Hot Spot Societies: The Urban Space As a "Projection Screen" for Data-Driven Crime Prevention and Law Enforcement

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:15
Location: Seminar 52 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Christina MERZ, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany
In times of Big Data, crime prevention is entering a new era – and the urban space is considered as playing a prominent role, here. While the idea of spatial crime prevention is certainly not new, it seems that a new approach finds its way into law enforcement: Predictive Policing. There, the urban space becomes a "projection screen" for a form of crime prevention that is no longer based on the mere extrapolation of past offenses or on (criminological) research findings about the emergence of crime. Rather, correlations of various, independent data sets and promises of complete objectivity are in the centre of this approach.

Although not clearly defined, Predictive Policing is often associated with software products that use complex algorithms to predict when and where next crime incidents will happen. Typically, the predictions point to small spatial areas in order to direct the police to the (future) crime scene. Predictive Policing does not neglect criminological theory but rather focuses on a particular set of theories such as the near repeat hypothesis or routine activity theory.

Within the presentation, Predictive Policing serves as an entry point for starting a discussion about the changing role of urban space and locality in crime prevention. Hopes and fears about data-driven crime prevention and policing will be presented and it will be asked if "a new rationality of crime control" (Garland, 2000) comes up when data correlations are used to predict hot spot areas instead of following more classical approaches of regarding spatial characteristics as crime promotive or preventive. This does also ultimately lead to the question about the role of criminology in times when some promote the rise of a more (big) data-driven crime science.