Crime Prevention and Soft Technology
Various forms of soft, information-based technology have been applied to the prevention of a diverse number of crimes, including terrorism, school violence, workplace violence and sex crimes.
Preventing TerrorismUsing Soft Technology
Identifying Risky People: identifying potential Terrorists using information technologyinterrogating / foreigners, apprehending illegal aliens, wiretaps, monitoring phone conversations, monitoring financial transactions, tracking hate-related groupsIdentifying Risky Places: Airports, Public Transportation, Nuclear Plants, Federal Office Buildings
The Exceptional Case Study Project
In the mid-1990s, the United States Secret Service commissioned a study of 83 individuals known to have attacked or approached with the intent of attacking, a prominent public official or public figure.. Researchers concluded that attempts to develop a useful profile of potential assassins were essentially futile. Nonetheless, they identified a key characteristic shared by all of its subjects, namely, patterns of behaviors in the period leading up to the assassination or assassination attempt
Core Principles of Threat Assessment
First, , the study found that any attempts to develop a profile of targeted-violence perpetrators would be neither specific enough to have any real discriminatory value nor sensitiveenough to effectively identify potential attackers who might fall outside of the “typical profile”
Core Principle 2
Second, threat assessment draws a critical distinction between making a threat and posing a threat. The working premise is that the majority of individuals who make specific threats of violence never carry them out, and that many cases of specific violence involve no explicit threats before any action is taken.Although 77% of the ECSP sample had communicated their threat to someone before the incident, threat assessment views articulated threats as neither necessary nor sufficient for the presence of an actual threat.
Core Principle 3
Third, acts of targeted violence are not spontaneous events but are planned activities that typically permeate the thoughts of potential perpetrators in the period leading up to the violence.Threat assessment views virtually all acts of targeted violence as preceded by a chain of behaviors, and,There are a series of behavioral warning signs that are amenable to identification and interdiction.
Core Principle 4
Fourth, threat assessment takes a dynamic view of the etiology of targeted violence, holding that the trajectory from idea to execution is highly influenced by interactions between would-be attackers, their views of and perceived relations with the target, and a range of situational variables.Effective prevention and interdiction involves evaluating interactions among potential perpetrators, situational and opportunistic contexts, and potential targets.
Can We Accurately Profile Likely Terrorists?
Borum (2004) refutes the notion that there is a “terrorist personality” or any valid psychological, demographic, or behavioral profile of a terrorist (see also Horgan, 2003).The problem with this approach is its lack of both specificity (the ability to exclude “false positives”) and sensitivity (the ability to avoid “false negatives”).The identification and assessment of terrorism risk becomes far more dependent on sophisticated systems of intelligence than assessment of most other forms of targeted violence.
Threat Assessment Process
QUESTIONS TO ASK IN A THREAT ASSESSMENT(Adapted from Borum et al., 1999)What motivated the subject to make the statement or take the action that caused him or her to come to attention?What has the subject communicated to someone else (target, law enforcement, family, friends, colleagues, associates) or written concerning his or her intentions?Has the subject shown an interest in assassination, weapons, militant of radical ideas/groups, murderers and/or mass murderers, and workplace violence and stalking incidents?Is there evidence that the subject has engaged in menacing, harassing, and/or stalking-type behaviors? Has the subject engaged in attack-related behaviors such as:Developing an attack idea or plan.Approaching, visiting, and/or following the target.Approaching, visiting, and/or following the target with a weapon.Attempting to circumvent security.Assaulting or attempting to assault a target.Does the subject have a history of mental illness involving command hallucinations, delusional ideas, feelings of persecution, etc., with indications that the subject has acted on those beliefs?How organized is the subject? Does the subject have the ability to plan and execute a violent action against a target?Is there evidence that the subject is experiencing desperation and/or despair? Has the subject experienced a recent personal loss and/or loss of status? Is the subject now, or has the subject ever been, suicidal?Is the subject's "story" consistent with his or her actions?Are those who know the subject concerned that he or she might take action based on inappropriate ideas?What factors in the subject's life and/or environment might increase or decrease the likelihood that the subject will attempt to attack a target (or targets)?
Threat Assessment Instruments
Design Issues: We are in the very early stages of developmentLinking Assessment to Crime Prevention: the use of alert codes, resource allocationRole of the Private Sector
Do we need a Department of Pre Crime, as depicted inMinority Report?Can potential Homicide Offenders and Victims be identified?In London, the police have created a list of 100 likely homicide offenders, based on extensive research on offender characteristicsIn Philadelphia, U-Penn researchers found that 70% of all homicide offenders AND victims were on probation or parole at the time of the homicide
Can School Violence be Prevented?
Bullying identification protocolThe use of mental health data by school officials; and linking mental health, criminal record, and gun purchase data bases; lessons learned from Virginia Tech tragedyThe application of other forms of soft technology to crime prevention (e.g. information sharing, improved nationwide data collection protocol for criminal histories, etc.)
Myths and Facts about Sex Offenders
Myth:"Most sexual assaults are committed by strangers."Fact:Most sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim or the victim's family, regardless of whether the victim is a child or an adult.
Myth:"The majority of sexual offenders are caught, convicted, and in prison."Fact:only a fraction of those who commit sexual assault are apprehended and convicted for their crimes. Mostconvicted sex offenders eventually are released to the community under probation or parole supervision.
Myth: "Most sex offenders re-offend. "Fact:Reconviction data suggest that this is not the case. Further. Re-offense rates vary among different types of sex offenders and are related to specific characteristics of the offender and the offense.
Myth:"Sexual offense rates are higher than ever and continue to climb."Fact:Despite the increase in publicity about sexual crimes, the actual rate of reported sexual assault has decreased in recent years, following the significant downward trend in all forms of violence over the past twenty years
Myth:"Children who are sexually assaulted will sexually assault others when they grow up.“Fact:Most sex offenders were not sexually assaulted as children and most children who are sexually assaulted do not sexually assault othersAmong adult sex offenders, approximately 30% have been sexually abused.Some types of offenders, such as those who sexually offend against young boys, have still higher rates of child sexual abuse in their histories.While past sexual victimization canincrease the likelihoodof sexually aggressive behavior, most children who were sexually victimized never perpetrate against others
Other Myths About Sex Offenders
Myth:"All sex offenders are male.“Myth:"Sex offenders commit sexual crimes because they are under the influence of alcohol.“Myth:"Youths do not commit sex offenses.“Myth:"Juvenile sex offenders typically are victims of child sexual abuse and grow up to be adult sex offenders.“Myth:"Treatment for sex offenders is ineffective."
Can Sexual Assault be Prevented using Soft Technology? Examples
Sex offender registrationof all known sex offendersSex Offender registration does not prevent recidivism( re-offense rates are very low( 5% for new sex crimes)but it does make it more difficult for offenders to hide from authoritiesEstimates of the number of sex offenders who fail to register vary from 25,000 to 50,000Identity Theft and Identity Manipulation by Sex Offenders who fail to register or abscond
Soft Technology Applications
Lifetime monitoringof known sex offenders is now allowed by statute in over 30 states.Electronic monitoringcan be used to locate and track sex offenders.Sex Offenders can be restricted from certain locations ( living, working, visiting) using new GPS-based location/mapping systemsPrivate Sector operation of electronic monitoring raises cost and privatization concerns
Soft Technology Applications
Community Notificationof High Risk OffendersIssue: How do we define different levels of sex offender risk?In Massachusetts, this decision is made by the Sex Offender Registry BoardLevel 1, 2 , and 3 Sex offenders are identified by the board
Soft Technology Applications
Early identificationof Adult Sex Offenders( as Juveniles) using various assessment toolsApproximately 40% of all known sex offenders are juvenilesCurrently, it is estimated that adolescents (ages 13 to 17) account for up to one-fifth of all rapes and one half of all cases of child molestation committed each year.The majority of juvenile sex offenders desist; a subgroup continue to commit sex crimes as adultsPolicy Problem:heterogeneityof sex offenders-We need to distinguish different types of sex offenders when developing new strategies.
Soft Technology Applications
The use of “profiling” to prevent sex crimeCan we accuratelypredictwho will become sex offenders?Is there a link betweenearly victimizationand later offending in terms of sex crime?Sex Offender prediction and thefalse positivesproblem
Soft Technology Applications
Geographic Residency RestrictionsMap location of schools, parks, librariesUse Mapping technology to create restriction zonesUse EM technology to monitor sex offender movements and identify any violationsReal time response to violations via police, probation, parole, and/or private sectorProblem: Sex offending rarely occurs in public places
Soft Technology Application
Background Checkson all volunteers in schools, youth sports, and all jobs involving minors.Blanket restrictions on all convicted sex offendersIssues to Consider:Role of private sector in data management, cost of system integration
Risk Assessment Tools
RRASOR. The Rapid Risk Assessment for Sexual Offense Recidivism (RRASOR) is brief and simple to use; it consists of only four variables, all of which can be easily retrieved from official records (Hanson, 1997). These four factors – previous sexual offenses, extra-familial victims, offender age under 25, and male child victims – were based on research that demonstrated a strong correlation between these factors and the risk of re-offending.
Static-99considers a range of additional factors, including sexual deviance, types of available victims, persistence, and pattern of antisocial behaviors (Hanson & Thornton, 1999; Hanson & Thornton, 2000).In a comparative review, the Static-99 added to the predictive accuracy of the RRASOR in the measurement of long-term risk potential (Hanson & Thornton, 2000).
Six Social-Engineering StrategiesTarget RemovalTarget DevaluationTarget InsulationOffender IncapacitationOffender ExclusionOffense, Offender, and Target Identification
The logic of prevention is clearest and most effective when a target is removed. Something that is not there cannot be taken.Some Examples:The move toward a cashless society is one example of target removal.Furniture built in to the wall cannot be stolen, and that bolted or welded to the floor is unlikely to be.A number of urban schools have created dress codes banning signs of gang affiliation and expensive clothes and jewelry
The goal of target devaluation is to reduce or eliminate the value of a potential target to anyone but authorized users.Examples of devalued targets include products that self-destruct (some car radios when tampered with) or that leave dear proof of theft (exploding red dye packs that stain money taken in bank robberies).There is a device that, via cellular phone, can remotely cut off the engine of a stolen car. Another system, called Auto Avenger, is triggered if the door is opened while the engine is running. If not disengaged by a hidden switch, the engine will shut down after a few minutes and the system tells the thief he has fifteen seconds to get out or face a 50,000-volt shock.
Target insulation is probably among the oldest of techniques for preventing violationsWe can separate perimeter-maintaining strategies such as fences, walls, moats, guards, and guard dogs from more specific protections such as safes, chastity belts, and placing goods in locked cases, chaining them to immovable objects, and hiding them."Skywalks" linking downtown buildings shield their occupants from life on the street.
Offender incapacitation renders the potential offender harmless.There are a variety of "immobilizers," "restrainers," and "containers" that seek to prevent violations by weakening the potential offender's will or ability to commit the offense.psychosurgery for the violent, literal or chemical castration for sex offenders, and the practice in some Middle Eastern countries of cutting off the hands of pickpockets. Excessively aggressive behavior may be treated with tranquilizers. Drugs such asDepo-Proveramay be used to reduce the sex drive.
offender exclusion is the opposite of target insulation. The offender, rather than the potential target, is restricted.In short, the goal of offender exclusion is to keep potential offenders away from persons or environments that may tempt them to commit violations.Capital punishment is the most extreme form of this strategy.
Examples of Offender Exclusion
Other examples are exile, prison, curfews, and mobility restrictions (such as house arrests or restraining orders).At the group level, the creation of red light and drug districts away from residential areas (as in Amsterdam and Zurich) is also based on the idea of exclusion.Electronic location devices have recently made individual exclusion easier.the ultimate exclusion may be genetic screening: persons believed to have a biological predisposition to undesirable behavior simply never appear-they aren't born. This screening could be voluntary or mandatory.
Offense, Offender, and Target Identification
The goal of identification is to document the occurrence of the violation and identify or even trap the violator.Various sensors and alarms fit here.Another expanding area involves immobilization or seizure strategies.One system involves a super-glue that spreads onto the floor after an explosion. Persons may be able to get into a building, but the human flypaper makes it impossible for them to get out.
Other Examples of Identification Strategies
A more general form of identification is the stigmatic mark of the "scarlet letter," which gives evidence of past violations.In some jurisdictions convicted drunk drivers must have special identifying license plates or signs on their cars. The requirement that individuals carry their records, or that these be checked, is equivalent.In some jurisdictions sex offenders are required to take out newspaper ads accompanied by photographs with warnings that they have been convicted of particular crimes; or their pictures may be prominently displayed around playgrounds.There is a proposal to electrically shock those under house arrest if they attempt to leave and, if they succeed in leaving, to increase the voltage the farther they stray