los Angeles neighborhood, the cost of living with the high demand consequently evicted old residents of the area. Almost overnight, the gentrification created by the university transformed the community known for gang activities into a safe and reputable place to live. However, while violent crimes seem to have been relocated, other criminal activities, such as theft, have remained and worsened. For instance, cell phones make it easy to make a hefty profit through relatively easy theft, and they [have] made organizing crime more sophisticated. Some explain that this results from the resentment caused by gentrification-fueled homelessness. Regardless, crime displacement needs to be acknowledged when investing in the safety of communities.

When crime rates decrease in a community, there is always more than the contribution of law enforcement initiatives involved in the results. Community resources and support available to offenders are determinants in their progress to make better decisions in the future. Further evidence of the public’s preference for proactive solutions to address crime can be found in the support for increasing early childhood intervention, parenting programs, youth recreational activities, and public education programs, which were selected more than half of the time as the most effective form of crime reduction. Typical factors of criminality in communities are “poverty, lack of support service, and food insecurity,” explains Erin Harvie, the Manager Youth Services-Surrey North at Pacific Community Resources Society (PCRS). In other words, consistency is key to maintaining sustainable changes in a neighborhood impacted by crime, especially for youth vulnerable or already involved in the criminal justice system. In addition, crime displacement should remind our systems, communities, and us that crime prevention and intervention require an all-hand-on-deck approach to minimize victimization, losses, and damages.

What about the youths?

A recent public survey reveals that crime involving youth increases more dramatically than other crimes in Canada. Since young people are generally more open-minded and willing to change than adults already set in their ways, crime prevention services should be provided to families, especially in high-risk communities. For most Canadians, giving young people at risk of offending opportunities (e.g., training, rehabilitation or recreational programs) is by far the preferred approach to crime prevention. Crime displacement is the by-product of criminal activities that were not prevented. Many observations and correlations can be made between the youth upbringings and family history to predict their behaviours and prevent crime, such as withdrawing from school and being involved in the juvenile justice system or inappropriate and inconsistent parenting and delinquency. “Intergenerational trauma is very important to consider in criminal lifestyles,” argues Harvie in our discussion with her about community resources for young people at risk. There is a saying about becoming who you surround yourself with – and criminal patterns are no exception. As a matter of fact, Harvie shared that one of the rating scales for probation officers when assessing a youth is if a family member has ever been in jail and track this information. “Unfortunately, youths get easily caught in the intergenerational cycle in which they feel not worthy and capable of doing better since [their families] are the only examples [they] grew up with. It’s difficult for a young person who is already committing offences to stop the patterns unless the individual gets incarcerated or participate in treatment programs, like FTAP, for typically mental health and substance abuse conducted outside of their communities,” added Harvie. It is unarguable that there is more than one cause and motivation to crime. Again, resources and support from the important stakeholders, including local businesses and associations, government at different levels, and local outreach, education, and recreational services, are essential to preventing and reducing crime, starting with the young people and their families.

Organizations like PCRS in British Columbia provide an extensive range of services for youths and families in communities in need. “If [a] youth has been involved in criminal justice, they will be assigned to one of PCRS intervention programs that are usually court-mandated for their probation/court orders. Besides meeting the requirements of their conditions, they also get education and employment opportunities through these resources, such as the culinary art course. The goal is to redivert them into something they can keep making money without committing more crimes. Most of their young people are coming from a background of poverty.” They successfully created multiple hubs across the provide to welcome young people and adults in a safe space to get the academic, emotional, and social support to excel in society. “Even when they have graduated from school, [they can keep accessing] the facilities, and connect with people that they built strong and trusting relationships with while getting support for housing, employment, transportation and food. Positive peer support and healthy adult mentoring are very effective for the development of young people,” admitted Harvie.

What is important to keep in mind when making your community safer?

Community contributors need to come together to discuss and address crime prevention and intervention services with humility, empathy, and compassion. As PCRS does it so admirably well, they strongly believe in “Nothing about us, without us.” It is crucial to understand crime activities beyond the offenders and victims. We should not fight against crime displacement. Crime will always exist, but most of them can surely be prevented and reduced with the appropriate initiatives. Crime prevention approaches need to inspire and empower people to make better decisions in dilemmas.

Radius Security understands that crime primarily results from multiple adverse social, economic, cultural, and family conditions involving desperate and vulnerable individuals. We are proud and committed to supporting our local communities beyond eliminating crime by partnering with organizations like PCRS. Learn more about their initiatives at https://pcrs.ca/

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